Bill Kiesel ’43

Remembering The Fallen

Bill Kiesel ’43 Embodied the True Gentlemen during WWII

I didn’t know my name wasn’t ‘Shut Up’ until I was 14,” joked Bob Kiesel ’51. By means of a lively phone conversation with Bob, I was fortunate to learn about one of our brothers’ heroic war stories: that of Bob Kiesel’s older brother, Bill Kiesel ’43.

 

Bill spent his first year of college at the University of Pittsburgh where he played football in the early 1940s. His second year, however, he wanted to pursue an engineering degree. Thus, Bill found himself at Purdue where he became a brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Being 6’1″ and extremely athletic, Bill played softball for the chapter in an inter-fraternity league. He could often be found spending time with his Theta girlfriend, whom many found to be quite attractive.

 

However, while Bill attended Purdue, war loomed in the horizon. It was the dawn of World War II. He decided it was his calling to fight for his country as a naval fighter pilot. After joining the Navy V-5 Program, Bill traveled around the country to complete various phases of his training. Bob notably recalls Bill spending time in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Not to mention, Bill was known to enjoy playing football with the other Navy trainees at some of his locations. Eventually, Bill completed his training with flying colors, finishing in the top 10% of his class. Due to his excellent performance in training, he was granted the opportunity to choose what kind of plane he wanted to fly in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Bill chose a gull-winged Corsair fighter aircraft. At the time, gull-winged aircrafts were top-notch. With slightly bent wings, the planes struck fear in the hearts of the Japanese as they were impressively quick and deadly.

 

Finally, the United States saw light at the end of the tunnel. Fantastic efforts by the Allies brought the Third Reich to its knees. Victory in Europe was declared on May 7, 1945. It was quickly becoming evident that the Axis Powers, though in many regards more militarily advanced than the Allies, could not deter the valiant bravery of men like Bill Kiesel, who fought to protect our freedom from tyranny. Allied morale was at a record high. Sadly, on July 24, 1945 (just weeks before Victory in Japan was declared), Bill was flying off the coast of Japan when a typhoon struck. William Kiesel was declared missing in action on this day. He would then be declared dead one year later at only 23 years of age.

 

Part of the True Gentlemen reads, “who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own.” I am honored to have been given the opportunity to share the honorable life and death of Bill Kiesel, a man who though of the needs of his country rather than his own. However, this story could have never come together without Bill’s younger brother, Bob. Bob, who is also an Indiana Beta brother, graduated from Purdue in 1951. He resides in Chicago and is a friendly and detailed man. Bob has a grandson who is a Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Montana. Phi Alpha, Bob!

 

Written by Michael Cody ’15.

 

"(On SAE): It was absolutely the best time of my life. It made me into a man and gave me the confidence to succeed."
‐ Daniel Vinovich ’87

The True Gentleman

“The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

- John Walter Wayland

Photos

Contact Information

P.O. Box 442100
Lawrence, KS 66044
alumni@saepurdue.com

Recent Donors

  • Robert S. Sternberger ’42
  • Richard W. Butler ’53
  • William N. Vinovich ’62
  • J. Michael Kensill ’71
  • Bradley L. Benhart ’92
Indiana Beta Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Purdue University • Copyright © 2017