Category: Kiffin Rockwell

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There's a new book about Kiffin which just came out, and it's called "Kiffin Rockwell, the Lafayette Escadrille and the Birth of the United States Air Force" by T.B. Murphy. Time to celebrate.

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Today marks the 100th anniversary since Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed, that great American hero who volunteered to fight the Germans for freedom.

636101580191153661-Kiffen-0003675-02.jpg
Kiffin Rockwell prepares to take to the skies of France in his fighter plane. A former Asheville resident, Rockwell, 24, was killed during a dogfight on Sept. 23, 1916.

I've been seriously considering going to his grave in Luxeuil-les-bains to pay him tribute on this historical day. But it's a six hour drive and I just don't have the time nor the spare money right now. Feel kind of guilty.

Do you think that I'm being sacrilegious? What would Kiffin think? At least I can give him tribute on the day in my mind long distance.

When I was a kid World War I seemed pretty long ago, but back then it was only 50 years previously. Now it's a whole century! How much longer will people still remember these fallen heroes? What will happen to us when we die?

Read the article: World War I aviator Kiffin Yates Rockwell may well be a bigger hero in France than here at home.

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Exactly ninety-eight years ago Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed during World War One.

That means that two years from now it will be exactly one hundred years, hard to believe. When I was born and named after him it was only forty-two years before.

I will have to venture down to his final resting place in Luxeuil-les-Bains for the third time and pay him tribute in person.

Better jot down a reminder in my agenda for two years hence so that I do not forget.

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Exactly 95 years ago to this very day, dear Kiffin gave his life for freedom, a true American hero who was not afraid to die for what he believed in. The following excerpt is taken from a newspaper article announcing his tragic death:

"On Sept. 23, 1916, Kiffin received a hit in the chest by an exploding German cannon shell, fired from an enemy plane, and was killed. Paul said many times later than the shell that killed his brother was an illegal weapon."

Here his colleague James Rogers McConnell pays tribute to Kiffin Rockwell who was a great favorite with his companions:

"No greater blow could have befallen the escadrille. Kiffin was its soul. He was loved and looked up to by not only every man in our flying corps, but by every one who knew him. Kiffin was imbued with the spirit of the cause for which he fought, and gave his heart and soul to the performance of his duty. He said: 'I pay my part for Lafayette and Rochambeau,' and he gave the fullest measure. The old flame of chivalry burned brightly in this boy's fine and sensitive being. With his death France lost one of her most valuable pilots."

I realize very well that this happened a very long time ago, and really who even cares any more about what happened way back during WWI? This will probably all but be forgotten in the near future, but I feel obliged to my namesake and thinks it's very important to keep his memory alive as long as possible.

kiffinplane.jpg
Kiffin Yates Rockwell,
1892-1916.

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Every once in awhile, another Kiffin somehow happens to find me via the Internet and contacts me. Here is a message that Kiffin Tomasson left me the other day:

hey just saw your site, and thought id let
you know that i am also named after kiffin
yates rockwell and just so happen to also
be a pilot. i have a video of me flying and my
cousin recording an aerobatic video. check it
out if u want
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IPQQMaFwXc

When I was a kid, I always wondered if there were any other Kiffins in the world, or perhaps a twin Kiffin on another planet Earth revolving exactly on the other side of the sun.

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Hi

There seems to be some confusion on the current resting place of Kiffin Rockwell, some say that his body was exhumed from Luxeuil-les-bains and reinterred at the Lafayette Espadrille Memorial near Paris. (see findagrave)

I wonder which is correct
Good question. Any old website doesn't necessarily have to contain accurate information.

All I know is that I've been to his real resting place in Luxeuil-les-bains two times and seen it for myself.

Also the simple fact that there is a yearly ceremony there to pay Kiffin tribute, plus the fact that in the village museum there's more factual data, tends to make me believe that findagrave isn't very trustworthy.

By the way, why are you interested in Kiffin Yates and what brought you to my homepage?
Thank you for replying so promptly. An acquaintance is staying in Luxeuil-les-Bains and was photographing the four Commonwealth War Graves for me, he noticed your namesake's grave with the plaque and photographed this too.

My insatiable curiosity took over and by "Googling" I found your website, so here we both are.
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This is the wreckage and this is all about the Lafayette Escadrille.

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On September 23, 1916, Rockwell spotted an observation plane while he was flying cover for a bombing raid against Germany. He dived at great speed, closing the 11,000 feet separating the two planes, and fired his gun just before a collision seemed certain. Soldiers on the ground thought that the German Albatross plane had been struck, but it was Rockwell’s Nieuport that crashed into a field of flowers behind French lines. When news of Rockwell’s death reached the squadron, the men mourned deeply. Friend and fellow squadron member James McConnell of Carthage in Moore County later wrote, “No greater blow could have befallen the escadrille.Kiffin was its soul.” Rockwell’s grave in France stands as a memorial to the brave Americans who fought not only for an ally but also for “the cause of humanity” in World War I.


