Mike “Ski” Kowalewski’s eyes gleamed as he told the story explaining the photo on the cover of his newly published book, “A Sailor’s Life in World War II”.
Kowalewski, a resident of the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center (CERSC) for the past two years, was born in 1920. He is known as Mike among friends at the Center but was called Ski in his Navy years. After joining the Navy in 1939, he said that early in his career he started recording experiences with the idea of publishing. This book is the result.
Kowalewski was delighted when a well-known writer, Bob Mrazek, wrote the foreword to his book. Mrazek is the author of the book, “A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight”
In the foreword Mrazek wrote for Kowalewski’s book he says: “As Americans, we are all indebted to him and his squadron mates for helping to defeat an enemy against all the odds that was intent on enslaving the rest of the world. Thank you, Ski.”
One of the stories in this book talks about how Kowalewski flew a plane faster than the speed of sound, even though that plane was not designed to do this. Our conversation about that went like this:
“I had flown the plane for about 15 hours and was talking to one of the experienced pilots, who said the plane would go super-sonic, now this is a single engine jet not designed or tested to ever fly faster than Mach-1,” Kowalewski said.
I asked, “Have you ever done it?”
“Yes, couple of times,” he replied.
“How do you do it?” I asked.
“You climb to 40,000 feet, put her into straight down vertical dive, at full throttle, and she will go super-sonic,” he told me. “Crazy me, I thought, ‘I will try it.’”
Kowalewski continued his explanation of the maneuver.
“I put the nose straight down to 90 degrees, my speed seemed to hang up and hesitated to go through to over Mach-1. The airspeed jumped ahead for fifty to sixty knots and Mach-1 meter read more than 1. I know I have gone through the sound barrier, it is very quiet. It seemed that all of the sound is well behind me,” he said.
“Now for the pull out. I made a gradual pull out so as not to go into a high speed stall. I recovered at about 18,000 feet. Oh Boy, she is still running. I would not do it again for $100. Just kidding, never again. AMEN.”
One of the many illustrations in the book shows Mike’s destroyed prayer book, the caption states: “Ski’s prayer book was damaged by shrapnel during a Guadalcanal Island battleship shelling. It was stored in his sea bag in his tent. The shrapnel penetrated the cover and 60 pages. There are no atheists in foxholes.”
In 1944 Mike married Patricia Crich in Rockford, Illinois. They had five children, Jim, Kitty, Jane, Steve, and Bill. Patricia passed away in 2014 and after that, Mike moved to the CERSC independent living apartments.
He is an FAA-rated Airline Transport Pilot, multi-engine land and sea rated. He has flown 25 different aircraft ranging from a jet to ultralights and has accumulated 14,000 logged flight hours. Mike graduated from Navy flight training and was rated as a Navy pilot. He served one-half of his 20-year Navy career as a pilot. After retiring from the Navy in 1960, he had a successful career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an Airways System Inspection Pilot. He retired from the FAA in 1976.
When asked how he felt about writing the book, he said he was pleased with the results. He thought that it was a lot of work and much harder than he had expected. But he was glad he had made the effort. He gave much credit to his editor, Connie Taylor, who he said was great to work with.
Throughout the entire year of 2017, the Good Sam Fund at CERSC will receive proceeds from the “sale” of the books. With a donation of ten dollars or more to this fund that benefits residents of CERSC, you will receive a copy of this book.
Shown in the photo with Mike, Executive Director of CERSC, Linda Hendrickson, is donating the first $10.00 to the “Good Sam Fund of the CERSC in exchange for the first free copy of the book, “A Sailor’s Life” by Z.W. “Ski” Kowalewski.
Editor’s Note: Carol Warren is a resident of the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center and a correspondent for the ECHO News.