Almost exactly 70 years ago, the entire free world was basically one bombing raid away from being crotch-knocked off the face of the world forever, replaced by an ultra-fanatical tyranny that would crush the balls of democracy-loving people across the planet. In early August 1940, the situation was seriously bleak for the fate of Free Europe, as the Nazi jackboots were doing a damned effective job of tap-dancing on human faces across the continent. Nine countries had already fallen under Hitler's power, most of them without even putting up a decent fight in the process. Even the Republic of France, the might army that had staunchly withstood repeated balls-out assaults from the German war machine not three decades earlier, had been ass-pounded into submission over the course of just a couple weeks. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, and Holland had all collapsed under the seemingly-invincible Blitzkrieg of goose-stepping Fascists, and now the last bastion of Free Europe was standing alone against this onslaught. Luftwaffe bombers and fighter aircraft strafed the British countryside, blasting military and civilian targets in an effort not only to soften up England's defenses for an amphibious invasion, but to crush the spirit of the British people and weaken their resolve to fight. In just two months of the Battle of Britain, over 6,000 German aircraft flew 98 separate attacks on targets from Dover to London. Shit was fucked up and not in any position to get any better.
In baseball terms, the nation of Britain was like a dude standing behind home plate with the 90 mile-per-hour fastball pitching machine aimed squarely at his nutsack, and the ridiculously brave pilots of the Royal Air Force were like a dude in the batter's box trying to foul off high heaters before they bust his friend in the junk. Among the few, desperate British heroes tearing ass through the skies, one unsung badass of the Battle of Britain looms large – Witold Urbanowicz, the balls-out-as-fuck commander of the famous 303 Squadron – a unit of Polish pilots who escaped Hitler's destruction of their homeland and made a point of taking out their pent up murder-rage on the unsuspecting chumps of the Luftwaffe by pulling up behind their Messerschmitts and cramming eight machine guns' worth of ammunition straight into the enemy pilot's taints. In the short, incredibly bloody battle, 303 Squadron recorded three times the number of kills of the average RAF unit, while sustaining just one-third of the losses. Urbanowicz was the man behind this retarded kill ratio, and a hell of a badass in his own right.
The Hawker Hurricanes of 303 Squadron.
Witold's story starts back in 1939, when Germany and the Soviet Union decided to put aside their irreconcilably-disparate ideologies for the sake of double-teaming Poland into submission. Urbanowicz was a 31 year-old instructor at the Polish Air Force College when war started ripping Poland a new asshole, and, while he wanted to stand and fight the invaders, Witold was ordered to get his cadets the fuck out of dodge before the future of the Polish Air Force officer corps found themselves staring face-to-barrel with a phalanx of Panzer bullshittery. In a daring adventure across the war-torn Polish countryside, Urbanowicz somehow led a class of thirty-something 18 year-old cadets through Poland and across the border into Romania, where he stashed them in a safehouse under the protection of a fellow Polish officer. As soon as he learned that they were going to be protected, Urbanowicz left Romania, went back into Poland, and started mulching the fuck out of Germans and Soviets with a machine gun, fighting alongside a makeshift resistance unit. When his ragtag squad was overrun by the Communists and he was taken prisoner by the Soviet Union, he fucking busted out of a soul-crushing Red Army prison the first night of his imprisonment, evaded capture, made it all the way back to Romania, and re-grouped with his cadets less than a week after he'd left them. When shit got a little too hot in Romania, he led them south into Syria, where he loaded them on a boat and took them to France to be incorporated in the French Air Force.
As we all love to joke, however, the French didn't fare a whole lot better than the Polish once the Nazis aimed their ass-ramming machines Westwards. Paris fell within a month. The French capitulated less than a week after. But Urbanowicz still hadn't satisfied his thirst for Nazi blood, nor was his quest for ultimate Fascist-crushing vengeance anywhere near complete. He kept his fighting spirit alive, participated in the British evacuation at Dunkirk, made it across the channel, and joined on with a Royal Air Force unit just in time for the Battle of Britain.
While he was undoubtedly a talented pilot and well-versed in aerial combat strategy, aside from one mission in 1936 when he'd shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane that had violated a Polish no-fly zone, Urbanowicz didn't have a whole lot of hands-on battle experience. Of course, it's not like he let something like that slow him down – in his first battle with the RAF he was serving as the rear guard for a formation of Hawker Hurricanes when suddenly he noticed a flight of four Messerschmitt-109 fighters coming up fast from the rear and he decided he was going to make his first encounter with enemy fighters one that would be remembered forever. Without warning, Urbanowicz pulled a bitchin' 180-degree turn, nearly blacking out from pulling so many barf-inducing Gs that it could have crushed the Terminator's skull into a solid hunk of servos and steel, and then strafed all four of those fuckers until their fuselage's vaguely resembled cheese graters. By the time the rest of the Hurricanes reached the combat zone, the four Me-109s were already headed full-throttle away from Urbanowicz and his machine gun firing insanity, trailing black smoke behind them all the way back to France.
