by Robert Taylor
|A Tribute to Francis 'Gabby' Gabreski|
“Wait till you get ‘em in your sights” he said, “then short bursts. There’s no use melting your guns!” It was a simple tactic and with 28 air victories to his credit during WWII, one that made ‘Gabby’ Gabreski the top-scoring American Ace in Europe. As if that wasn’t enough, Gabreski would later down 6.5 MiG-15s flying the F-86 in Korea, one of only seven American fighter pilots to achieve Ace status in both wars.
Robert Taylor has chosen Gabreski as the centrepiece for his latest master drawing ‘Top Ace’. Bringing America’s top-scoring fighter pilot in Europe to life, you can feel the raw power of Gabreski’s rugged P-47 Thunderbolt as he and his wingman thunder away from Boxted shortly after D-Day. In tribute to the legendary Ace depicted and the courageous pilots who flew with him in the ‘Wolfpack’ 56th Fighter Group, Robert’s stunning drawing has been faithfully reproduced as a high quality giclée fine art print on textured velvet paper.
The historical importance of this extremely limited edition is highlighted by the addition of rare original autographs within the conservation matting, including Gabby Gabreski and a further ten highly-regarded pilots who flew with the 56th FG. Between them they achieved over 100 victories to help make the 56th the USAAF’s top-scoring fighter group of the war.
|Available in the following editions|
|26||Limited edition||Signed by the artist - matted with eleven 56th FG pilot signatures|
|Colonel Francis ‘Gabby’ Gabreski||Colonel Walker ‘Bud’ Mahurin||Brigadier General Leslie Smith|
|Brigadier General Lyle Adrianse||Captain Walter Groce||Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Whitley|
|Major Michael Gladych||Lieutenant John Bradshaw||Colonel Billy Edens|
|Chief Warrant Officer Russell Kyler||Colonel Robert ‘Shorty’ Rankin|
Francis ‘Gabby’ Gabreski
He closely followed reports on the Battle of Britain and the role played in it by Polish RAF squadrons, especially by the legendary No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron. He became concerned that the US did not have many experienced fighter pilots. This gave him an idea: since Polish squadrons had proved to be capable within the RAF and since he himself was of Polish origin and spoke Polish, he offered to serve as a liaison officer to the Polish squadrons to learn from their experience. The idea was approved, and he left Hawaii for Washington, D.C. in September 1942, where he was promoted to captain.
In October, Gabreski reported to the Eighth Air Force's VIII Fighter Command in England, at that time a rudimentary new headquarters. After a lengthy period of inactivity, he tried to arrange duty with 303 Squadron, but that unit had been taken out of action for a period of rest. Instead, he was posted to No. 315 (Deblin) Squadron at RAF Northolt in January 1943.
Gabreski flew the new Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX, flying patrol sweeps over the Channel. He first encountered Luftwaffe opposition on February 3, when a group of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s jumped his squadron. Too excited to make a "kill", Gabreski learned that he had to keep calm during a mission, a lesson that served him well later in the war. He later spoke with great esteem about the Polish pilots and the lessons they taught him. In all, Gabreski flew 20 missions with the Poles, engaging in combat once.
On February 27, 1943, Gabreski became part of the 56th Fighter Group, flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, and quickly became a flight leader. In May, shortly after the group moved to RAF Halesworth and entered combat, Gabreski was promoted to major.
On November 26, 1943, the 56th FG was assigned to cover the withdrawal of B-17s that had
bombed Bremen, Germany. The P-47s arrived to find the bombers under heavy attack near
Oldenburg and dived into the fray. Gabreski recorded his fourth and fifth kills to become an ace,
but had a close brush with death on December 11, when a 20 mm cannon shell lodged in his
engine without exploding, destroying its turbocharger. Low on fuel and ammunition, Gabreski
outmaneuvered a Bf 109 until it succeeded in placing a burst of fire into his P-47, disabling the
engine. Gabreski stayed in the airplane, however, until it restarted at a lower altitude, where the
turbocharger was not needed.
Gabreski's victory total steadily climbed through the winter of 1943–44. By March 27, he had 18 victory credits and had six multiple-kill missions to rank third in the "ace race" that had developed within VIII Fighter Command. He downed only one more aircraft in the next two months, during which time the two pilots ahead of him (Majors Robert S. Johnson and Walker M. Mahurin, also of the 56th FG) were sent home. In April 1944, the 56th FG moved to RAF Boxted and Gabreski was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He resumed command of the 61st FS when its commander was transferred to VIII FC headquarters.
On May 22, Gabreski shot down three Fw 190s over an airfield in northwest Germany. He tied Johnson as the leading ace in the European Theater of Operations on June 27 (passing Eddie Rickenbacker's record from World War I in the process), and on July 5, 1944, became America's leading ace in the ETO, with his score of 28 destroyed matching the total at the time of confirmed victories of the Pacific Theatre's top American ace, Richard Bong. This total was never surpassed by any U.S. pilot fighting the Luftwaffe.
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