My great-uncle, the bomber pilot
Through his words, I discovered a man who loved, laughed, complained, got angry, and missed his family more than he wanted them to know. He was somebody who I wish I had gotten the chance to know.
Photos courtesy of Stephen Taylor
Published on September 18, 2013
After enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Steve Kuleski was sent to a base near Edmonton for his basic training. This photo was taken during his graduation ceremony in August of 1942. He was then posted to a base outside High River where he began his flight training.
Steve Kuleski mailed this photo of a Halifax bomber to his parents in April 1944.
Comrades in arms: Pilot Officer Steve Kuleski (far right) along with members of his Halifax bomber air crew. They served with the No. 432 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. As the pilot, Steve Kuleski was tasked with handpicking his flight crew.
Marie Fortier took this photo of Halifax MZ 506 shortly after it crashed in a pine forest near the French village of Monce-en-Belin.
The dedication of the monument in October of 1948 drew thousands of people.
Pilot Officer Stephen Kuleski was killed along with seven members of his air crew on May 23, 1944. He was 25 years old (left). In 1947, Marie Fortier made this sketch of the temporary gravesite of the air crew of Halifax MZ 506. Later on, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission installed permanent headstones (right).
Pilot Officer Stephen Kuleski is buried alongside the members of his air crew in the Le Mans West Cemetery in Le Mans, France (left). On June 14, 1945 a memorial service was held in London's Westminster Cathedral in honour of Royal Canadian Air Force personnel who lost their lives in World War II. Marie Fortier is shown here during the construction of a permanent stone memorial to the crew of Halifax 506 (middle). Fortier originally marked the crash site with a small wooden cross. The cross remained on the spot from May of 1944 to May of 1948. During the monument's dedication ceremony on October of 1948, Fortier placed the wooden cross inside the stone monument (right).
The monument dedication ceremony was attending by government and military officials from France, Canada and Great Britain (left). While stationed in England, Steve Kuleski mailed this birthday card to his mother in February of 1944. In it, he wrote: "I hope everything is fine at home. Things are okay with me — so don't worry. (middle)" Steve Kuleski hunting near his home in Michel-Natal B.C. prior to his enlistment in the Royal Canadian Air Force. An avid hunter and fisherman, he took great pleasure in the Outdoor Life magazines that his parents mailed him while he was serving overseas. "The magazines help remind me of home," he wrote in a letter to his parents (right).
Marie Fortier sent this photo of her son Maurice to Steve Kuleski's parents in 1947 (left). Maurice Fortier enlisted in the French Air Force at the age of 17. "Monument des Allies" — marking the spot where Halifax MZ 506 crashed on the night of May 23, 1944 — is located near the village of Monce-en-Belin, France (middle). The monument was dedicated in October of 1948.In honour of Marie Fortier's efforts to remember the fallen crew of Halifax MZ 506, the town plaza in Monce-en-Belin was named Marie Fortier Square. The square includes a monument containing this plaque (right).