Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski was born and raised in Oil City, Pennsylvania, joined the Army Air Corps in 1940, and graduated from pilot training as a Second Lieutenant in March 1941. He was serving in Hawaii during the "Day of Infamy," December 7, 1941.
In October 1942, Captain Gabreski (ﬂuent in Polish) was assigned to the European Theater Operation as a liaison to the British Royal Air Force's Polish 315th Fighter Squadron ﬂying combat missions in their Supermarine Spitﬁre Mark IXs.
In February 1943, he joined the 56th Fighter Group "Wolfpack" commanded by Colonel Hub Zemke ﬂying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. During his tour with the Wolfpack, Lieutenant Colonel Grabreski destroyed 28 enemy aircraft in aerial combat (surpassing Captain Eddie Rickenbacher's record of 26 enemy aircraft destroyed during World War II) and numerous others on the ground.
In July 1944, he crashed in enemy territory and was a prisoner of war until the war's end. Colonel Gabreski also served in a combat role during the Korean War, commanding the 51st Fighter Wing F-86 Sabres and destroying 6.5 enemy aircraft.