William Lacy Kenly
Kenly circa 1918
BornFebruary 18, 1865
Baltimore, Maryland
DiedJanuary 10, 1928 (1928-01-11) (aged 62)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
United States Army
Years of service1889–1919
Major General
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (2)

William Lacy Kenly (February 18, 1865 – January 10, 1928) was a major general in the United States Army. During World War I, he was a leader of a progenitor of the United States Air Force, the United States Army Air Service.[1]

Early life

William L. Kenly was born on February 18, 1864, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Major William L. Kenly and Marion Hook. His father participated in the United States Civil War. His immigrant ancestor was his great great grandfather Rev. Daniel Kenly who emigrated from Scotland to Maryland in the 1700s.[2] Kenly was married to Julie Closson, the daughter of Brigadier General Henry W. Closson.[3]

Military career

He was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, 12 June 1889, in field artillery and took part on August 16, 1899 in the Battle of Angeles, in the Pampanga Province during the Philippine–American War.[4][2]

On September 3, 1917, Brigadier General Kenly became the first Chief of Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France, effectively taking control away from the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. Previously a field artillery commander, he did not have experience leading an air force, and Billy Mitchell wielded a large amount of influence in the AEF's operational decisions. Kenly was replaced a short time later by Brig. Gen. Benjamin Foulois.

Kenly then returned to the United States to become Director of Military Aeronautics from May 20, 1918 to August 28, 1918.[2] During this period, he was the titular head of the newly established United States Army Air Service. He retired in 1919 and King George of Great Britain awarded Kenly the honor of Companion of the Order of the Bath.[5]


Kenly died of a heart attack on January 10, 1928 in Washington, D.C..[1] He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


  1. ^ a b "Col. Kenly Dies Of Heart Attack. Former Chief of Air Service of American Forces in France Stricken in Washington. Won Three Decorations. Veteran Served As Director Of Military Aeronautics Before His Retirement In 1919". New York Times. January 12, 1928. Retrieved 2012-10-23. Colonel William L. Kenly, first chief of the Air Service of the American Expeditionary Forces in France and later director of military aeronautics for the duration of the war, died suddenly ...
  2. ^ a b c Davis Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. pp. 209–210. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  3. ^ Who Was Who In America. 2. Chicago, IL: Marquis Who's Who, Inc. 1950. p. 294 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Philippine-American War, 1899–1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin
  5. ^ The Los Angeles Times, KING GEORGE HONORS OFFICER WE OUSTED, Apr 17, 1919, page 1.
Military offices New titlePost established Chief of Air Service, AEFSeptember 3 – November 27, 1917 Succeeded byBenjamin Foulois