More about Kiffin

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The popularity of Kiffin Rockwell never seems to wane, even after all these years.

I still get messages regularly from kind folks having one thing or another to do with this fine American hero. Here's one I just happened to receive about five minutes ago:

I've sent a message before, but here's my webpage: www.valiantvolunteers.com. See and order my novel there. Kiffin was one of my favorite characters.

Thanks alot Terry.

Kiffin by plane...
Kiffin by plane.

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The last time I was in Luxeuil-les-Bains, I visited the spot where Kiffin Yates Rockwell is buried. It was my second time there to give tribute to this fine hero after whom I am named. This time around I had brought my camcorder and took a short video. For those of you interested, here it is:

Where Kiffin Rockwell is buried.

The quality of this video is not the greatest, but it is good enough.

Hopefully this video is instructive, not too morbid and gives one a better impression of what it is really like to be there. The video can also be seen on my Kiffin Yates web page.

Sorry, but you need a half-decent connection and Windows Media Player in order to view this.

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Kiffin Rockwell scored the first victory by a member of the Escadille Americaine when he shot down a German reconnaissance airplane.


The Rockwell brothers, Paul and Kiffin, were idealistic that summer of 1914 when Europe exploded into war and the might of the German war machine fell on France.

When Germany declared war on France on the first day of August and sent its juggernaut rolling into the French countryside, 21-year-old Kiffin Rockwell was a student at Virginia Military Institute, and Paul, his 25-year-old brother, was a reporter on The Atlanta Constitution.

For the summer, Kiffin was home in their huge frame house on Hillside Street. On Aug. 1, he spent the evening talking about volunteering to fight for France, explaining that Americans would be accepted in the French Foreign Legion. He was deadly serious.

He called Germany the aggressor nation and France our sister nation that needed immediate help. "We can't sit back," he said, "and let the Kaiser take over the world."

In late July, when Germany's threats hung over France like an axe, Kiffin and Paul, both of whom loved France, had discussed the possibility of going to war if France's fears of a German attack were fulfilled.

Kiffin wrote the French consul in New Orleans, offering both himself and his brother to fight with the Foreign Legion. The consul wrote directly back and accepted the services of the Rockwell brothers. They were to report immediately to New York for embarkation for France.

Paul took his leave from the Constitution and hurried home from Atlanta and after both said their goodbyes they took the train for New York, shipped out for France, and went to war.

Upon arrival in France, Kiffin and Paul were taken directly into the French Foreign Legion. By November they had finished training and were sent into the trenches.

Kiffin wrote home that they were looked upon as mercenaries, but they felt anything but mercenary when payday arrived and they received one sou per day, which was about one American penny. They were paid every ten days, and three sous were automatically deducted for a tobacco allotment whether they smoked or not.

That's how the Rockwell brothers became the first Americans to fight for France, which made them also the first Americans to enter the World War.

Just before Christmas, Paul was severely wounded in trench warfare and was judged unfit for further infantry duty. Because of his journalistic background and his fluent French, he offered himself during his recovery to the Section d'Information of the French Army as a combat correspondent, and was accepted. He spent the remainder of the war in the role of war correspondent.

Kiffin continued to fight. On May 9, 1915, during a bayonet charge at La Targette, a German infantryman ran his bayonet through Kiffin's thigh, ending his fighting from the trenches.

He found something else to do, however, for there was talk of forming an American squadron in the French Air Service. He applied and was accepted, and the remainder of the story is history. He became the first American to shoot down a German fighter plane, and he became an original member of the famed Lafayette Escadrille. His commander, Capt. Georges Thenault, said he could confirm ten kills by Kiffin in aerial combat.

On Sept. 23, 1916, Kiffin received a hit in the chest by an exploding German cannon shell, fired from an enemy plane, and was killed. Paul said many times later than the shell that killed his brother was an illegal weapon.

Paul survived the war and lived to an old age. One of the highlights of my own journalistic career was sitting numerous times in the parlor of Colonel Rockwell's home on Hillside, listening to the yarns he spun about the World War and the daring escapades of the brave young men of the Lafayette Escadrille.


Taken from the article Brothers Fight for France.

You might also be interested in the article Kiffin Rockwell blazed a hero's path in World War I from the same newsletter.

More information can be found on my Kiffin Rockwell tribute page.

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The Noon Patrol is a chapter project under the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 292 whose main activity is building replicas of the most famous WW1 flying machines like the Nieuport 11.

You might be curious to check out the 13 Nieuports on display.


Nieuport 11.

