G.I. Joe mimics, flatters a real hero
By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
The 81-year-old Dunedin man is a retired U.S. Army captain who commanded a crew aboard a B-17 bomber during World War II.
On many of the 30 bombing missions Lubinsky and his crew flew over Nazi Germany, their aircraft was rocked by midair explosions from antiaircraft fire and punctured by bullets fired by enemy fighter planes.
Now, the toy company Hasbro has reproduced Lubinsky's bomber jacket, helmet and other equipment for its G.I. Joe line of dolls. Each toy uniform set comes with a photo of Lubinsky and his flight crew wearing the brown leather jackets.
The uniform sets went on sale two weeks ago.
"What we try to do with each one of our G.I. Joe sets is look around for those stories that really strike a chord and have some emotion behind them -- about real individuals," said Derryl DePriest, director of marketing for G.I. Joe at Hasbro in Pawtucket, R.I. "Capt. Lubinsky's story made sense for the G.I. Joe line because it is real, and G.I. Joe is about the real American hero."
On Feb. 9, 1945, Lubinsky and his crew were attacked by a German fighter plane that riddled the bomber's tail with bullets. It was the captain's quick thinking that saved the plane and crew from disaster.
The then-25-year-old took the behemoth aircraft into a downward spiral, beneath the cover of clouds, simulating a loss of control.
"The force pinned my crew against their seats and the wall," the 81-year-old recalled this week with a twinge of excitement.
Then, with a slight cock of his head and a grin, he said: "They thought we were dead."
The plan worked. The enemy fighter was fooled into thinking the crew had crashed. And after falling thousands of feet -- and far enough out of sight through the clouds -- Lubinsky leveled the bomber and flew the wounded aircraft two hours back to their Rattlesden base in Suffolk County in England.
Lubinsky received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the act.
DePriest said the team of Hasbro designers first discovered Lubinsky's story in a book, History of the 447th Bomb Group. They later found his bomber jacket on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, and decided to re-create the uniform.
The jacket has the word "Stinky" on the back. It was the name Lubinsky gave his B-17 in honor of his infant daughter, Rene, who regularly soiled her diapers. The jacket also is decorated with 30 tiny bombs, representing the number of missions the crew had flown.
Also included in the set is a scarf, wedge hat, flight helmet, goggles, life vest, pistol with clip and bullets, shoulder holster, oxygen mask and photos of the plane and its crew.
The set, DePriest said, retails for $7.99 and can be purchased wherever G.I Joe toys are sold.
"I was flattered and thrilled when I found out," Lubinsky said. "One of the things that was most important was that my crew and airplane be given recognition. It's fabulous."
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