Autobiographical notes
on the lives of
Don and Dorette “Dur” Kleinkauf
A Winning Combination

Chapter 1 — Part I

Early Times, Early Challenges

Dorette speaks of Don’s early life:

Don always explained, “I was a depression baby; conceived in ‘29 and born in ‘30 because my dad didn’t have a quarter to take my mother to the show.” He joined two older brothers, a little sister followed two years later.

His family lived in a small German Lutheran neighborhood in Grand Island, NE, made up of a good number of aunts, uncles and cousins. Although money was scarce, almost every man had a job but needed to stretch their incomes to meet their family needs. Don recalls, “My dad was budgeted so tight that one week he had a quarter for a haircut, the next that quarter could be spend for a beer.”

Don and his dad were fishing partners and he felt honored when his dad asked for his help with jobs about the home. His life was happy and secure until April 1944 when his dad died, suddenly, of a heart attack at age 44. This happened while he and Don were helping a neighbor pour cement for a driveway.

Don Kleinkauf at 6 months
Off to a happy start in life

Don’s two older brothers were committed to college. That left Don, at age 13, to help his widowed mother and little sister, age 11. His mother cared for children in her home and cooked for school teachers. Don helped wherever he could with his paper route and setting pins in the bowling alley and many odd jobs.

At age 17, while he was in high school, to help with finances, he joined the Army National Guard, Company H, Heavy Weapons.

Don hired out as a Locomotive Fireman on the Union Pacific Railroad in 1951 at North Platte, Nebraska — 150 miles west of his home in Grand Island. It became difficult to attend national Guard meetings.

Don at about age 12
Phto ctsy. family

Don hired out as a Locomotive Fireman on the Union Pacific Railroad in 1951 at North Platte, Nebraska — 150 miles west of his home in Grand Island. It became difficult to attend national Guard meetings.

America was then in the “so-called” war with Korea. The Guard put pressure on Don to commit to more active attendance. It was inevitable that he would choose a service. He tried the U.S. Navy but found they had a waiting list. He stepped next door at the recruiting office and told the U.S. Air Force to “Sign me up.” He was granted a military leave of absence from his duties with the Union Pacific Railroad.

Basic training was a Lackland AFB, San Antonio Texas, 3732 Squadron, Flight 440. Then he went to Turret System Maintenance School at Lowry AFB Colorado and then on to gunnery school at the same base.

Don was then sent to Randolph AFB, San Antonio, Texas, where he was crewed up with Aircraft Commander Stone’s crew that was being trained to become an RB-29 reconnaissance crew. From there the crew was sent to Stead AFB, Reno, Nevada for Survival Training, then on to Parks AFB, California, awaiting air transport to the 91st SRS, Yokota Air Base Japan, arriving there in October 1953.

Photo of Don at Lookout Mountain, near Denver
while stationed at Lowery AFB for Gunnery and Turret System School, 1952. He turned 22 in August of 1952.

Editor’s Note: Don was 100% capable, reliable, brave, uncomplaining, calm in a crisis, and loyal to his crew. On preflight, when an oil leak, or other problems, were found in one or more of the engines or airframe, Don was there, pulling up a hardstand with his wrench in hand, working for a quick, but effective solution to the problem. Filling a key role of scanner & gunner he was quick to identify threats to crew and aircraft safety under all conditions which included engine fires, engine failures, fuel leaks and you name it with those well-worn old RB-29’s.
Don, with his distinctive crew cap on, preflight accomplished and ready to go at Yokota Air Base, Japan, 1953.

Don’s 12-man Photo/Electronic Reconnaissance Crew, with Don in the front row, second from right, after successfully completing RB-29 Transition Training at Randolph, AFB, Texas, fall of 1953.
If you would like to learn more about Don’s and his crew’s
experiences while flying classified reconnaissance missions out
of Yokota Air Base Japan, you will find an extensive, fully
illustrated story within this web site
by clicking here.
You will have a quick return using your “back button”.

End of Chapter 1, Part I — Go to Chapter 1 Part II

or you may go to

Cover Page Editor’s Introduction Table of Contents

Chapter 1, Part I Chapter 1, Part II

Chapter 2, Part I Chapter 2 Part II

Chapter 3Atch. # 1

Other Biographical Notes Listings