Diary of Gustav Hermann Kissel, 43rd Squadron, Royal Air Force


Gustav Kissel graduated from Harvard in 1917, just as the United States was entering the Great War. He was accepted into the U.S. Air Service and, because of a shortage of planes, airfields, and equipment in the United States, was sent that summer to England for training. His diary details his eagerness and anticipation, tempered by the sobering loss of a Harvard classmate killed in January 1918 during a training exercise. Highly regarded by his colleagues for his flying skills, Kissel took off on his first mission over Flanders, Belgium, on April 12, 1918. His squadron encountered a large number of enemy planes, and Kissel’s plane was shot down. He is the only American buried in the Pont du Hem Military Cemetery at La Gorgue, France. Presented here is Kissel’s diary, which he began on July 17, 1917. In his last entry, dated April 10, 1918, Kissel wrote: “Tonight a regiment marched by, each battalion playing its band and the men singing as they went up to the trenches. It was a most impressive thing to hear & filled one's mind with the wonders of war.” The diary is preserved in the collections of the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.

Last updated: November 14, 2017