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The following picture was taken at the most recent general meeting of the Association de l'Escadrille La Fayette, Souvenir Thenault - Rockwell:


Special ceremony given each year for the fallen heroes

This is a yearly ceremony given to the fallen heroes. A speical thanks go to Claude Louvigné (front right of the picture) for being so kind to send me this great snapshot.

You might want to check out my special tribute to Kiffin Rockwell for more information.

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This is the house in Asheville, North Carolina where my hero Kiffin Yates Rockwell grew up.


The house that Kiffin Yates Rockwell grew up

Now if it weren't for Asheville, and if this house had never been built, and if the Rockwell family had never moved here, and if that garden had been planted a slightly different way, would I still be here? What about that tree in the front yard? The one that Kiffin had more than likely climbed alot during his childhood, slowly but surely collecting enough courage as he grew to adolescence, just the beginning of his brave and dauntless adventure at even higher altitudes where shooting down those Germans during WWI was such an important endeavor?

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I was very pleasantly surprised to receive an email the other day from a fellow Kiffin. There are not that many Kiffins out there, but what can you expect from a unique breed? He is yet another Kiffin who was also named after Kiffin Yates Rockwell. To make the coincidence even more amazing, it turns out that his father also read the very same book "They Fought for the Sky" as my father did. Both of them were so impressed that they decided to name their sons Kiffin. Small world where distant paths occasionally intersect in unexpected ways. Below is a picture that Kiffin took way back in the eighties which he thought I would be interested to see. And I most certainly am.

Historical marker in Asheville, North Carolina...
Historical marker in Asheville, North Carolina.
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Alright so what if forty-five seems at first glance to be a nice round number? Divisible by nine and five and three and one. It comes in cycles and it is an interesting experience to be that old yet again. Half of ninety which defines about the end of the cycle whereas nine is only the beginning. A mid-point between nine and ninety, about. At least that is what I have been told.

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Since my birthday is coming up soon, I decided to order two more books from Amazon in the hopes that my shipment will arrive in time for the big event. They've got less than nine days, but so far I have never had to wait more than a week. Now I will tell you which two books I ordered if you promise not to make fun of me. The titles are:

  • The Java Programming Language by Ken Arnold et al.
  • Effective Java by Josh Bloch.

I figured that I have pretty much learned enough about HTML, Javascript, XML, CSS, Perl and CGI that it is time to take the next jump into the most obvious domain about which I need (would like) to be more knowledgeable. I have heard so much about the wonderful world of Java and at the same time know so very little about it. Time to expand my knowledge another slight click. Is this a sign of getting senile, crazy, too old for this stuff or am I simply a born techie guru type at heart? Take your pick. Any way, the books will add a pleasant counterweight to whatever it is I am planning to do in the not so near future.

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Today we pay tribute to Kiffin..."No greater blow could have befallen the escadrille. Kiffin was its soul. He was loved and looked up to by not only every man in our flying corps, but by every one who knew him. Kiffin was imbued with the spirit of the cause for which he fought, and gave his heart and soul to the performance of his duty. He said: 'I pay my part for Lafayette and Rochambeau,' and he gave the fullest measure. The old flame of chivalry burned brightly in this boy's fine and sensitive being. With his death France lost one of her most valuable pilots." Exactly eighty-six years ago to this day, the twenty-four year old WWI hero Kiffin Yates Rockwell met his fate and gave me my name to carry his memory into the future never to be forgotten.

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This is me at the Orioles ballgame...I'm Marlies (my webpage here), and Kiffin asked me to write something in his blog. So I'll tell you what I think about Kiffin!

Now kiffin is sitting next to me on the other computer, so I'll tell you only the nice things what I think about him...

America is Kiffin's fatherland, and I'm proud of it that I'm also half American. So this summer we went on vacation to America. If you know Kiffin well, then you can really notice he has a much better mood there, then usually in Holland.

Kiffin also has a very nice website, very big. If you want to know something about him, don't ask him, but just look on the webpage, and you can find everything about him. Actually, if I read his blog, I'm also more up to date about Kiffin. He really wright more in his blog, then he tells personally.

Today we went Golfing in "Moordrecht". If you compare the golf course with golf courses in America this one was very small, but for here in Holland it was a nice one. It was fun, Kiffin bought golf shoes and a golf glove in America, and he also brought his golf clubs back from America, so he was all set.

