Clayton Lawrence Bissell – Major General, United States Air Force

Graduating from Valpariso University with a degree in the law, Bissell enlisted in the United States Air Service in 1917. Assigned to the 148th Pursuit Squadron operating under British control, he shot down six Fokker D.VIIs while flying the Sopwith Camel. In 1919, he assumed command of the 639th Pursuit Squadron in occupied Germany. Bissell later served on General “Billy” Mitchell's staff, leading the flight that sank the Ostrieland. In 1922, he made the first successful night flight from Washingon to New York. During World War II, Bissell served as air advisor to General Joseph Stilwell in China and later assumed command of the 10th Air Force in India. Following World War II, he served as Air Attache in London and retired in 1950 having attained the rank of Major General.

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

“For skill and gallantry. On 28 October [1918], this officer with his flight, attacked eight Fokker biplanes and after firing a short burst succeeded in shooting down one EA which crashed north of Jenlain. He was then attacked by three other Fokkers but outmaneuvered them and finally shot down one which crashed close to the other. He finished this fight about 200 feet from the ground and was being severely machine gunned by enemy infantry. This officer has served over four months with his squadron and has destroyed four EA and driven down three out of control. His courage, skill and disregard of danger have been worthy of the highest praise.” DFC citation, London Gazette.

Clayton Lawrence Bissell was born in Kane, Pennsylvania, in 1896. He graduated from Valparaiso, University, Indiana, in 1917 with a degree of doctor of laws.

He enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve, August 15, 1917, and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve, January 12, 1918. He was promoted to captain (temporary) March 11, 1919, and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Air Service, Regular Army, July 1, 1920.

He began his aviation training at Mohawk, Canada, in September 1917, and was subsequently stationed at Taliaferro Field, Texas, from November 1917 to January 1918.

He sailed for England with the 22nd Aero Squadron, and received additional flying training at Salisbury Plains in England and aerial gunnery training in Scotland. He served in the Overseas Ferry Service before he was ordered to duty at the front with the 148th Aero Squadron in July 1918. He served with that unit and with the 41st Aero Squadron until the armistice. He was credited officially with destroying five enemy planes, qualifying him as an ace. He commanded the 638th American Fighter Squadron with the American Forces in Germany until May 1919, when he returned to the United States.

His first assignment in the United States was Kelly Field, Texas, where he organized and commanded the 27th Aero Squadron. In January 1920, he became education and recreation officer at Kelly Field, and commanded the Air Service Group.

He was ordered to Washington, D.C., in June 1920, for service as chief of the Tactical Operations Section in the office of Air Service. In December 1920, he went to Langley Field, Va., where he graduated from the Air Service Field Officers' School in June 1921. He then remained at Langley Field as flight commander of the 14th Squadron, and later became an instructor in the Air Service Field Officers' School.

In November 1921, he was ordered to Washington for duty in the office of the Chief of the Air Service, as assistant to Brigadier General William Mitchell, serving in that capacity for four years. In January 1924, he was detailed as advanced agent for the round-the-world flight in British Columbia, Alaska, the Aleutians, Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces. On return to Washington, he was transferred to Langley Field, Virginia, in December 1924 to serve as secretary of the Air Service Board.

He was an instructor at the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field, from September 1926 to August 1931, when he was assigned to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as a student. He graduated in June 1933, and two months later was assigned to the Army War College at Washington, D.C. He graduated in June 1934 and then entered the Chemical Warfare School at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland in July 1934, completing the course there a month later.

In October 1934, he was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as intelligence and operations officer of the 18th Pursuit Group, becoming commanding officer in October 1937. In July 1938, he went to the Naval War College at Newport Rhode Island, and graduated in 1939. In July 1939, he became a member of the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff at Washington, remaining on this duty until the beginning of World War II.

In January 1942, he was assigned to duty in the Asiatic theatre as principal aviation officer on Major General Stilwell's staff in China; in August 1942 he assumed command of all American Air Forces in India, Burma and China, and commanded all U.S. combat aviation in the theatre. When the 14th Air Force was activated, he continued in command of the 10th Air Force in India and Burma. He returned to the United States in August 1943.

A month later he became assistant chief of air staff for intelligence at Air Force Headquarters in Washington. In January 1944, he was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence on the War Department General Staff, and served in that capacity during the last two years of World War II. He was the Army member of Joint Security Control and on the Joint Intelligence Committee and the U.S. Army member of the Combined Intelligence Committee. He also served as the Army head of psychological warfare and as head of the War Department historical program.

In May 1946, he became military attache to Great Britain, and in October 1948, returned to the United States, where he was assigned to the officers' pool at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C.

The following month he was transferred to Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, with station at Wiesbaden, Germany, where he remained until he returned to the United States in April 1950, for an assignment to Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.

General Bissell had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.

His foreign decorations include the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the Italian Order of the Crown (Royal Decree), Italian Croce de Guerra (Ministerial Decision), Polish Order of Polonia Restitute, Commanders Cross, Chilean Order del Merito in the Grade of Gran Commander, and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Degree of Honorary Commander.

He was promoted to captain Nov. 1, 1930; to major (temporary) March 12, 1935; to major (permanent) June 12, 1939; to lieutenant colonel (temporary) November 16, 1940; to lieutenant colonel (permanent) Octtober 15, 1941; to colonel (temporary) January 5, 1942; to brigadier general (temporary) April 21, 1942; to major general (temporary) March 13, 1943, to brigadier general (permanent) February 19, 1948, with date of rank from January 23, 1945.

General Bissell retired from active duty on October 30, 1950, and died December 23, 1972. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.


  • United States Air Force
  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 11/26/1920 – 10/31/1950
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/29/1893
  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/24/1972
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 01/04/1973
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 02/12/1892
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/22/1981
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 12/15/1981
  • WIFE OF CL BISSELL – United States Air Force

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