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100th anniversary of the death of a World War I pilot

Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of World War I pilot Kiffen Rockwell, who once called Asheville home. Rockwell was shot down over France on September 23, 1916, while flying for the Lafayette Escadrille. That was an elite force of American pilots who flew for France before the U.S. entered the war. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of a World War I pilot who once called Asheville home.

Kiffen Rockwell was shot down over France on September 23, 1916, while flying for the Lafayette Escadrille, an elite force of American pilots who flew for France before the U.S. entered the war.

Rockwell spent much of his boyhood in Asheville and graduated from high school here. He was the second American killed in the war but is also remembered for something else.

"He was the first American to shoot down a German airplane in World War I," Gary Blair, of Asheville, said. "He did that in May of 1916."

Rockwell was laid to rest in France at a memorial for the pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille.

There's a historical marker near his boyhood home on Merrimon Avenue in north Asheville.

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