March 1944 till the end of the air war 1945

 

Zemke's Wolfpack

This Transfer 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.
Lanny was suprised at the level of training that the new pilots had recieved prior to a combat posting with a front line fighter group and `Polish flight’ had been set up for the Polish pilots to fly in a flight of thier own but more imortantly to allow Gabreski to rotate his new additions shipping in from the USA 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.

Gladych and Lanny were great friends having been at flight school together when Lanny was his instructor, flying together in France and then as flight leaders together in 302 squadron. They often played pranks on each other, and on one occassion Lanny hid Gladych's mascot `Pengie' (seen as nose art on his thunderbolts), much to Gladych's annoyance, so in retaliation Gladych hid lanny's flight boots. An urgent mission was called and when Lanny tried to find his boots he asked Gladych if he had seen them. Gladych's reply was "why don't you ask Pengie, maybe she can tell you!" This caused much amusement amongst the other pilots so Lanny returned Pengie into Gladych's care...!
In early 1945 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’. The first mark `M's suffered from quite a few glitches and breakdowns and Lanny's ground crew insisted that he have his engine swapped out before they would allow him to fly it! This Thunderbolt become the trade mark that Lanny is known by with the personal emblem on the cowling that has become famous as one of the most striking personal insignia's in the US fighter groups.