First Lt. Adam Kubinciak was the pilot of a B-24 “Liberator” bomber named “Miss Liberty,” part of the 706th Bomb Squadron, 446 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force stationed at Bungay, in southwestern England, during World War II.
The 89-year-old former Army Air Corps pilot now lives in La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. where he has resided since 1982.
Kubinciak flew 34 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, from July 1944 through Feb. 27, 1945. Slightly more than two months later the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945.
“Our toughest mission was one we made over Kaiserlauten. It was a railroad marshaling yard in Germany,” the old aviator recalled. “They sent our group in to bomb at 10,000 feet like we were medium bombers instead of the usual 20,000 feet.
“At that altitude, the German anti-aircraft gunners were very good. I think each of their guns protecting the railroad yard had an instructor on it,” he said. “On our approach to the target I couldn’t see my co-pilot because he had his head between his knees as he tried unsuccessfully to escape the pounding we were taking from flak.
“Although our plane was all ripped to hell from shrapnel, there was no major damage. No one was injured during the missions.”
What made “Miss Liberty” a stand-out was that four of the 10 crew members were from New York City. The big, four-engine bomber had the Statue of Liberty emblazoned on its nose. It was the perfect name for their bomber given the birth place of many of the crew members.
“Our radio operator was a Jewish boy, Gersan Hershkowitz. If you were Jewish, and you were fighting in Nazi-occupied territory you could change your name on your dog tags in case you got captured by the Germans. This guy wouldn’t change his name on his dog tags,” Kubinciak said.
“Each of us had a pee can beside us so we could relieve ourselves when necessary on long missions,” he said. “One of Gersan’s jobs was to close the bomb bay doors after the bombs were away.
“We were on our sixth mission over Germany when I heard all this racket come right out of the bomb bay into the cockpit. When we landed I asked Gersan if he had problems closing the bomb bay doors. Was that causing all the noise?
“‘No sir,’ he replied.
“A couple of missions later it happened again. I quested him again and got the same reply from the radio operator. Finally, the third time the racket came out of the bomb bay while on another mission over Nazi-held territory I took Gersan aside and said, “What’s going on?’
“‘Well sir,’ he said, ‘I take my can and bang the frozen pee lose by banging it against the bomb bay doors while hanging out of the airplane. It’s my way of getting even with Hitler.”‘
Kubinciak ordered the radio operator not to do it again. As he explained, if the bomber had been shot at by flak guns nearby explosions could have caused the B-24 to bounce and Gersan could have been bounced out. It never happened again.
Their coldest day in the air came on Christmas Eve 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge when 8th Air Force bombers finally took to the air once more after being grounded because of bad weather. It had been snowing heavily for days; it was the worst winter in Europe in 50 years.
“It was minus-60 degrees at 23,000 feet. We wore silk gloves under our mittens so our hands wouldn’t stick if we pulled off our mittens and touched any metal object in the plane,” he said. “If we were to touch anything metal with our bare hand while in flight our hand would be stuck in that position until we returned to base and it unfroze.”
They were on their 35th and final combat mission, on Feb. 27, 1945, when disaster struck.
“As we climbed to 6,000 feet over England just after taking off, my No. 3 engine caught fire. No matter what I did, the fire wouldn’t go out,” he said. “I gradually slipped the bomber from 6,000 to 2,000 feet hoping the wind would blow the flames out. It continued to burn.
“The flames burned so fiercely I was afraid the wing was going to fall off, so I told my crew to bail out. I was the only one left. I retrimmed the plane’s flaps and put it on automatic pilot trying to get out myself,” Kubinciak said. “When I reached the bomb bay I found Mack, my co-pilot’s, chute harnesses were hung up on the nose of one of the bombs. He was dangling down below.
“When I kicked him lose the plane’s trim went back to normal and the bomber went into a spiraling dive. The centrifugal force kept me pinned down on the bomb bay catwalk. I couldn’t move. How I escaped the plunging bomber I’ll never know.”
Kubinciak received the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving his crew, particularly his co-pilot. The Flying Cross is just below the Medal of Honor in its importance.
More than half a century later, Kubinciak received a mailing tube from Pat Pocock, a man in England who is part of a group of residents whose family lived near their air base during World War II.
They are known as the “Bungay Buyckeroos.” They have worked for decades to perpetuate the memory of the pilots stationed near their town a lifetime ago. Inside the tube was an incredible picture of Kubinciak’s B-24. The detail is exquisite, right down the “Miss Liberty” on its side all done in cross stitching.
“The English are amazing. They’ve stayed in touch with me all these years,” he said. “Brendon Wood, the historian of the group, has visited me on two occasions with his wife and little boy. The last time was just a couple of weeks ago when he came to our 446 Bomb Group Reunion held in Savannah, Ga. Wood was there when I arrived, and he paid his own way.
“My two daughters, Ruth Haacke of Spring Hill and Judy Owens of Centereach, Long Island, N.Y., took me to that reunion in Savannah. There were 45 or 50 of us from the unit still alive who showed up. My two girls decided this might be my last hurrah so they wanted me to go,” Kubinciak said with a smile.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, June 3, 2007 and is republished with permission.
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Adam Kubinciak 1917 – 2011
Adam Kubinciak, age 94, formerly of North Port, Fla., passed away on Dec. 19, 2011 in Spring Hill, Fla. He was born on Aug. 5, 1917 in Logansport, Pa.
Adam was a former B-24 pilot with 8th Air Force in World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters. He also earned the European, African and Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbons.
He was a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society and Caterpillar Club. Adam was the Purchasing Director for Charles Ross & Son Company in Hauppauge, Long Island, NY.
After his retirement in 1982 he moved to North Port from Massapequa, NY. He is survived by his two daughters, Ruth Lee Haacke of Spring Hill, Fla. and Judith Owens of Delmar, Del. He also leaves behind four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. A service with military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. at a later date. Farley Funeral Home in North Port is handling the arrangements.