My name is Krys Lanowski, Witold Lanowski was my father and I decided to do a web page dedicated to my father as there is a lot of information available on the internet but not his story as told by him.

As a young child and up to the day my father went into the blue yonder, hopefully with a strong tail wind and a clear `6', I enjoyed and was often awed by his stories and memories. I always liked to look through his photo albums when I was young but only recently have I realised the importance of his contribution to history as have many people all over the globe who have either written about him, created replica flying models of his now famous thunderbolt, or contacted me for information about his exploits.

So, the following story is a very condensed history of his life from his birth in Poland to his leaving the RAF service in the 1950's. I hope you enjoy these pages as much as I have enjoyed creating them.

Witold Lanowski (8th June 1915 - 16th September 1993) was a Polish fighter pilot who’s career spanned several air forces during his flying career.
Born in Lwow Poland 1915 (Lwow eventually became part of the Ukraine following Poland’s occupation by the USSR), to a Polish father and German mother. His father was a Doctor of law and held several directorships, his mother was a carpet, kilim rug designer. He was a gifted sportsman competing in swimming, water polo, cross country skiing and shooting when he represented his country against Czechoslovakia in a shooting competition. Lwow was one of the Polish cities that had a serious dislike of all things authoritative in Poland at that time, especially the government in Warsaw which was effectively a military junta and the people of Lwow openly rebelled against  the government in Warsaw and what it represented. amazingly when the unrest occured in the air force pre-war the main leaders including Witold came from Lwow or the surrounding areas.

His flying career started when he was invited to attend a gliding course in 1934 and the bug bit! He qualified as top student and decided that this was what he wanted to be, a pilot.
In 1935 he entered Deblin officer cadet school and graduated as first pilot in 1938, but whilst in the cadet school he continued with his sports including pentathlon and became overall Polish ski champion in downhill, slalom and cross country and also won the Polish shooting championships.

He graduated from Deblin in 1938 with some of the notable Polish pilots of the time including Miroslaw Feric (303 sq), Tadeusz Sawicki, Stanislaw Skalski (C.O 317 sq) and Jan Zumbach (303 sq). Witold’s first posting as a pilot was to 121 Fighter sq in Krakow and whilst there he continued his training for the world ski championships. In February 1939 he won the interservices championships.
1939 saw him posted back to Deblin flight school as an instructor where he was to teach some of the pilots who would be influential in his later career namely Zbigniew Janicki, Tadeusz Andersz and Boleslaw Gladych.

Following hostilities breaking out with the Germans, on the 13th September 1939 he received orders to lead the remaining cadets out of the school south to Rumania to escape internment. On the 19th September he was captured by the Czech militia and handed over to Ukrainian soldiers but managed to escape from the convoy. Following a gruelling journey through Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Hungary they landed by boat at Marseille on the 12th November 1939 where he was posted with other pilots to 145 Sq at Villa Coublay flying in defence of Lyon and Paris.
It was here that Witold’s reputation as a rebel escalated when the Polish pilots were displeased with the Polish authorities regarding the leadership of the air force which was being commanded by army officers with absolutely no knowledge of air combat tactics or flying in general and Witold aired his and the other pilots views and was arrested by the Polish high command and imprisoned for `gross insubordination’ for court martial and possible execution. Witold and other Pilots had begun to realise earlier whilst in Deblin that all was not well in the air force command and had organised the publication of a paper that was read buy the other pilots highlighting the views of the pilots who came to be labelled `rebels' by the Polish high command. So Witold had already been on the watch list prior to his `insubordination' (Polish high command terminology not the popular opinion of the pilots).

With the capitulation of France and his escape from prison he re-boarded a boat at Marseille docking at Liverpool on the 12th July 1940. Between August 1940 and September 1941 he was unable to be picked by the commanding officers of the Polish fighter squadrons who were frustrated with the fact that a skilled and seasoned pilot was being blocked to them by the Polish high command due to his views and previous arrest.
Witold was posted to 55 OTU as an instructor and was finally picked as a fighter pilot by 308 squadron flying Hurricane’s and on the 30th December 1941 was transferred across the airfield to 317 squadron flying Spitfire’s with the equivalent rank of Flying officer.
October 1942 saw him decorated with his second `Cross of Valour’ on the insistence of Skalski his squadron commander. In April 1943 he attended fighter leader school where he graduated and was immediately posted to 302 Polish squadron as `A’ flight commander (at the same time Boleslaw Gladych was transferred from 303 squadron to 302 squadron as `B’ flight commander). His C.O at 302 Wacław Król forwarded him on several occasions for the `Virtuti Militari’ but was rejected by the pig headed Polish high command yet again as was his promotion to squadron leader even though as `A’ flight commander he had often led 302 squadron into battle. By 23rd February 1944 he had completed 97 operations and 220 combat flying hours.
In March 1944 the Polish high command wanted to give Witold a desk job but he refused and with the help of the Polish chief of staff Brzezina who was a friend and fan of Witold’s got him a posting to the 354th Fighter Group of the USAAF 9th Air Force flying mustangs from Boxted air base as an intelligence officer. Witold was furious that he had been blocked from operational flying by the high command and it was here with the 354th that he got his famous nickname `Lanny’ due to the difficulty the Americans had with his surname.
Following several visits with Gladych from Northolt whilst with 302 Squadron to Halesworth in his spitfire for discussions with Francis Gabreski and `Hub’ Zemke Lanny was transferred to the 61st Fighter Squadron of the famous 56th Fighter Group, Zemke’s Wolfpack. This had come to fruition due to the fact that Gabby Gabreski being of Polish extraction had flown with 315 Polish squadron at Northolt in January of 1943 where he met Lanny and Gladych whilst being tutored in combat flying by Andersz. On return to the US and given command of the 61st Fighter squadron Gabby petitioned for the transfer to the 56th of seasoned, skilled Polish fighter pilots to boost the numbers as the 56th was very short of combat pilots at the time. So, several Polish pilots transferred to the 61st Fighter Squadron as operational combat pilots including Janicki (lost in combat with the 61st), Gladych, Sawicz, Rutkowski, Andersz and Lanny. This attachment effectively ended in August 1944 but at the request of `Hub’ Zemke and Dave Schilling Lanny and Gladych stayed on with the suggestion by Zemke that they apply for a US commission and was temporarily given the rank of `Captain’ during their stay with the 56th. The commission was never granted due to the Polish high command blocking His promotion yet again even after letters written by Zemke, Schilling, Gabreski and notably General Kepner who said that Lanny flew wing, element leader, flight leader and 61st squadron leader on missions but to no avail. So on the 15th May 1944 he flew the Thunderbolt for the first time with his first combat mission on the 21st May.
It was with the 56th that Lanny was able to excel at being the skilled combat pilot that he was and was accordingly decorated by the Americans with the Air medal with 2 silver clusters and 4 oak leaf clusters and also decorated with the American Distinguished flying cross by General Jesse Auton on 25th November 1944 and was granted permission to wear `Senior Pilots wings’ on his uniform. It was during this time that Lanny was able to display his iconic nose art on the cowling of his P-47 which became one of the most well know nose art decorations for a US fighter of the war. He created this nose art in 1941 but due to the stuffiness of the RAF rules and regulations was unable to display it on any of his previous fighter planes.
Both Zemke and Gabreski had the greatest respect for Lanny and often requested him to fly as their wingman on several occasions, competing with each other for Lanny `affections’ which often meant Lanny handing over his `Polish flight’ to Gladych to lead whilst he flew wingman.
The `Polish flight’ had been set up to allow Gabreski to rotate his new additions to the 61st Squadron through this flight to gain combat experience with the Polish veterans through their tutorage and Lanny often didn’t claim kills if these rookie pilots had fired on the enemy as well, giving the kill claims to them to boost their confidence. Whilst with the 56th he was credited with a further 4 kills (2 previous kills with the Polish air force).

Lanny was given the first production P-47 mark `M’ which was designated HV-Z (bar) after silver lady was retired and transferred to the 9th AF he retained the designation letters for his `Jug’.

Witold Lanowski's confirmed claims whilst with the 56th were 4 kills, a further 2 kills were with the Polish air force (recorded in official polish documents but not dated or informative of type of German plane destroyed). the claims were:

A FW 190 on 22nd May 1944 (2nd day of combat flying with the 56th)
A ME 109 on June 27th 1944
A ME 109 on July 5th 1944
A FW 190 on November 18th 1944 which was the strafing mission to Hanau with all three squadrons of the 56th taking part. Lanny engaged a total of three FW 190’s that day but only claimed 1 as he was unsure of hits for the kill on the other two. This kill was whilst flying `Silver Lady’
He also didn’t claim a HE 111 destroyed on August 28th.