Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 1, 2013, pg. 6
Are you looking for a Christmas gift to give someone? I’ve got copies of my brand new book, "Albion (Postcards)" all ready for you to pick-up. I carry them with me wherever I go around town. They are available at my house, too, and by mail. I also have copies of my other two books "Growing Up in Albion," and "Albion in Review." All other titles are sold out and out-of-print. Please call before you come, at (517) 629-5402.
Coming up shortly is December 7. As we recognize the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we are reminded that there were sailors from Albion who were there, either at the bombing itself, or during the cleanup afterwards.
One such person is Leon Kita. Leon was born in Albion in 1921, the son of Polish immigrants John and Mary (Romanowski) Kita. His father worked at the Albion Malleable Iron Company, and the family lived at 906 N. Albion St. Leon grew up here, and attended the Albion Public Schools.
In 1939 he joined the U.S. Navy and became a gunner’s mate. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on that fateful morning in 1941, Leon was there serving on the USS Honolulu, a light cruiser. He had just finished breakfast and was on his way back to his living quarters when he heard the planes and saw bombs exploding. He climbed to the top deck and could see the formations of Japanese planes bombing the nearby ships which were lined up side-by-side in the harbor.
Leon rushed to his battle station, Turret 5, but the ammunition was locked up and nothing could be done. Fortunately, the USS Honolulu did not take any direct hits, but did suffer damage when a torpedo hit a nearby dock. All crew members of 1,100 on board survived the attack. In a twist of fate, Leon found himself on a mine sweeper on D-Day in 1944, sweeping the beaches of Normandy for mines before the Allied forces landed on shore. He left the Navy in June, 1947.
Following the War, Leon moved to Battle Creek where he and his wife Evelyn raised a family of three girls and one boy. He worked at Michigan Carton Company in Battle Creek for many years, and retired in 1984. That same year he moved to Marion, Indiana to be near his daughters Margo and Susan. Today Leon lives in an assisted facility in Marion at the age of 92. Another daughter Patricia, lives in Allegan. Son Oliver Kita is one of the top chocolatiers in the United States, and produces fancy gourmet artisan chocolates at his own facility in Rhinebeck, New York. He has won numerous awards for his creations. His chocolates are available online at www.oliverkita.com, just in time for Christmas.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1941 photo of Leon Kita in uniform, and a contemporary photo of him taken during a recent visit by my mother Pauline and yours truly. Leon still keeps himself busy today, creating paintings which adorn his walls, and assembling miniature model ships. Special thanks to daughters Susan Kriegbaum and Margo Chambers for the information for this week’s article. How many other Albion sailors were at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked?
1941 photograph of Leon Kita
2013, visiting Albion
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic