Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 116
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
2nd Lt. Leon Phillip Kallina
August 23, 1918 - May 28, 1942
Leon Kallina was widely regarded as Colorado County's first war casualty.
The headlines in the Colorado County Citizen on June 12, 1942 proclaimed "County's
First Fallen Hero Lost in Action in Far East." Kallina was born August 23, 1918 to Frank
J. and Millie Frnka Kallina. He graduated from Eagle Lake High School in 1935. He
received an Engineering Degree from the University of Texas in 1940. Kallina was a
navigator of a heavy bomber, which, in World War II, usually meant a four-engine aircraft,
most notably the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator. One of his fellow pilots
called Kallina "the best navigator in the squadron."10
Following Coral Sea, the Japanese continued to try to move against Port
Moresby, New Guinea. The Allies were determined to hold it, as a key to protecting
Australia and American supply routes and bases in the area. Regular aerial and naval
combat continued during the period between the Battle of Coral Sea and the landings
on Guadalcanal. Kallina was killed in action on a mission over the Coral Sea when a
Japanese Zero strafed his aircraft. The wing of the bomber was set afire, and when
Kallina stood up to tell the pilot about it, he was hit with a bullet in the chest. He survived
until the plane landed, but died in the base hospital. One of his buddies came from
California to attend his funeral service."
Kallina was among the first war dead returned to Colorado County for burial
from overseas. His body had originally been buried at Port Moresby, New Guinea and
later removed to Australia. Kallina's body, and that of Lt. Robert L. Plagens of Weimar,
were returned for burial in 1948 on the same ship. Kallina's body arrived in El Campo
by train, where it was met by El Campo Legionnaires. He was buried at St. Mary's
Cemetery in Nada, with services under the direction of the Eagle Lake American Legion.12
Kallina was buried in the same plot as his mother, in the northwest quarter
of the cemetery. In one of the many small ironies of the war, Kallina's mother, who died
March 10, 1945, lived long enough to experience the loss of her son, but not long enough
to attend the funeral. Besides his mother, Leon Kallina was survived by three brothers,
Joe, Frank, and Fred, and a sister, Mrs. Seth Henderson. His name is listed on the Eagle
Lake High School plaque.
One of the true ironies of the war involved the sinking of the aircraft carrier
U. S. S. Wasp. The Wasp, of course, was one of only a few American carriers, and as
such was a centerpiece of Admiral Chester Nimitz's strategy to confront the Japanese
in the Pacific. In 1942, stopping the Japanese advance was a costly undertaking. The
fleet carrier Lexington was lost in the Coral Sea. Yorktown was badly damaged in that
battle, but limped off to help win the victory at Midway before it too was sunk.
10 Colorado County Citizen, June 11, 1942.
11 Eagle Lake Headlight, June 12, 1942; Colorado County Citizen, June 11, 1942; Weimar Mercury,
June 12, 1942.
12 Colorado County Citizen, May 13, 1948, June 17, 1948; Eagle Lake Headlight, May 7, 1948,
June 18, 1948.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995, periodical, September 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151395/m1/8/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.