Military Job Duties - Army Air Corps
Supervise and distribute to proper channels, updated and current weather reports with updated weather changes that may affect flight combat missions.
Keep up-to-the-minute logs of all Army Air Corp pilots that are ready for a mission, in a mission, or are scheduled for a mission.
Stephen J. Kaleta,
U.S. Army Air Corps
Keep an up-to-date and accurate records of every pilot attached to his unit to confirm his current air flight status. A pilot was issued different colored card that designated the pilots' full qualifications. Holding a green card would mean the pilot was qualified to fly anything with wings; other colored cards would limit the pilot to his cards' color aircraft designation. It is the duty of the army air ops to confirm each flight was sent out with a pilot qualified to fly the plane designated and, by doing so, at times denied flights to fully qualified pilots.
Kaleta was trained in the field in the Philippines in a few days. Most military personnel would call this on-the-job training.
Married June 25, 1955 to Shirley (Kittell) Kaleta at Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Silver Creek.
Children: John, Robert
Grandchildren: Megan, Lauren, Ashley, Aidan
Stephen Kaleta was born on Aug. 14, 1923 at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk. He is the son of John and Katherine (Bielat) Kaleta. Their homestead was at 143 Townsend St., within walking distance to his father's workplace at the Brooks Locomotive Co., known to many as the Alco Plant. Alco produced locomotives and locomotive parts. It also specialized in manufacturing high pressure heaters for the newer locomotives along with secret military war materials.
As a child Steve was never left alone. He was very close to his brothers (John, Chester, Larry and Henry) and his sisters (Mary, Frances and Peggy). The Kaleta home hardly went with a room unoccupied. The Kaleta home was a great place to grow up.
Kaleta grew up in Dunkirk's Fourth Ward. Like most children at that time he and his close friends seemed to be inseparable. Of his friends John Szerbacki, Marion Majecki, Jake Tworek were just a few where if you saw one, you would see them all. If one of the groups had to be found all one had to do was check out the playground or the railroad tracks near the make-shift ballfield.
After grade school at St. Hedwig's Catholic School, Kaleta attended Dunkirk High School and, as a freshman, needed a job. Since he wasn't 18 years old yet it was impossible to land a factory job. The rules of the time dictated that factory jobs were only for those men 18 years or older unless you were married. Kaleta's options were limited to farm work so during the summer months he worked as a professional bean or berry picker. In the spring he became a grape brush trimmer or puller. If he got lucky, in the fall he landed a job grape picking.
In high school he excelled in track and in June 1942 he graduated and turned 18. He landed a job with the Koch's Brewery. Now he was a beer delivery man whose specialty was delivering case beer to area stores.
With the world at war and his high school complete, Kaleta like all his friends knew it was time to serve his country. After all the papers were signed he was off to the Army Air Corp boot camp in Niagara Falls named Fort Niagara. His next duty station sent him to St. Petersburg, Fla., to be trained in Army Air Corps operations.
After completing his classes in St. Petersburg new orders sent Kaleta to Greensboro, S.C. with extensive training to be followed up at the Army Air Corp flight school in Statesboro, Ga.
After graduation he had to pack his duffel bag and head for Aiken, S.C. His new duties were to work in the Army Air Corps operations to track pilots' qualifications to ensure that each pilot was checked out and properly trained to fly the plane to which he was assigned. This job, when done correctly, meant that if a pilot didn't keep up his certifications, he would wash out as a pilot and end up behind a desk. Informing a pilot his dream was over did not go over well with many. Kaleta's next duty station was at Fort McClellan, an army infantry training base located in Alabama. Duties here again landed him in Army Air Corp operations.
With things heating up in the Pacific, Kaleta found himself traveling to Fort Ord in California with a brief stop in San Francisco. Next he traveled to the Hawaiian Islands where he boarded a liberty ship to sail him with his new orders to the Philippines near Lauzon. During his brief tour in the Philippines he learned mountain training and then was retrained as an army medic with the Co A 118th medical group.
The reasons for the medic cross training would come later. Next Kaleta boarded a LST (landing ship tank) and headed for the Marshall Islands. While en route this convoy sailed directly into a typhoon. He recalls this LST being at the mercy of the sea rolling left to right. If you were behind another ship you at times would see the screws turning while the ship was out of water. The seas were so bad that the ship actually lost miles some days even though it sailed 8 knots per hour, its log book for the day showing negative miles. This typhoon lasted for three days with the only meals being sandwiches that the galley prepared during the storm.
When Kaleta arrived at his destination he saw many changes. Each day he saw more troops and war supplies arriving and more and more operational regulations processed. No leaves were being approved and many small units were being absorbed into larger more aggressive units. It didn't take long before one could realize that there were now plans in the making for the invasion of Japan. Each day brought these rumors closer to the truth. Then in early July 1945 it was official. Kaleta's unit started training for the invasion of Japan. No longer Army Air Corp operations. Kaleta was now an infantryman being trained to invade the Japanese homeland.
While I was researching my sources on the invasion of Japan, I came across a Department of Defense requisition copy to order 450,000 purple heart medals to have ready to award servicemen upon receiving wounds in combat if the Japan invasion did get the okay to proceed.
