Kenneth MacLeish

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Lieutenant Kenneth MacLeish, USN (19 September 1894 – 14 October 1918) was an officer in the United States Navy during World War I. A Naval aviator, he received the Navy Cross posthumously for his combat actions.

Born in Glencoe, Illinois, MacLeish was one of the twenty-eight original volunteers in the first Yale Unit which he joined as a navy electrician, 2nd class on 26 March 1917. He was appointed ensign in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps 31 August 1917; promoted to Lieutenant j.g. on 1 June 1918, and to Lieutenant in mid-August of the same year.[1] MacLeish was the brother of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Archibald MacLeish, and like him attended Yale College. A member of the class of 1918, he left school to serve in the war. The young officer wrote home constantly, and his letters show the youthful enthusiasm and subsequent weariness of combat that is characteristic of men at war. In France he participated in many raids over the enemy’s lines before he was transferred in September 1918 to Eastleigh, England. On a raid with the Royal Air Force 14 October, his plane, a Sopwith Camel, was shot down and Lieutenant MacLeish was forced to crash land. Macleish survived the initial crash [2] but was found dead not far from the crash site near Schoore, Belgium, where the land-owner, Alfred Rouse, buried his remains.

He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for “distinguished service and extraordinary heroism”. His remains have since been transferred to the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium.

The destroyer USS MacLeish (DD-220) was named for him. Kenneth MacLeish's sister, Ishbel, went to Philadelphia at the request of Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, on 18 December 1919 and sponsored the ship at her launching.


  1. ^ "The Price of Honor", Naval Institute Press, 1991, Rossano G.L., (ed.) "NMA catalogue". Naval Marine Archive. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  2. ^ His mother wrote "It was not until the day after Christmas that the body was found ... lying just as it had fallen, with every evidence that death had been instantaneous." From the foreword of "Kenneth", privately published, Chicago, 1919. "NMA catalogue". Naval Marine Archive. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.