SSG John Gemborski

The grave of SSG John Gemborski was adopted by Egid Schoonbrood and Monique Zenden in early 2006. They received basic information about SSG Gemborski from the Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery in Margraten and began an intensive search online to find out more about John.


Through a US website, Egid learned that John was married and that his sister-in-law was still alive, but by the time Egid found out her address in 2008, she was decreased. That same year, Egid and Monique found out that a gentleman from Poland was looking for those who had adopted the grave of John Gemborski. It turns out this gentleman, Janusz Gęborski, is related to John: the father of Janusz and John were brothers. John’s father fled to America in his early years, as his marriage was not accepted by the family. The orginial last name is Gęborski, but became Gemborski in the States. Janusz and his wife Marila attend the Memorial Eve Dinner in Maastricht with Egid and Monique and a day later the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Netherlands American Cemeterey in Margraten. They have been in touch ever since. Later, Janusz also found family in Hawaii and Japan. In 2014, Egid and Monique visited Poland, where they were welcomed with open arms. The two familes are now connected through a member of the Army Air Forces: SSG John Gemborski.


SSG John Gemborski

NAME: John J. Gemborski
SERVICE # 36608853
STATE: Illinois
SERVICE: Army Air Forces
RANK: Staff Sergeant
REGIMENT: 306th Bomber Group, Heavy, 368th Bomber Squadron
WAR: World War II

★ Air Medal
★ American Campaign Medal
★ World War II Victory Medal

CASUALTY DATE: 22 April 1944

BURIAL: Plot M Row 4 Grave 6, Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands

His story

This is SSG John Gemborski’s story:

Stephen was born in 1920 in Illinois. At that time his father, Włodzimierz, was 33 and his mother, Zofia, was 21. His parents had immigrated to the States from Poland to become naturalized citizens in the United States. John was the oldest of three children. His two younger brothers were Raymond and Chester. According to the 1940 United States Federal Census, the then 20-year old John lived at home with his parents and brothers. He attended college.

In July of 1942, John married Helen Lasota. During WWII, SSG Gembroski served in the 306th Bomber Group, Heavy, 368th Bomber Squadron. He was a waist gunner on a four-engine heavy bomber B-17 called “Rationed Passion”, tail number 42-30782.

On January 11, 1944, the 306th Bomber Group, consisting of 34 planes headed for Halberstadt to destroy a Nazi aircraft manufacturing company. It was the group’s 100th mission. That day, they were attacked. “Rationed Passion” was hit causing the plane to go into a spin, break apart and eventually crash near Nijverdal in the Netherlands. Several crew members survived. SSG John Gembroski was among them.


With the help of the Dutch resistance, he and four other crew members were able to reach a shelter in Saint Rémy. This shelter was located in a heavily wooded area near the larger town of Chimay. Local farmers helped them receive supplies. Despite of the support from the locals, food was still scarce. Their plan was to use the underground to escape to England.


On the morning of April 22, 1944, the Americans had breakfast, as they heard gunfire. They were surrounded by German troops. A Belgium traiter had informed the German and Belgium SS about the location of the US flyers three days prior. The SS had enough time to plan their raid, cut the phone cables and captured the Americans who were then transported to Chimay for interrogation. After two-three hours of interrogation, they were stripped down to their underwear, loaded into a truck and driven to the Champagne Woods. Each flyer was escorted down a seperate path in the woods where they were shot in the back multiple times. The Nazis claimed they were shot while trying to escape: “Erschossen auf der Flucht”. This was a tactic commonly used by the Nazis, claiming prisioners were esaping, even though the truth was that these defenseless men were murdered. A day later, the American bodies were buried in a mass grave at the military airfield near Gosselie. Much later, the grave was discovered and the flyers were laid to rest at Margraten. Today, a memorial stone next to the chapel of Chimay reminds us of this terrible event.


SSG John Gemborski’s Family Tree

Aditional info

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Readings:

Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
by Steve Snyder, Sea Breeze Publishing LLC, 2014 – History – 360 pages


Shot Down is about author Steve Snyder’s father, Howard Snyder, the ten man crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, and the unique experiences of each man after their plane was knocked out of the sky by German fighters over the French/Belgium border on February 8, 1944. Some men died. Some were captured and became prisoners of war. Some evaded the Germans for awhile but were betrayed, captured, and shot. Some men evaded capture and were missing in action for seven months. The stories are all different and are all remarkable. Through personal letters, oral and written accounts, military records, and interviews – all from people who took part of the events that happened 70 years ago, the stories of the crewmen come alive. Further enhancing their stories are more than 200 time period photographs of the people who were involved and the places where the events took place.Even before the dramatic battle in the air and the subsequent harrowing events on the ground, the story is informative, insightful, and captivating. Prior to the fateful event on February 8, the book covers the men’s training, their journey to England, life while stationed there, and numerous combat missions. Everything is centered around the 306th Bomb Group stationed at Thurleigh, England of which the crew of the Susan Ruth was a part.To add background and context, many historical facts about the war are entwined throughout the book so that the reader has a feel for and understanding of what was occurring on a broader scale. Thus, it is a fascinating account about brave individuals, featuring pilot Howard Snyder, set within the compelling events of the war in Europe. You will be given an insider’s seat to the drama surrounding a remarkable group of young airmen and the courageous Belgian people who risked their lives to help them.


Downed Allied Airmen and Evasion of Capture:
The Role of Local Resistance Networks in World War II
by Herman Bodson McFarland, Sep 13, 2005 – History – 224 pages


This volume deals specifically with escape and evasion in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, an operation in which the author himself was directly involved, and discusses the role which these lines of escape played in the lives of airmen who were forced to bail out over enemy territory. He describes the ever-present risks the often nameless patriots faced, such as the danger of exposure and the threat of traitorous infiltration. Specific lines are traced geographically and their main participants discussed. Special emphasis is placed on the role of women in this resistance operation. Throughout the book, the reader benefits not only from the author’s own personal recollections but also from his later on-location research. The final chapter concludes with statistical information directly related to this little known aspect of World War II. Appendices include lists of the airmen helped by the resistance movement.

The Massacre of Saint Rémy:

First Over Germany: A History of the 306th Bombardment Group
by Russell A. Strong Hunter Publishing Company, 1982 – Germany – 328 pages

WWII 306th Bomb Group Website:

Common Misspellings of John’s name:
– John Gembrowski
– John Gembrorsky

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