The publisher is developing a reputation for offering some uniquely insightful aviation histories and this account of his experiences by ‘Lanny’ Lanowski is well up to the standard. It would be a welcome new book for its portrayal of the young men who made they way from their homelands to continue the fight against Nazi Germany, but it touches upon several facets of the European air war.
NAME: Out in Front, A Polish Fighter Pilot’s Dramatic Air War
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Witold ‘Lanny’ Lanowski
PUBLISHER: Fighting High Books
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: P-47, Republic Thunderbolt, fighter pilot, ‘Jug’, bomber escort, USAAF, Holton
DESCRIPTION: The publisher is developing a reputation for offering some uniquely insightful aviation histories and this account of his experiences by ‘Lanny’ Lanowski is well up to the standard. It would be a welcome new book for its portrayal of the young men who made they way from their homelands to continue the fight against Nazi Germany, but it touches upon several facets of the European air war.
There is a valuable photo plate section to support the gripping text. The author has a slightly unusual slant to his experiences. His experiences as a young Polish Air Force pilot are similar to most of his contemporaries. He describes his family and the torn fortunes of Poland, together with his progress to pilot. When the Germans invaded Poland, in the same manner that Russian Nazis are now attempting to annex the Ukraine, the fight was not going to be protracted. Poland may have had courageous pilots with skills to match any fighter pilot, but they lacked the command and control systems that were essential to fighting a successful air campaign. They also lacked the aircraft to compete with German fighters on equal terms. The result was that many Polish aircraft were destroyed on the ground and those that became airborne rarely had the time to gain height before a swam of German machines were down on them. German victory was swift and Polish soldiers and airmen had to evade capture and escape to the closest friendly nation. Many went first to France, before escaping the Germans for a second time to reach the British Isles.
Once in Britain, Polish pilots then had to persuade the RAF that they were worth employing and attempt to join a Polish squadron. Although they were already veterans of air combat, these pilots had much to learn, including a language that was alien to so many of them. Operationally, they had to adjust to fighters that were far in advance of the types most of them were familiar with, and they also had to learn to fight under radio direction from the most sophisticated command and control system with its radar detection units. The RAF was initially reluctant to clear the Polish and Czech squadrons for operations, but the desperate need for fighters and pilots during the Battle of Britain forced the RAF to bring these squadrons to Full Operational Capability. They performed so well that it is difficult now to see why there was any RAF reluctance.
The author reached an operational squadron and flew Spitfire Mk V fighters against the Germans having missed the Battle of Britain, he flew during a period when German aircraft were coming over in smaller numbers, usually at night and heading for home at the first sight of serious opposition. This limited his opportunity to shoot down German aircraft and he became frustrated. This was no reflection on his skill or courage. In fact, his qualities had been recognized and rewarded with a posting to the Fighter Leader’s School.
Lanny dealt with this frustration by transferring to the USAAF which was eager to increase its fighter escort groups that flew deep into Germany protecting the US heavy bombers. This is the point of novelty because although he was not alone in joining the USAAF, it was not a common experience for Polish flyers. The 65th Fighter Wing was assigned to escort the 2nd Bomb Division B-24 Liberators and initially the Thunderbolt fighters did not have the range to go all the way to the target and back. Modifications were made and the Thunderbolt was able to provide protection for most target routes, but the real solution was the introduction of the P-51 Mustang.
Lanny tells his story with charm and clarity. It is a very involving tale and readers will be grateful that he took the time to record his unique experiences to paper. An excellent book