Ben and Joseph Adamowicz in front of their plane
the Bellanca Pacemaker named "Warsaw"
In flight, Bellanca Pacemaker named "Warsaw"
The "Warsaw" in Inowroclaw, Poland
The Bellanca airplane after landing in the capital
city of Warsaw, Poland
Adamowicz Brothers and their story
Adamowicz BrothersBook Review by: Peter J. Obst
Polish Aviation Pioneers
The 1920s and 30s are primarily remembered for prohibition, jazz, flappers and the growth of aviation - and there was a part to be played by Poles in all of these categories. In 1934, only seven years after Lindbergh's solo trans-Atlantic flight, two Polish immigrants, brothers Ben and Joe Adamowicz from Brooklyn, made a flight over the ocean with a landing in Warsaw at the end of their journey.
The historical context and details of this flight are examined in a recently published book Across the Atlantic - The Adamowicz Brothers, Polish Aviation Pioneers by Zofia Reklewska-Braun and Kazimierz Braun. What is remarkable about this story is that two men, ordinary guys quite unknown in the then-existing aviation community, managed to accomplish something that, at the time, was still regarded as a dangerous and daring feat.
Even before their excursion into aviation these two "everymen" were part of the immigrant success story. They started a soft-drink bottling plant, made money, acquired property - and hobbies. From bicycling they moved to motorcycles, then automobiles - where they had quite a few mishaps - and finally airplanes. The flying bug got a hold of them and planning for a flight to Poland started. After mastering pilotage on an old Waco airplane, they purchased a slightly used Ballanca Pacemaker single-engine monoplane and had it outfitted with long range tanks. It was a wise choice as, at the time, aircraft designer Guiseppe Mario Bellanca was the leading manufacturer of aircraft with long distance capabilities. According to records the plane carried about 430 gallons of high test aviation fuel - plus 21 additional 5 gallon canisters, just in case. They paid somewhere between ten and twelve thousand dollars for the plane. Ten thousand dollars in 1934, adjusted for inflation, would be $178,000 today, and this did not include all the additional expenses connected with the trip.
Starting from New York on June 28, 1934 they landed at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, and flew on for over 30 hours above the ocean, at one point encountering stormy weather and icing conditions. The plane landed on a field in France and refueled, then continued, making a landing in Germany. Flying east, they sighted and followed the Vistula to Torun, and after some delays were finally cheered by exuberant crowds as they landed in the capital city of Warsaw, the plane's namesake. Apparently the Adamowicz brothers were not short on courage or piloting skills, it was their navigation that was less than perfect.
For ten weeks Poland cheered as Ben and Joe made a tour of the country. Nothing was too good for them. Every Polish city wanted to give them a parade. Newspapers around the world picked up the story of two ordinary men, brothers, who made a spectacular journey. They were given medals, toasted at banquets, housed in the best hotels. Then they sold the Bellanca to the Polish Aero Club and came home to America.
Unfortunately, there were no parades awaiting them in New York. Instead, there was a warrant for their arrest. The authorities found a still for the production of alcohol in the soda water bottling plant. Though prohibition was over, the brothers had operated without the required permits and licenses. In the end a jury found them guilty and they were sentenced to 15 month prison terms and confiscation of the bottling plant.
Newspaper reports that came from the trial were unsympathetic to the brothers who had fallen from grace as "conquerors of the Atlantic" to the status ordinary bootleggers. Even Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker magazine, took a swipe at the brothers in print. The Polish press was mostly silent about their disgrace.
Over time the story faded into obscurity, both the glory of the accomplishment and the humiliating brush with American justice that followed. It was not the first time that a noble pursuit was financed by illegal means. The brothers paid for breaking the law, and their brave adventure was tainted by the deed. Yet, it is good that the book brought back the memory of these immigrant men, Ben and Joe, who dared to fly, as they said, "for the greater glory of Poland."