Since the invasion stayed top secret less than a handful of people knew that on July 26, 1945 the USS Indianapolis docked in the island of Tinian with two top secret crates welded to the deck. The first crate was named Little Boy and the second crate was named Fat Man. A shining new B-29 flying fortress with tail number (B-29-45 MO and serial number 44-66292) also flew to the island. This plane was on an Army Air Corp paper to be assigned to a Captain Robert A. Lewis.
But as the plane landed Captain Lewis noticed the serial number and the tail number. He wasn't happy seeing the "Enola Gay" painted on the planes nose. Lewis pushed open the commanding officers door in anger to file his complaint. He was advised that a Colonel Paul Tibbets had picked this aircraft while it was rolling off the assembly line in Missouri and immediately requested it for himself. The mission Colonel Tibbets was assigned to do. The air corp advised Captain Lewis to select another craft from this new group.
On August 6, 1945 Colonel Tibbets the "Engola Gay" and the atomic bomb named "Little Boy," made world history by dropping the first atomic bomb on the city and people of Hiroshima, Japan. Along with the "Engola Gay" on that historical flight were the two other American aircraft B-29 superfortresses: the "Necessary Evil" and the "Great Artiste." These planes were carrying cameramen and instrument units. All three planes returned safely to Tinian.
Three days later the B-29 flying fortress named "Box Car" dropped its payload "Fat Man" on Nagasaki, Japan. After "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" had accomplished their missions Japan agreed to surrender.
The war in the Pacific was over as was the war in Europe. With both wars over there was still much that had to be done. Kaleta was now heading for Japan as his new duty station. He landed in Japan and when he stepped on Japanese soil it sent a chill down his back. Japan had started this war by sending pilots to destroy Pearl Harbor. The same people tried to kill American soldiers at Iwo Jima, Tarawa, the Philippines and Okinawa and organized the Bataan Death March. In Kaleta's mind this had went on and on. How will these people now accept Americans walking down their streets? Will there be snipers? Will there be land mines? Will their children adopt the kamikaze traditions and sacrifice their bodies to kill those American monsters?
What Steve Kaleta saw was quite unique. He said as he walked down the streets the Japanese would scatter as if they were scared and afraid Americans were going to torture them. They were afraid and thought of us as monsters. Kaleta's units' job was to walk through the towns and houses and confiscate any weapons that may be used against us and destroy any areas that may be used to retaliate or cause chaos.
Kaleta recalls how in these small towns the roads were very narrow. Army jeeps would scrape some of the wooden buildings on each side as they drove through towns. He recalls at first they had orders to be armed with rounds in the magazines. But eventually new orders came which now required just one round in their weapons. As the rebuilding programs of Japan's government progressed the servicemen now walked with rounds in the clip but not in the weapon. Grown-ups still scattered when approached by Americans, but as time progressed the children got closer, knowing that Kaleta may toss a candy bar, something sweet or even army rationed fruit.
The U.S. destroyed any factories that previously produced war materials and eventually stockpiled all war materials leaving the country unable to mount counter attacks.
When Kaleta's time was getting close for his return home he still recalls living in old wooden buildings that actually had paper windows.
He recalled most of Japan being constructed of wood and paper thin walls and windows. They lived with little privacy. He also recalled never seeing any hinged doors, stating that every door in Japan was a sliding door, needing only your baby fingers strength to open it. When things were secure, servicemen who were stationed in the smaller towns were finally given liberty to visit the larger more modern Japan.
Kaleta remembers how modern this new Japan was growing with women now having the right to smoke and even being able to vote.
He admired the Geisha girls. He admired that they were well mannered, educated and beautiful. While many believe, then and now, that these women were high class call girls, nothing could be further from the truth Kaleta declared. These were truly women of beauty and class.
With his obligation to his country over he came back to Dunkirk and took eight months off just to enjoy his freedom. He then was offered a job at True Temper in Dunkirk where he worked for 40 years in the shipping and receiving department. He has stayed active in the community. He is a member of the First Ward Falcon Club, the Moniuszko Club, the World War II Veterans Club, the Koscuiszko Club, Dom Polski Polish Home and the American Legion Post 62. Kaleta was also an active member of Dunkirk Fire Company Hose 4.
At these clubs Kaleta supports, he can often be found talking and enjoying the company of his friends.
Not many people talk about the war years during conversation. Its usually about politics, sports or religion of today. Each one giving their view on how to beat a certain team, how to fix the city, or how they can get the country back on track.
If people sitting next to Kaleta only knew they were sitting next to a person who had done a job and had done it well. If someone wanted to know what exactly it was like being there in Japan only days after the bombs had been dropped and war being over, Kaleta could tell them.
When I talked to this man who has seen and walked among his enemy and had the job of bringing peace between the two. Steve Kaleta can tell a person things that aren't in a movie or printed in a book.
This is Steve Kaleta's story. He went, did his job, came home and raised a family. He now enjoys his retirement. He is our hero of the week.
- Submitted by John Fedyszyn of Fredonia