Urbanowicz was eventually transferred to 303 Squadron – a badass group of Polish ex-pats who spent their days blasting German bombers into wingless fiery stumps and their nights pounding whiskey and seducing babes with their awesome accordion-playing, polka, and sausage-making skills. He started as a flight commander, but when the squadron leader's face got a little melty after his plane caught on fire in the middle of a mission, Urbanowicz took over as the unit's commander. He did a damn good job of it, too – in 43 days of fighting over Britain, his boys recorded 126 kills while losing just five pilots. 303 Squadron recorded 108 kills in September 1940 alone. For reference, the second-best squadron in September claimed 48 victories.
Urbanowicz's main strategy was just to go completely balls-out all the time, leaving the enemy fighter pilots sucking on his contrails while he and his boys fucked up heavy bomber formations from point-blank range. As a result of such a daring strategy, his mission log reads like a series of obscenely badass exploits, each one more mind-fuckingly insane than the one before. On 7 September, he led his 12 aircraft against a huge formation of German heavy bombers, taking out 18 enemy planes while losing just two of his own (and both pilots lived). Four days later, 303 Squadron went up against an armada consisting of 60 bombers, escorted by 40 Me-110s and 50 Me-109s, and somehow pulled out a ridiculous victory – six Poles took on the entire fighter screen by themselves while the other 6 rushed through and nailed the bombers, downing 17 of them and forcing the enemy to withdraw from the field. Four days after that – the day of the proposed German amphibious invasion of Britain – Urbanowicz led 5 planes against 60 Dornier Bombers, blitzing through the fighter screen and raking the enemy craft with machine gun fire from just a few yards away. By the time the Me-109s figured out what the fuck was going on, the entire bomber wing was so jacked up that its pilots were crashing into each other just to get away from these batshit-insane Poles. On the 30th of the month, he broke up yet another massive bomber attack on London in a similar manner, killing one He-111 himself and then taking out two fighters when the Me-109s dove in to assist. Over the course of the war, not only was 303 Squadron undefeated in combat, but it's commander – Witold Urbanowicz – had personally notched 17 confirmed kills, the second most of any Polish pilot in the war. Oh, and he also boned a lot of British women. Like, a lot of them.
As you can probably imagine, after these reports were rolling in an RAF Group Commander accused the 303 of padding its stats to make itself sound more awesome. Urbanowicz said nothing, but instead politely invited the senior officer to join them on a sortie some time. On the day the RAF officer flew out with them, the Poles shot down 8 planes while only losing one of their own (and the pilot survived). The Commander wrote in his report the next day that they were "wonderful madmen", which was pretty much just a cleaned-up version of what he actually said when he was out there, which was something a little more akin to, "Holy Fuck Balls Sweet Jesus Cinnamon Titties Motherfuck".
Urbanowicz was not only incredibly adept at psyching the Germans out of their flight suits, but he was also excellent at managing his subordinates. For instance, one of his best pilots was a badass Czech dude named Josef Frantisek. Frantisek was a 10-kill ace during the Battle of France who was incredibly talented, but his wingmen hated him because this guy always broke formation and went balls-out at the Germans any time he saw them, without any regard for what else was going on around him. He usually ended up blowing the shit out of his target, but people were still a little ticked that he'd left their wing unguarded. In order to manage the situation, Urbanowicz broke Frantisek off from 303 Squadron, making him commander of a flight team of one – Frantisek could go out and do whatever the shit he wanted, whenever he wanted, and the rest of the team didn't have to worry about him screwing up their coordinated attacks. Frantisek ended up shooting down 17 more Germans before he crashed into a mountain while doing a barrel roll to impress a group of British babes. You can't win 'em all, I guess.
Thanks to the RAF's ability to fight off the Luftwaffe bombers, the German invasion never came. After the Battle of Britain turned the tide of World War II in democracy's favor, Urbanowicz moved to the States, worked as a flight tactics instructor for a while, and then went to China to serve with the Flying Tigers of the United States Army Air Force. The first non-American to fly in the unit, he flew several combat missions with the Tigers, destroying 15 Japanese river boats, and dropping food and medical aid to the Chinese. His most badass exploit in China was a battle in December 1943, when he found his P-40 Warhawk being marauded by six Japanese fighter craft at the same time – Witold not only survived, but he killed two enemy planes and sent the rest running back to their mamas. After the war, Urbanowicz moved to Pennsylvania and wrote a couple of books, only finally returning home to Poland in 1996 after the fall of Communism. He was appointed honorary General of the Polish Air Force. Witold Urbanowicz died a year later, having finally seen his beloved homeland free from oppression. In his lifetime he received the Virtuti Militari, the Polish Cross of Valor, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. Nowadays his story, and the tale of 303 Squadron, is mandatory reading in Polish grade schools.
NY Times Obituary
History Learning Site
Fiedler, Arkady. 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Squadron. Trans. Jarek Garlinksi. Aquila Polonica, 2010.
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