W/O. John A. Kravec
Born 17th May 1923 Died: 26th April 2001
John A. Kravec, retired from General Electric in 1995 after 35 years service in Engineering, Field Service Engineering in Europe and Evendale Manufacturing Engineering.
John was born and raised on a farm in a small village in Czechoslovakia and at the age of 14 immigrated to the USA in 1938 and lived with an uncle’s family.
At the onset of Pearl Harbour December 7th 1941, John attempted to enlist in the then US Air Corps for pilot training however was rejected because he lacked a high school degree and was not yet a US citizen.
Eager to participate in the war, John then successfully enlisted in the Canadian Air Force for pilot training at the age of 17, completing primary, basic and fighter training and in late 1942 joined Spitfire 310 Squadron in the RAF in England, designated a Czechoslovakian unit. Before he turned age 18, John had flown 22 missions over Europe and later experienced being shot down and wounded, by belly landing on the Normandy beachhead.
He received many decorations and honours for bravery and services from both Britain and Czechoslovakia, including special recognition for deadstick landing two Spitfires with damaged engines. In 1995 he was received a special honour from Britain that elevated his rank to Lt Col. He was discharged after the war in Europe, in late 1945 and returned to Czechoslovakia.
He subsequently was employed as a pilot for the newly formed Czechoslovakian Airlines with routes throughout Europe, flying converted American C-47 aircraft. Subsequently he met and married his wife Nadine and they had a child just before Russian forces re-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1947. John escaped to Western Europe at the occurrence of the Russian takeover, leaving Nadine behind with the child, and with a promise to find a way for her passage to the West. Subsequently, Nadine and child were secreted out of Czechoslovakia, through northern Europe, Sweden and England to the USA, joining John in New York.
With meagre funds and challenging language barriers, John, Nadine and child Henry lived in an apartment in the Bronx, New York. Soon after John found labour work with the Otis Elevator Company and subsequently was elevated to a machinist position. Desiring to improve himself via a college degree, he applied to New York University for mechanical engineering curriculum, without having a high school degree. He application was approved contingent on completion of necessary courses for a high school degree. He successfully completed high school requirements, four years of mechanical engineering curriculum, and graduated with high honours as a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. He was elected a member of the prestigious Honorary Engineering Societies, Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma.
John retired after 31 years with General Electric. He started as an engine evaluation engineer in the early design/development period of the J79 engine, which was the selected engine application in the B58, F104, and F4 aircraft that served our army and navy air arms for so many years. He specialised in evaluating power and fuel consumption improvements, which required specialised machining requirements and where his machinist skills and experience came into play.
Later (1960-1962) he was sent to Europe Munich, - BMW) for several years to work with consortium countries that manufactured J79 engine components and assembled engines for their use. Subsequently he returned to the Evendale plant and was a Manager of Assembly Production engineering provided engineering solutions and decisions on many different engine models in production.
John’s wife, Nadine, died 0n the 02nd October 2000. Sons Henry survived him and John Jr. sadly died on the 16th February 2016.
Page written by John V. Melink and submitted to Aircrew Remembered - October 2017.
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