Born in Athens, Greece, in the suburb of Kolonos, on 10 November
1919, Spiros Nicholas “Steve” Pisanos, the son of a subway
motorman, came to America in April 1938, as a crew member on
a Greek Merchant ship. Arriving in Baltimore, Maryland and unable to speak
English, Steve found his way to New York City, where he worked in bakeries
and restaurants. As he earned money he started flying lessons at Floyd
Bennett Field. In August 1940, he settled in Plainfield, New Jersey, his
adopted home town, and continued flying lessons at Westfield Airport. He
earned a private pilot’s license and, although still a Greek national, in October
1941 he joined the British Royal Air Force sponsored by the Clayton Knight
Committee in New York City.
Steve began his military flight training at Polaris Flight Academy in Glendale,
California. Upon graduation, Pilot Officer Pisanos was transferred to England where he completed RAF
Officers Training School at Cosford, England and OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Old Sarum Aerodrome
in Salisbury. Pilot Officer Pisanos was posted to the 268 Fighter Squadron at Snailwell Aerodrome in
Newmarket flying P-51A’s. He later transferred to the 71 Eagle Squadron, one of three Eagle squadrons in
the RAF, comprised of American volunteers flying Spitfires at Debden RAF Aerodrome.
When the USAAF 4 Fighter Group absorbed the American members of the Eagle Squadrons in September th
and October 1942, Pilot Officer Pisanos was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces. On 3
May 1943, Lt. Pisanos was naturalized as an American citizen in London, England, becoming the first
individual in American history to be naturalized outside the Continental United States.
Flying his first mission in his P-47 “Miss Plainfield” out of Debden Aerodrome with the 334 Fighter th
Squadron, 4 Fighter Group, Lt. Pisanos, “The Flying Greek,” scored his first victory on 21 May 1943, when th he downed a German FW-190 over Ghent, Belgium. By 1 January 1944 he had become an ace with five confirmed victories. On 5 March 1944, he obtained his 10 victory and while returning from that B-17 escort th mission to Limoges and Bordeaux, France , Steve experienced engine failure in his P-51B and crash-landed south of Le Havre. For six months he evaded the Germans and worked with the French Resistance and the American OSS sabotaging the German war machine in occupied France. Lt. Pisanos returned to England on 2 September 1944, following the liberation of Paris.
Upon returning to the United States, Captain Pisanos was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio. He attended the USAF Test Pilot School and subsequently served as a test pilot at Wright Field and Muroc Lake, California, testing the YP-80 jet aircraft. During his career in the USAF, Steve graduated from the University of Maryland, attended the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. In December 1973, after a distinguished thirty years of service in the United States Air Force, he retired with the rank of Colonel.
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