Commonwealth of PA marker near the PNA Lodge 905 in Oil City, PA
Col. Francis Gabreski Honored with Historical Marker
Among the newest historical markers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one dedicated to World War II ace pilot and military hero, Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreski. The marker was unveiled on June 25 and stands at 410 Seneca Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Oil City, PA.
Francis Gabreski joined the US Army Air Force and was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. With America in the fight, he persuaded his commanding officer to send him to England so that he could learn modern air combat tactics from the Polish fliers who were fighting in the Battle of Britain. Later he was able to teach these tactics later to the American pilots under his command, and became an air ace several times over.
The marker was placed thanks to the mutual cooperation of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation (John Bartus, president) and the Polish National Alliance PNA Lodge 905 (Michael Fedorek, president). Peter Obst of the Philadelphia KF Chapter filed the application with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and Giorgio Foods of Temple, PA provided seed money to fund the marker.
The marker was unveiled under a slightly clouded over sky that did not deter the assembled crowd of about 200 persons. Among the speakers and dignitaries present were: Oil City Mayor Sonja L. Hawkins, County Commissioner Jan Beichner, several representatives of State Government legislators and US Congressmen, and Mr. Frank Spula President of the Polish National Alliance. Lt. Gordon P. Richards spoke for the US Air Force, while Lt. Col. Peary Kearick said a few words on behalf the Army Veterans. A group of three aircraft, including an AT-6 trainer of WWII vintage, did 4 low level fly bys over the site. A unit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Oil City presented the colors and fired a salute in honor of Col. Gabreski. At the conclusion Mr. Robert English played "Taps."
After the ceremony the attendees retired to the nearby PNA Hall Lodge 905 for a banquet. Here it was possible to view some Francis Gabreski memorabilia that has been preserved by the Lodge as well as a wall sized painting of Col. Gabreski and his P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter engaged in air combat with an Me-109 Messerschmidt. A modified version of this painting was used on the cover of the commemorative program book. At the banquet's conclusion Mr. Janusz Romanski presented certificates of appreciation from the Polonia Technica Polish Engineers' Association. All went home happy to have been present at this exceptionally well organized ceremony. Guests from as far away as Philadelphia and Chicago were able to take with them an expertly designed souvenir program which, in addition to historical information, listed the many sponsors who financed or otherwise supported the event.
Those interested in Polish-American history should be pleased to learn that the next historical marker to be dedicated will honor the small yet hardy group of Poles who came to Capt. John Smith's Jamestown Colony in Virginia starting in 1608. Ceremonies will be held in mid-July 2012 near Jamestown, VA, under the auspices of the American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC website: www.polishcultureacpc.org) and the Polish American Arts Association of Washington, DC (Tom Payne, president).
View banquet program cover
View letter from Sonya L. Hawkins, Mayor of Oil City, PA
l. to r. Janusz Romanski, Andrzej Groch, Betty Hodges, Michael Fedorek, John Petrus, Peter Obst, Joseph Kaminaski, Cynthia Groch, John Bartus.
l. to r. Michael Fedorek, Rich Cook, Lt. Gordon P. Richard USAF, Ret. Lt. Col. Perry Kearick US Army
l. to r. Peter Obst, Elizabeth Groch, Joseph Kaminski, Cynthia Groch Frank Pula, Scott Frankowski, Timothy Kuzma
l. to r. John Plachta Jr. USMC, Afghanistan, receives Polonia Technica certificate of appreciation from Mr. Janusz Romanski
From: Post-Eagle, October, 2011