Edmond Genet from Ossining, New York, was the first American flier to die in the First World War after the United States declared war against Germany, shot down by anti-aircraft artillery on April 17, 1917. Genet was the great great grandson of Edmond-Charles Genêt, also known as Citizen Genêt, the French Ambassador to the United States shortly before the French Revolution who is mostly remembered for being the cause of an international incident known as the Citizen Genêt Affair.
Edmond Genet sailed for France at the end of January, 1915, to join the French Foreign Legion while still technically on leave from the US Navy. He never arranged to be formally relieved of his responsibility to the Navy before joining the Lafayette Escadrille on January 22, 1917. This decision weighed heavily on him as time wore on since he could be classified as a deserter because the US was not yet formally in the war and his involvement in the Escadrille was therefore not an official assignment by the US military. Throughout his stay in France he, along with other members of the Escadrille, participated in social events hosted by many American supporters of the War living in France. He was particularly celebrated since it was known that he was the descendant of Citizen Genet. As the prospect of American Involvement in the war grew he became both increasingly worried and hopeful that his participation in the Escadrille would not be affected by the American entry into the war and sought the help of prominent Americans in France to help him straighten out his status. Ironically he died shortly after the formal entry of the US into the war before the issue of his status could be dealt with. Although other Americans had died as part of the Escadrille, he was the first one to do so after the US formally declared war on the Central powers. This made him the first official American casualty of the war despite the fact that the US had not yet had time to organize or send any actual troops to Europe. The war department posthumously sent his family a letter stating that his service was to be considered in all respects honorable. He was 20 years old at the time of his death.
References[edit | edit source]
- J. C. Grey. War books of the month. The Bookman: A Review of Books and Life, volume XLVII. Dodd, Mead and Co., New York. 1918; p. 663.; full view available at GoogleBooks.
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