I don't really know more things to write so that's it!

~~~Written by Marlies Gish

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Okay so I decided to take it easy this weekend. First things first. Did not wake up until ten thirty. Ten thirty, that's a record but I guess I needed it. Dreamt I was trapped someplace in a faraway land, and I had to get back home in time. Right away. But the airport was nowhere in sight and to make things even worse I was unable to find my plane tickets. Damn, pretty frustrating. That's why it took me so long to wake up. Good start, but too bad I already missed a large chunk of the weekend during which I had told myself I would take it easy. Would have liked to take it easy. Next step is to unglue myself from the computer, pry myself loose. Difficult. Spend more useful time where I belong. Where I belong.

Woke Up Dreaming by Chad Essley. This is a tip in order to understand a little better what I am trying to get at. Chad is an artist who translates his reoccurring dream of flight and abandonment into a visual, Freudianesque examination of the mind. You might want to check out his homepage Cartoon Monkey. Some pretty neat stuff.

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Hello, my name is Fiffin, F-I-F-F-I-N. Now this has to be another first in my life. Allow me to explain. Many moons ago I ordered new business cards which during visits to customer sites is a necessary item to exchange. Of course, these business cards, though they are very important, take forever to get ordered, printed and sent back to you again. So, when out of the blue my secretary called to say that my new business cards were finally ready, I anxiously went to pick them up. Yes. You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived back to my desk, opened the little white container, only to lay my eyes on the following text:

 K. F. Gish (Fiffin F. Gish) 

Oh well, that's life. I guess I will never get used to people mispronouncing and mispelling my name. That is what makes me special. Just call me Fiffy for short. Oh dear. Too bad that my boss found this episode so entertaining and hilarious that since then he has not stopped calling me Fiffin. Hey Fiffin. How are you doing Fiffin? See you later Fiffin. No, his name is Fiffin. Oh just go and ask Fiffin. Little does he realize hyow much this gets on my nerves. A sensitive subject.

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For those of you who might happen to be reading my blog, this is a special thanks for the people who thought of me on my birthday. Thanks go to: my wife Thea and the kids, my mother, my sister Kathleen and Martine, my aunt Jeanine, my cousines Gail and Sue, my parents-in-law Mr. and Mrs. Karssemeijer, my new boss Wim Hofland, family friend and psuedo-aunt Tante Rina, Lennart's friend Sander Enderink, old Stanford buddy Kevin Kearney, and a friend Koosje van Laarhoven.

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Forty-four years old!
Nice round
number.
Forty-four is a nice round number, I would say. It is symmetric. It is perfectly divisible by my favorite number: eleven. Eleven was a really great year for me, one fourth of my lifetime ago. Furthermore, we all know that eleven is a prime number, which makes it even more special. The number eleven fits four times into forty-four. Four represents another symmetry in that it is divisible twice by the number two. So we have two times two times eleven. Not that I am a fan of numerology, I am not at all. However, one may freely use numerology to acquire certain insights. Which is what I am doing now, and nothing more. To continue, half of my lifetime ago I was twenty-two. That brought a major change in my life, because I ended up coming to Europe and growing up finally. Following such a trend, it makes sense that forty-four will also allow positive change. I look forward to the rest of my life, as I have not yet even passed half of it yet.
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The magic number divisible by my favorite number divisible by no number is prime...

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Kiffin Yates RockwellToday is Kiffin Yates Rockwell's birthday. He would have been one hundred and nine (109) years old had he not been shot down during WWI nearly eight-five years ago, and he had still been alive. Had this been the case (he not being shot down and killed) my first name would have more than likely been something completely different, perhaps even Pierre. If you are more interested in the story of this fine American hero called Kiffin, then please feel free to have a look at my detailed Kiffin Yates Rockwell page. Happy birthday Kiffin.

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Einzelgänger - What does that German word mean? The reason why I am asking this is because during my farewell lunch with my boss, he was kind enough to give me some advice, eg. words of wisdom for me to carry along with me to my new job. He said that I was an Einzelgänger. So of course I had to look it up, and here are the translations into English:

  • mugwump - a person who acts independently or remains neutral, especially in politics. Rate: [8]

  • lone wolf - one who prefers to go without the company or assistance of others, also called lone hand. Rate: [6]

  • loner - One who avoids the company of other people. Rate: [5]

  • maverick - an unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it, one that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter. Rate: [6]

I rated each definition in bold red with a score from one (disagree the most) ten (agree the most) indicating what I think about this. Of course I am not the most objective person to make judgements about myself. Conclusion: there is some truth in what he says, probably more than I would like to admit. Also it can be seen as a talent which can be used to my advantage, but like every other talent one is born with it should be used within reasonable limits and tempered whenever required.

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Information

This personal weblog was started way back on July 21, 2001 which means that it is 7-21-2001 old.

So far this blog contains no less than 2288 entries and as many as 1877 comments.

Important events

Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed 9-23-1916 ago.

Believe it or not but I am 10-11-1957 young.

Began well-balanced and healthy life style 1-8-2013 ago.

My father passed away 10-20-2000 ago.

First met Thea in Balestrand, Norway 6-14-1980 ago.