Thadeus “Ted” Kulaga was born on January 9, 1924, in Lowell, Massachusetts to Albert and Stella Kulaga. As one could guess by his name, Ted’s grandparents were immigrants to Massachusetts from Poland and Austria, and his mother—according to Census records—was born in Poland. According to those same Census records, Ted was an only child. His family lived in Dracut, Massachusetts, which is a town close to the northern border of Massachusetts.1 His father worked as a tube maker for the Paper Tubing Company, while his mother worked as a clerk for the same company.2
Ted enlisted on January 12, 1942, which is only a few days after he turned 18 years old.3 He enlisted in the Army, but served in the Air Corps. During World War II, the current Air Force was a division in the United States Army, but after the War, the Air Force was created to be its own separate division of the United States Military. Ted served as a B25 pilot. The B25—its full name being the North American B-25 Mitchell—is a medium-sized bomber that had a long and successful career in the Second World War.4 According to his obituary, he gained the rank of Captain during his service.5 However, his gravesite in Rock Island has it marked that he gained the rank of 1st Lieutenant.6 From his obituary and awarded medals, one can assume that Ted fought at least in the Pacific Theater during World War II, but it is possible he also served in the European Theater.
For his service, Ted received five medals. The first is the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, which is awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight” during combat.7 The second is the Air Medal, which is awarded for “Heroic or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”.8 The third is the American Campaign medal, which is awarded for serving within the United States.9 The fourth is the Asiatic Campaign medal, which is awarded to those who served in the Pacific Theater—who fought against Japan—during World War II.10 The final medal is the World War II Victory Medal, which is awarded to everyone who served in the military during World War II.11
After the war, Ted was discharged from the military. He married Kathleen Callery on October 22, 1949, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Princeville, Illinois. He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as an air traffic controller in Boston and Indianapolis for 15 years. He then worked for the Rock Island Arsenal as an industrialist specialist for another 22 years. Kathleen worked in the sales department for Sears. They spent 66 years in marriage together, living a happy life. They had six children: Jim, Eileen, Tom, Joe, Bob, and Mary. They lived in Bettendorf until Ted died.12
In his obituary, Ted was described as an enjoyer of “golf, hunting, fishing, and snow skiing. He also loved to travel and would regularly take his family on two-week vacations during the summer months.” He also accomplished the feat of traveling to all 50 states. But Ted was not just that. He was a hero to so many Americans, and his medals prove that. He was a great man who lived a great life of service and love of his family and country.