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William Mitchell

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Maj. US Air Service

Early Proponent of

U.S. Air Power

Born Nice, France

Dec. 29, 1879—Feb. 19,1936


William Mitchell enlisted as a volunteer at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and received a field commission that same year. He distinguished himself when in 1901-1902, under most difficult conditions, he established a communications system for the Army throughout the wilderness of Alaska.

His belief in the military potential of aircraft led Captain "Billy" Mitchell to volunteer for flying duty and he was rated Military Aviator in 1916. After America's entry into the World War I in 1917, he went to France to establish and head the U.S. Air Service. He became the first American to fly over enemy lines in combat. In 1918, he was appointed to Commander of all Allied Air Services.

After the war, this much decorated hero vigorously advocated the primacy of air power as an instrument of national policy. He organized the famous bombing tests against naval ship targets in Chesapeake Bay in 1921, clearly demonstrating the efficacy of air bombardment in defense of the U.S. His militant attacks on complaisant politicians and senior old-line Army and Navy Officers resulted in his court-marshal in 1925, and his subsequent resignation from the service.

During World War II "Billy" Mitchell's prophecies and theories were to prove true. A grateful Congress posthumously promoted him to the rank of Major General and awarded him a special gold Congressional Medal.

Invested 1970 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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Updated: March 12, 2004