America's top-scoring living ace with 37.5 victories, "Gabby" Gabreski began taking flying lessons as a pre-med student at Notre Dame University. He left school to join the Army Air Corps and was first assigned to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, where, within several months, he had his first taste of combat during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was then assigned to England with a Polish squadron of the Royal Air Force and, finally, to the US 56th Fighter Group as Operations Officer and Commander of the 61st Squadron Flying P-47 Thunderbolts.
His unit, "The Avengers," became the first squadron to shoot down 100 Nazi aircraft, and Colonel Gabreski went on to become the leading ace in the European Theater of Operations after shooting down 28 aircraft in the air and destroying three on the ground. Forced to crash-land behind enemy lines in July 1944, Colonel Gabreski spent the remainder of the war in a German stalag. After a variety of command positions, Colonel Gabreski was assigned in June 1951 to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing in Korea and later became Commander of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. While flying F-86s, he became history's eighth jet ace on 1 April 1952 and, with a total of 6 1/2 kills in Korea, was one of only seven Americans to become aces in each of two wars. The American Junior Chamber of Commerce voted him "Man of the Year" in 1951.
The painting shows Colonel Gabreski in an F-86E Sabre, shooting down one of the 6 1/2 MiG-15s he is credited with in Korea. His tactic of the "close kill," which several times resulted in damage to his own airplane, was emulated by many younger pilots who also went on to become aces.