Publisher: Zenith Press
From Baird Maritime:
In the first decade of the twenty-first century it is almost impossible
to imagine wars not dominated by air power. However, one hundred years
previously, air power had barely been considered.
William “Billy” Mitchell was the grandson of a hugely successful
banker, railway promoter and politician. His father was a European
educated army officer and politician and a philanthropist. His was a
strong, educated and powerful family that knew how to get things done.
He enlisted for the Spanish American War in 1898 as an eighteen year
old private but was soon commissioned as the U.S. Navy’s youngest
officer. Showing great promise he was quickly promoted Captain and soon
began his fascination with flying. By the time the United States
entered World War I in 1917, Mitchell was already agitating for air
power and had qualified as a pilot.
He was instrumental in establishing the American Air Service and as
a Colonel was assigned to command its I Corps. His was a successful war
and he finished it as an acclaimed Brigadier General.
His next two decades were much more difficult and included a
celebrated court martial. He pushed relentlessly for the establishment
of a separate Air Force.
Meanwhile, for readers of this magazine, he began to prove that even
the strongest battleships were vulnerable to attack from the air. This
was controversial stuff.
During this time he saw the first French attempt at an aircraft
carrier in 1922 and was inspired. As early as 1923 he commented on the
vulnerability of Honolulu to air attack. He made similar comments about
the Philippines. He saw the Japanese building a strong air force and
forecast a “sneak attack” from aircraft carriers on the U.S. bases at
Pearl Harbor. His detailed prediction eighteen years before the event
was amazingly accurate. He was immediately and extensively disparaged.
His celebrated court martial was really the trial of a moderniser
who was also a gladfly. It was really Mitchell vs. the War Department
and military bureaucratic establishment. The result, predictably, was
his dismissal from the Army.
Mitchell was a classic example of the “Prophet without Honour” but
he was right. His visionary predictions were accurate and most of what
he fought for achieved. Eleven years after his premature death a
separate U.S. Air Force was established.
St Paul, USA