From being a father of three to enrolling in the Tuskegee Air Pilot Program and fighting in Europe during WWII: 2nd Lt. James Calhoun
2nd Lt. James (Jimmie) Albert Calhoun was born in Duluth, Minn., in 1917, in the midst of World War I, to James Calhoun and Eva Miller. His father moved the family to Bridgeport, Conn. in 1930 and was working as a gardener. It was there that Jimmie attended Central High School, where he graduated in 1936. In September of that year, he married Grace Rose Carlsen. By 1940, they had two children, and Jimmie was working as a laborer for a machine company. A third child was born in 1941, before Jimmie enrolled in the Tuskegee Air Pilot Program. He left his wife and three children in 1943 to enter the training program.
After graduating and being commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was stationed with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, based in Ramitelli Airfield, Italy. He flew a P-51 as escort on bombing missions. The skill and courage of airmen like Jimmie Calhoun helped lead to the group’s impressive service record. During 200 escort missions to heavily defended targets in Germany and Romania, the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a friendly bomber to an enemy fighter. However, that success at times came at a heavy cost.
During a strafing mission over what was then Yugoslavia, Jimmie Calhoun’s group managed to destroy 18 enemy planes, according to newspaper reports. During that engagement, his plane was hit by flak, crashed and then burst into flames, killing the young husband and father of three.
He was awarded an air medal and a Purple Heart and was buried with military honors at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy with nine of his comrades from the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. His service to his country continues to be honored by ABMC.
Since 1923, ABMC’s sacred mission is to honor the service, achievements, and sacrifice of the more than 200,000 U.S. service members buried and memorialized at 26 cemeteries and 32 monuments.