"Skalski's Circus"

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Jan 29, 2005
Monroe, New York USA
The Polish Fighting Team (PFT), popularly called "Skalski's Circus", was made up of the best Polish fighter pilots. All fifteen of them volunteered and Capt. Stanislaw Skalski was their commander. Polish pilots arrived at Bu Grara airfield (250 km west of Tripoli) on 13 March 1943. They at first became part of 145 RAF Squadron (commanded by S/Ldr Lance Wade) as the "C" Flight. The call code of 145 Squadron was "ZX" and the aircraft of the Polish Flight received the individual code numbers "1" to "9". Operational duty for the PFT began 17 March 1943. The first combat missions were in "Spitfire" Mk Vc trop fighters, but after a week the unit was re-equipped with new "Spitfire" Mk IX (while other flights of the 145th still flew the Mk V!). On 28 March 1943, the PFT drew its first blood. The flight led by Skalski encountered a group of Ju 88's escorted by Bf 109Gs of II./JG 77. No fighter planes were shot down on either side, but Skalski and Lt. Horbaczewski claimed killings of two Ju 88s. On 18 April 1943, the Polish Team of 145 Sqn ('C' Flight) sustained its only loss, as F/Lt Wyszkowski, lagging behind a formation, was bounced from the sun by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Rotte of 7./JG 53 'Pik As'. Unteroffizier Georg Amon shot down the "Spitfire". Wyszkowski crash-landed in enemy territory and was taken prisoner by the Germans. This was Amon's first victory. Two months later (on 25 June 1943, vividly accounted in Johannes Steinhoff's book 'Die Strasse von Messina'), when JG 53 was based in Sicily, the Luftwaffe's Fighter General Adolf Galland (visiting Sicily at that time) personally ordered Amon to be court-martialled for 'cowardness'; Galland claimed that Amon had deliberately turned away from combat to avoid confrontation with B-17s. However, the general confusion on Sicily at that time saved Amon from the court-martial. With a total of nine victories, Amon was shot down by AA over Germany on 2 April 1945 and was taken prisoner by the Allies. On 6 May 1943, "Skalski Circus" fought its last aerial combat. On this occasion, Skalski and Sgt. Sztramko downed 2 Bf 109s. On 13 May 1943 the war in Africa was over. During two months, the Polish pilots had shot down a total of 26 German and Italian planes. Capt. Skalski scored 4 aircraft's, but the most successful of the unit had been Lt. Eugeniusz Horbaczewski, with 5 confirmed victories. During period 13 December 1943 - 3 April 1944, Major Skalski commanded the 131 Fighter Wing (Polish Squadrons: 302nd, 308th, 317th, till October 15th, 1944 - Ist Polish Fighter Wing). On 4 April 1944 (remaining in this position until 3 August 1944) he was appointed commander of the other Polish Fighter Wing - the 133th (Polish Squadrons: 306th, 315th and British 129th). On 24 June 1944 Skalski, leaded the whole Wing, scored two air victories in a battle over Rouen. Altogether, Polish fighters claimed 6-1-4 enemy planes in this action, but unfortunatelly they lost Sgt. Adamiak from the 315th Squadron, when his "Mustang", FZ157, crashed in the St. Croix/Beaux area (north-west of Dreux).

Stanislaw Skalski was the most successful Polish ace of WW II, with a record of 22 confirmed victories, 1 probable, and 1 damaged enemy aircraft. Three times he was awarded the British DFC, and he received many other medals. Following his return to Poland after the war, he was imprisoned by the Communist regime in 1949, on a charge of espionage for the West. He spent 6 long years in a jail, waiting for execution. That was his "reward" from the communists, a fate he shared with many other Polish soldiers returning from the West for their heroic and sacrificing duty. In 1956, Skalski was finally released from prison.


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