Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Higgs… and Other Things as Related by Fighter-Ace Turned Journalist Michael Gladych

Scientific research in post-war America during the 1950s and ‘60s as seen through the eyes and life of ace fighter pilot turned science journalist, Michael Gladych, reveals a time when scientific possibilities were grander and fairly dripped with the promise of sci-fi style adventure.  

Michael Gladych enters our story in the “The Hunt for Zero Point” , the fringe physics classic, by Nick Cook: 
“The strapline below the headline proclaimed: "By far the most potent source of energy is gravity. Using it as power, future aircraft will attain the speed of light." It was written by one Michael Gladych…”
Gladych, portrayed by Cook as merely the random author of a science journalism article , (figure 1), rapidly fades from the story amidst numerous claims of government and aerospace industry conspiracies to cover-up the ‘true’ anti-gravity programs of the 1950s.

Ironically, Gladych is a far more interesting, and ‘true-to-life’ character than any of the others in “The Hunt for Zero Point”.  Gladych, sometimes science journalist, sometimes biographer, and sometimes government operative enters our story as a fighter pilot ace of World War II; one of the few to be decorated by four different air forces; one who talked his way from America back to Europe to re-join the Allied forces, piloting fighter planes without any official military orders.  Gladych, whose life would turn out to be anything but quiet or private, makes his first public appearance in an article in the Syracuse Herald Journal of April 7th, 1944, titled: “Polish Fighter Leaves No Further Address”.  The story details how Gladych, who traveled to the United States attached to an advanced Army flying school in New York, subsequently bluffed his way onto a clipper back to England, and joined an American squadron where he knew a few other Polish pilots.  He flew several missions before anyone thought to ask for the orders that he simply didn’t have.  His exploits became so famous, his life story was chronicled with a three page biography in issue #91 of Wings Comics , (seen above).

A few years later, in 1946, Gladych made the nationally syndicated press rounds again.  He was still a subject of the news rather than its author.  The headline read: “Ace to be Deported” .  After surviving several wartime adventures, not the least of which was the single-handed rescue of his younger brother Jan from a Soviet POW camp , Gladych had re-entered the United Sates, married, had a child, and settled down.  This time though, he’d entered the country under a ruse—using a visa for Great Britain to gain access—and was on the verge of being deported. The article stated that a grass-roots effort had formed to keep the Gladych family state-side:
“Polish groups in the U. S. have joined veterans' organizations in an attempt to have the deportation order rescinded.”
Everything worked out for the best; the suspension of Gladych’s deportation was documented in the Senate Journal of March 7, 1950.

Soon after avoiding deportation, Gladych transitioned from gallivanting fighter pilot to prolific author.  Perhaps, not surprisingly given Gladych’s lifestyle, his selection of scientific subject matter tended towards the legendary.  

Part II of this post looks at Gladych's coverage of the race for antigravity.  A real race peopled by the aviation titans of the 1950s.  Names like Bell, Lear, Sikorsky, and Trimble entered the fray, and Gladych was there to write about it all. 

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