Bolesław Michal Gładych (17 May 1918- ), was a Polish fighter pilot, a flying ace of the World War II. He is one of those characters whose wartime exploits have become clouded over the years with romance, hearsay, rumour and embellishment that obscure his undoubted achievements.
Later Gladych recalled an air combat with a Bf 109E on 10 June 1940. After a long dogfight, the Pole's fighter was severely damaged. The pilot of the Messerschmitt - with the number "13" on its side - simply waggled his wings and disengaged. This, according to Gladych, was the first of several encounters with Luftwaffe ace Hauptmann Georg-Peter Eder. (Although according to Luftwaffe records Eder flew his first sorties with JG 51 in September 1940!)
Reputedly 'Mike' claimed several air victories with the French Air Force, although this cannot be confirmed from surviving records.
Gladych returned to operations in October 1941 and was transferred to 302 Squadron "City of Poznan' in July 1942, joining it after recuperative leave in December 1942. By May he was a flight commander and had been promoted to Flight Lieutenant.
Gladych detailed in a magazine article years later (Real magazine, New York, April-May 1960) another encounter with Hauptmann Georg-Peter Eder. After crippling Gladych's Spitfire in the spring of 1943, yet again Eder flew alongside his victim and waggled his wings, before flying away.
The two aces possibly met in combat once more in 1944, when again Eder shot up Gladych's P-47 aircraft over Vechta, but the Pole cleverly tricked Eder by flying through the German flak barrage to escape. (Apparently in 1950 Eder and Gladych met by chance at a pilots reunion in Frankfurt and managed to confirm they had been adversaries in each case.)
Another story relating to Gladych is that in the autumn of 1943 Gladych mistakenly almost shot down the aircraft carrying Prime Minister Winston Churchill. RAF Fighter Command grounded Gladych as a punishment.
Gladych had claimed a further 10 air kills and 5 ground kills by the end of September 1944. Gladych reported that on 8 March 1944, while escorting bombers to Berlin, he engaged three Fw 190s. Low on fuel, he attempted to disengage after shooting down one of the FW-190s, but the other two fighters boxed him in and tried to force him to land. As he approached a German airfield configured for landing, Gladych suddenly opened fire on the airfield with his remaining ammunition. German flak gunners responded, but missed Gladych and shot down the two following Fw 190s. When he crossed the English coast his P-47 ran out of fuel, forcing Gladych to bail out.
It was then claimed he flew further (unofficial?) operations with an un-named P-51 group, claiming a Me-262 jet downed, but this is not confirmed by USAAF records and his ten credited kills were all made with the 61st FS. It is also claimed he intentionally understated the total of his air victories lest he be promoted and transferred off combat duties.
He was awarded the Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valour with three bars by the Polish Air Force, the DFC by the RAF, and the Silver Star and two clusters, the Air Medal and three clusters by the USAAF. He also claimed to have been awarded the Croix de Guerre for the sortie on 8 March 1944, when he strafed an airfield after shooting down an FW-190. He nicknamed the numerous P-47's assigned to him Pengie, after the nickname of his then girlfriend, a Canadian WAAF, continuing the series up to Pengie V as he received newer aircraft. The name included a cartoon image of a penguin on the left side of the engine cowling.
His wartime 'score' totals 17 claimed destroyed, 2 probables, 1 shared damaged, and 5 ground kills. His ten kills with the 56th FG are officially recognized by the U.S. Air Force, as are the 4 kills by Lanowski. (USAF Historical Study No. 85: USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II, Air Force Historical Research Agency)
He also located his brother (a Polish resistance fighter) in a German POW camp in Austria, which had been liberated by the Russians in 1945. Anticipating the fact that most of the Polish resistance falling into the hands of the Soviets were likely to be deported to Siberia, Gladych used his USAAF status to visit the camp and managed to smuggle his brother out to the West.
After the war "Mike" Gladych emigrated to Seattle, Washington, obtaining a Ph.D. degree and becoming a United States citizen. He and his wife, Elizabeth, still live in the area, where Dr. Gladych practices psychotherapy.