John Kalen J21856

July 10, 1923 - July 18, 1944

John Kalen

439 Squadron

John Kalen was born in Regina, Saskatchewan on July 10, 1923 to William Kalenchenko and Nellie Kupchanko. He had four sisters and one brother. The family was Greek Catholic.

The family moved to Toronto, then Sudbury. There Kalen received his education, including some considered industrial in Sudbury by 1939. Besides English, he spoke Ukrainian well, and Russian, fairly. He worked as a carpenter's helper, a baker and then as a messenger and clerk for the CPR in Sudbury. He could send and receive Morse slowly, practicing. He indicated he wanted to enter university after the war and pursue commercial flying.

After Manning Depot, he went to No. 3 ITS, Victoriaville, Quebec. "Cheerful, bright, intelligent. No leadership qualities." At No. 4 EFTS: "An excellent student in every way. Has been doing outstanding work. Exceptionally keen." At No. 13 SFTS: Good steady pilot. Needs more practice in aerobatics. Keen and co-operative type of pupil. An excellent pupil pilot. Recommended for commission."

The circumstantial report of F/O Kalen: On July 18, 1944 at 7:30 hours, the above officer took off [in Typhoon MN574] with eleven other aircraft, including two of 440 Squadron for an operation on mortar positions at Le Mesnil-Frementel, France, map reference U.1606, carrying two-1000 lb. bombs. The target was reached at 7:45 hours when the aircraft dove onto the objective. F/O Kalen was seen going into the dive, his aircraft bursting into flame at 3000 feet and subsequently exploding. Two pieces of the flaming aircraft were seen falling into the centre of the target area. It is presumed that F/O Kalen was killed in the explosion.

On July 26, 1944, S/L H. H. Norsworthy wrote a letter to one of Kalen's sisters. "As you have now been informed, your brother John was killed on July 18. I am writing to offer the deep sympathies of everyone of us in the squadron. It will be cruel shock to you I know, and we, next to you feel it most. Johnny was a wonderful boy and a living part of this squadron in the truest sense of the word. In his own-self assured way, Johnny did everything and was everywhere. He always struck me as a chap who would never be caught in any situation that he couldn't handle. He was a fine gentleman, and for his years, he was a very mature man...We were detailed to attack a strongly defended German defence point, and as we went into attack, we were met by Anti-Aircraft fire. After I had finished my own attack, I was able to circle and watch the others. One of our squadron was hit, and when we landed, it proved to be Johnny. We will have consolidated the capture of this particular place in time, and I will go myself by car to see his grave. We will send you a small picture of it." Kalen was buried by the 7th Armoured Division. He was later re-interred at Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France.


  • Virtual War Memorial
  • More information about Kalen on 439 Website
  • Find a Grave with photos