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Kiffin Rockwell, 1916.jpg

Kiffin Yates Rockwell (1892–1916) was an early aviator whose major claim to fame is as the first American to shoot down an enemy aircraft. (See also Stephen W. Thompson.)

On May 18, 1916, Rockwell attacked and shot down a German aircraft over the Alsace battlefield. For this action he was awarded the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre.



Rockwell was born in Newport, Tennessee in 1892, the son of Baptist minister James Rockwell and wife Loula Ayres. After James Rockwell's death, the family moved several times, eventually settling in Asheville, North Carolina.[1]

At the outbreak of World War I, Kiffin Rockwell and his brother, Paul, offered their services to France by letter to the French Consul-General in New Orleans. Without waiting for a reply, they boarded the 'St Paul', and on the 7th August 1914 sailed for Europe.

Kiffin Rockwell was shot through the leg on 9 May 1915 when his regiment charged La Targette, north of Arras. He spent six weeks in the hospital and when he left for Paris on convalescent leave, his leg was completely healed. He spent time with his brother, Paul, who was a war correspondent with the Chicago Daily News.

On the 26th May 1916, during the defence of Verdun, Rockwell was wounded in the face, during combat with an enemy airplane.

On 23 September 1916, during a battle high in the air with a German two-manned plane, Rockwell was shot through the chest by an explosive bullet and killed instantly. His plane crashed between the first and second line French trenches, close to the point where his first kill, some 4 months earlier had also come to earth. Rockwell was only the second American airman to die in combat.

See also


  1. ^ About Kiffin Rockwell. Virginia Military Institute Archives Online Historical Research Center. Retrieved: 2009-10-14.

External links



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