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Brigadier Genaral Stanisław Skalski


Stanisław Skalski, of Polish noble land owners family, was born on October 27 1915 in Kodyma, near Odessa, Russian Empire. After completing Pilot Training School in 1938 in Poland, Skalski was ordered to the 142nd Fighter Squadron in Toruń (142 eskadra "Toruńska"). On September 1 1939, after the beginning of German invasion of Poland, he attacked a German Henschel Hs 126 reconnaissance aircraft, eventually shot down by Marian Pisarek, and then Skalski landed next to it, captured the crew of pilot Friedrich Wimmer and navigator Siegfried Heyman. Then Skalski helped to bandage the crew members and put them on an ambulance for further care in a hospital. By 16 September Skalski reached "ace" status, by claiming a total of six German aircraft, making him famous as the first allied air ace of World War II: one Junkers Ju 86, two Dornier Do 17, one Junkers Ju 87, two Hs 126s and one Hs 126 shared (official list credits him with four aircraft: two Do 17s, one Hs 126, one Ju 87 and one Hs 126 shared). Soon after he fled the country with other Polish pilots to Romania, and from there via Beirut to France, and after France was defeated he went on to fight with the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain.
In August 1940, Pilot Officer Skalski joined 501 Squadron. From August 30 to September 2 1940, he shot down a He 111 bomber and three Messerechmitt Bf 109. On September 5 1940, Skalski himself was shot down. Skalski bailed out with severe burns that hospitalized him for six weeks in England. He returned to his unit in late October 1940. During the Battle of Britain, Skalski was credited with four planes shot down and one shared.
In March 1941 he was assigned to the 306 Polish Squadron, flying in “Circus” operations. missions over France. On March 1 1942, he became a flight commander in 316 Polish Squadron. On April 29 1942, Flight Lieutenant Skalski was made Commanding Officer of the 317 Polish Squadron for five months. From November 1942 he was an instructor in No. 58 Operation Training Unit.
In October 1943 he was given command of the Polish Fighting Team (PFT), or so called "Cyrk Skalskiego" (Skalski's Circus) - a Squadron consisting of the best Polish fighter pilots selected from volunteers. The Poles arrived at Bu Grara airfield, west of Tripoli in March 1943. They at first were attached to 145 Squadron. The PFT took part in actions in Tripolitania and in Sicily. On May 6 1943, the "Skalski Circus" fought its last combat. During its two months of operations, the Polish pilots had claimed a total of 26 German and Italian aircraft shot down. Flight Lieutenant Skalski scored four aircraft, and Pilot Officer Eugeniusz Hrobaczewski claimed five confirmed victories.
Skalski then became commander of 601 County of London Squadron, the first Pole to command an RAF Squadron. He then took part in the invasion of Sicily and invasion of Italy. From December 1943 to April 1944, Wing Commander Skalski commanded 133(Polish) Fighter Wing. On April 4 1944, he was appointed commander of the Polish Fighter Wing; No. 133. On June 24 1944, Skalski scored two air victories over Rouen.
After the war he returned to Poland in 1947 and joined the Air Force of the Polish Army. In 1948 however he was arrested and tortured during interrogations by agents of Jakub Berman, the head of the terror apparatus of the communist regime under the false charge of espionage. Sentenced to death, he spent three years awaiting the execution until his sentence was changed to life imprisonment in Wronki Prison, thanks to plea of the Quinn Elizbeth conveyed through British diplomatic intervention.
After the end of Stalinism in Poland, in 1956 he was released, “rehabilitated,” and allowed to join the military. He served at various posts in the Headquarters of the Polish Air Forces. He wrote memoires of the 1939 campaign Czarne krzyże nad Polską ("Black crosses over Poland", 1957). On May 20 1968, he was nominated the secretary general of the Aeroklub Polski and on April 10 1972, he retired. On September 15 1988, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
In 1990 General Skalski met with the German pilot he had rescued on the first day of war during a visit to Germany in 25-31 of March 1990, General Skalski arranged for a reunion with the German crew, which he captured and sent to field hospital on September 1, 1939. Gen. Skalski met with the pilot Friedrich Wimmer and with the twin brother of the navigator Siegfried von Heynemann, Joachim von Heynemann because Siegfried von Heynemann died earlier in 1988. During the reunion the Germans expressed gratitude for Skalski’s life-saving help. Then they went on to relate their war experiences. The description of the reunion had a wide coverage in German media. General Skalski was described as one of the last examples of the dying out traditions of chivalrous of European knights.
Stanisław Skalski died in Warsaw on November 12 2004.

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6 styczeń 2010

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