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Norris K. Calkins Second World War correspondence

 Collection — Box: WWII 156, Folder: 3-5, Folder: 1-3
Identifier: 2017-675-w-rd

Content Description

This collection is available online in Chapman University's Digital Commons:

This collection contains seven correspondence from 2nd Lt. Norris K. "Kenneth" Calkins, USAAF to his parents during the Second World War. Other correspondence included are ten letters of information and condolence to his parents regarding his missing in action and subsequent killed in action status. Also included are one clipping with a picture of Calkins and fellow Army Air cadets marching out of the Federal Building in Detroit, Michigan to leave for training in California (some faces circled with names, including his own), one copy of The Indian, Eastern High School newspaper in Detroit dated December 7, 1943 that pictures Calkins as one of several alumni killed in action. Additionally, one photocopied enlistment document and certificate of discharge (on reverse side) for his father HA1/C Norris R. Calkins, USN from the First World War is also included.

Calkins wrote his first two letters to his parents; one to his mother on Mother's Day 1942 and the second to his father on Father's Day weeks later. To his father he mentioned fishing and hunting, suggesting he would be hunting the Japanese and that the US would win because they were all willing; both interesting thoughts considering the draft and the fact that he wound up in Europe, showing an eagerness more towards the Japanese than the Germans:

"You keep 'em happy and safe back home and I’ll see what I can do to put the lid on this trouble in the Pacific. They won’t ever stop us though because every fellow in the old U.S. Army are here because they want to be here and keep those things we hold so dear safe. That’s the key to the whole situation Dad; we go willingly, we’re not [drawn] in to it.”

The third letter on October 17, 1942 was addressed to "Mom, Dad and All," and mentions that Nellie wants an engagement ring but he may not be near enough to give her one. He also discusses his plane and sight tables thicker than a dictionary, but with black pages and fluorescent writing so they can be seen at night without a light, as well as getting a regular pilot while training in Florida. He says of the flight crew:

"The pilot kept telling me over the phones that it was damned good bomb dropping. He said we really have a hot crew. I landed sitting in the nose today and believe me at 140 miles per that ground really comes up to meet you. He was rolling over and peeling off and diving last night and kept worrying about me getting sick. I finally convinced him that he couldn’t get me sick so he started worrying about the rear gunner and called him up every few minutes.”

The last four letters were V-Mail sent from England. The penultimate letter, dated May 10, 1943 on Mother's Day, was addressed to his mother and said:

“A few short years ago I was a kid in high school and had no dreams of ever seeing England especially in these conditions. One of these new years tho I’ll be back home and you’ll have grandchildren to enjoy on Mother’s Day. That time isn’t too far off either for the law of averages is beginning to work against the Axis powers.”

His last letter was a V-Mail from England dated May 13, 1943; this was sent four days before he was killed over Holland by enemy action.

The other correspondents include:
  • Two letters to Mrs. Calkins from the Veterans Administration in January and February 1943, before Norris was killed, in reference to his life insurance allotment and payments.
  • One card, admission to the British House of Commons for Lieutenant Calkins, April 20, 1943; signed by the Speaker's Secretary
  • One telegram, May 22, 1943, informing Mrs. Calkins of Norris Missing in Action status
  • One letter, June 6, 1943, from Major Othel D. Turner, United States Air Corps to Mrs. Calkins regretting to inform her that due to censorship he was unable to provide further information on her missing son
  • One telegram, June 24, 1943, informing Mrs. Calkins that reports from the German government through the International Red Cross confirm that Norris was killed in action
  • One letter, July 13, 1943, condolences from office of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces.
  • One letter, August 28, 1943, regarding last will and testament from the Army Effects Bureau
  • One letter, Memorial Day 1944, continued condolence and remembrance from General H.H. Arnold, Commanding General Army Air Forces
  • One letter, August 17, 1944, Gen. Arnold in response to Mrs. Calkins' request for a list of Norris' crew's next of kin; unable to provide at this time
  • One letter, November 2, 1944, Brigadier General Ray L. Owens, US Army Deputy Chief of Air Staff fulfilling Mrs. Calkins request; list enclosed with names of Calkins' crew and their next of kins' names and addresses
  • One letter, November 4, 1946, from Major General T.B. Larkin, Quartermaster General to Mr. Calkins regarding his son's burial at US Military Cemetery Margraten in Holland and next steps in complying with final interment of loved ones' remains
  • One letter, January 19, 1949, from Reverend Matthew Worthman of the Michigan-Indian Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church regarding final burial of Norris January 22 at Hartford City

Calkins' crew included (as provided in list, November 2, 1944; all listed as killed in action):
  • First Lieutenant Joseph A. Jones
  • Second Lieutenant Anthony A. Alaimo
  • Sergeant Marvin L. Harbour
  • Technical Sergeant Robert P. Steffen
  • Staff Sergeant Milton E. Littrell


  • 1919 October 8 - 1949 January 19
  • Majority of material found within 1942 - 1949

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions.

Biographical / Historical

Second Lieutenant Norris Kenneth "Kenneth" Calkins, United States Army Air Forces (7/31/1922 - 5/17/1943) was born in Detroit, Michigan to Norris R. and Dorothy Calkiins and had four siblings. He enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in April 1942 and became a bombardier in a B-26 Marauder, serving in England with the 450th Bomb Squadron. He was killed in action along with his crew during a mission to bomb IJmuiden, Holland (Netherlands) in May the next year. IJmuiden is a port city that straddles the mouth of the North Sea Canal that leads directly to Amsterdam.

Calkins' father, Hospital Apprentice First Class Norris Russell Calkins, United States Navy (11/23/1901 - 11/18/1982) also served overseas, during the First World War. He enlisted March 26, 1918 in Cincinnati, Ohio and was discharged in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania October 8, 1919.


.08 Linear feet (2 folders)

Language of Materials



This collection contains seven correspondence from 2ndLt. Norris K. Calkins, USAAF to his parents during the Second World War. Also included are ten correspondence to his parents in regards to his missing in action and subsequent killing in action status. Ephemera from his father Norris R. Calkins from the First World War is also included.


This collection is arranged chronologically and by material type.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the family of Norris R. and Dorothy K. Calkins, donated by Norma J. Smith.

Finding Aid for the Norris K. Calkins Second World War correspondence and other materials
Andrew Harman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States