Who's Who - Josef Kiss

Josef Kiss Josef Kiss (1916-1918) scored 19 victories as a leading Austro-Hungarian air ace during the First World War.

Born on 26 January 1896 to Hungarian parents in Pozsony (now Bratislava) Kiss, like many others, was prompt in enlisting for the Austro-Hungarian cause when war was declared against Serbia on 28 July 1914.

On 26 October 1914 Kiss was despatched to serve against Russian forces with the 72nd Infantry Regiment.  Receiving a heavy wound in the Carpathians Kiss was sent home to recuperate, during which time he developed a keen interest in joining the army's air arm.  In consequence Kiss was accepted for flight training at Wiener-Neustadt.

Emerging from training in April 1916 Kiss was assigned to Flik 24 in the south Tyrol, initially as an observer.  Entrusted shortly afterwards with full pilot's duties Kiss opened his 'kill' tally on 20 June 1916 while flying a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I.  While attached to Flik 24 Kiss amassed a total of six air successes.

November 1917 brought Kiss a posting to Flik 55j in the Trentino where he formed a friendship with Julius Arigi.  Flying an Albatross D.III painted black with 'K' emblazoned on both sides of the aircraft's fuselage, Kiss achieved mounting success, for which he received no fewer than eight medals in recognition of his fearless (almost reckless) courage.  In concert with Arigi and Josef von Maier the threesome became known as 'the squadron of the Emperor' (Kaiser Staffel).

Discouraged to discover that he had been turned down for promotion to officer rank on account of his humble background - his father was a gardener at the Pozsony military academy - Kiss nonetheless continued to amass a growing tally of kills despite being shot down seriously wounded in late January 1918.

By the time of his death on 25 May 1918 - killed in action over Valsugana - Kiss had achieved 19 victories.  Somewhat belatedly he was promoted posthumously to Lieutenant.

'Billy' was the Australian nickname for a cooking-pot or can.

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