James J. Kalavik was born in March 22, 1915 to Steven and Rose Kalavik who lived in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He was one of eight children.
James was a member of the Sacred Heart Church. He was a member of the Holy Name Society of the church, as well as a member of All-Nations Bible Society (which promotes Bible study groups around the world). He went on to attend Phoenixville High School. After school, he obtained employment with the Weiland Packing Company.
James enlisted in the Army on September 16, 1941, and received training in Georgia. After training he was assigned to serve in the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, then training in California.
James’s division shipped out to the Pacific Theater of Operations in February 1942, arriving in Hawaii. The division then captured Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands in November, and Enwetok in the Marshall Islands in February, 1944.
On June, the 27th Infantry Division assaulted Saipan in the Marianas.