Calvin Kenneth Jensen was born on September 11, 1923, in Benton County, Iowa, to Cal C. and Sara Ellen (Meskmen) Jensen. His father was a foreman on the railroad and his mother was a grocer in her own store. He had three siblings. At the age of 16, he was a truck driver for a grocer, presumably for his mother.
After one year of high school, Calvin enlisted into the Army Air Corps in Chicago, Illinois, on October 27, 1942. At the time of his enlistment his residence was Will County, Illinois. Calvin listed his occupation as electrician. His term of enlistment was for the duration of the war or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.
SSGT Jensen served in Europe and was stationed at an undisclosed base in England. He served with the 789th Bomb Squad on B-24 Liberator Heavy Bombers as a flight engineer and waist gunner. The B-24, at approximately 18,500 units including
8,685 manufactured by Ford Motor Company, holds the record as the world’s most produced heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft in history.
The waist gunner was responsible for the defense of the aircraft’s sides from enemy aircraft. The engineer was in charge of the aircraft maintenance and during the mission was the top torrent that protected against attacks from above.
During his time in Europe, he was admitted to the base’s hospital twice – in January and June 1944 – for acute nasopharyngitis, a form of the common cold. The first admission was for approximately two months, and the second was for less than a month. Bomber crews suffered from it due to the length of time wearing an oxygen mask. When flying above 10,000 feet the air was so thin that the use of oxygen was required.
By the age of 21, SSGT Jensen had flown 32 missions in Europe. Normally, an airman flew 25 missions before being rotated back to the United States. For his service, he was awarded the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On August 6, 1944, Sgt. Jensen witnessed the crash of a B-24 aircraft over Hamburg, Germany, after it was shot by the enemy. In his statement, he said the aircraft was shot in the left wing causing about six feet of it to be shot off. He then saw the aircraft dive and spin. He saw no parachutes or men leaving it before it crashed. Nine of the 10 crew were captured and held at Dulag Luft. One was dead at the scene.
On January 18, 1945, Calvin, along with 54 other men, arrived at the Army Air Force Convalescent Hospital at Ft. Thomas.
After discharge from service, he married Colleen Malin in 1947. They had a son, Cal, and two daughters. He later married Barbara Pierce in 1976 in Davenport, Iowa. Calvin worked at the Rock Island Arsenal as a crane operator and on the Arsenal Railroad as a switchman.
Calvin also served in the Iowa Army National Guard as a member of the 1105th Aviation Company (Assault Support Helicopter). In 1961, he attended the single rotor observation helicopter maintenance course at the U.S. Army Aviation school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. He was a specialist 5. He was also serving in the unit when it won the 1970 Army Aviation Association of America Outstanding Unit award for Reserve Units. Calvin attained the rank of Sargent First Class before retiring from the National Guard.
Calvin died August 29, 2016, at Unity Point Health – Trinity Rock Island.