Billy Mitchell: A Leader Ahead Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

He used his skills of persuasion to convince U.S. Commander-in-Chief Jack Pershing that his ideas for a U.S. Air Force deserved attention. Mitchell then personally trained and organized the first pilots of the newly created air force, earning him the title as its "father." In addition, during the St. Mihiel offensive in 1918, he led the largest air fleet of the time, consisting of nearly 1500 allied aircraft. Perhaps most importantly, he envisioned the need for a progressively more independent air force, and he made no secret of his commitment to enacting this expectation. Unfortunately, in the process, he alienated many higher-ups in the army and the navy, making his leadership style one of questionable controversy rather than blind admiration.

Mitchell's difficulties with the military, which ultimately led to his court martial, were not, however, a result of poor leadership on the part of Mitchell, but rather a result of the lack of forward-thinking on the part of his adversaries. Those who opposed him fought Mitchell's progressive ideas primarily as a result of having their egos bruised by an outspoken leader who showed them a better way, when they could not find one themselves.

Leaders who demand improvement notoriously receive the wrath of those who take their ideas as insults to the way they have run things themselves. Even today, the exceptional leadership and visionary qualities displayed by Mitchell continue to be desired. For example, according to Kline (1997), "The large, relatively docile officer corps yearns for a cause celebre to forge a renewed commitment to airpower, amid all the promise those colorful words portend. The Air Force desperately needs a new Mitchell" (p. 71).

Of course, there is no "new Mitchell" because Billy Mitchell was one of a kind. He was debased, demoted and court marshaled because he was willing to stand up for what he knew was right. Even in the face of losing everything he had worked so hard for, Mitchell was unwilling to retract his volatile statements against army and navy leaders. He showed remarkable courage during the court martial that had the whole world listening. As Miller (2007) so colorfully describes it, "On Wednesday, October 28, 1925, the court-martial of Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell convened in the Emory Building, a facility across from the northwest corner of the U.S. Capitol. Over the next two months, the court-martial became the biggest media event in the nation, one of the great trials in Twentieth Century American history" (p. 4).

During those two months, Billy Mitchell faced relentless public criticism, but he refused to marginalize his stance merely to save himself. Such self-sacrifice and fortitude is not only the mark of a true leader, but of a true hero. This is not to say that Billy Mitchell was perfect, or that his leadership should be idolized. Even the greatest of heroes have their flaws; their human qualities; their Achilles heels. Yet none of this detracts from Billy Mitchell's legendary status as a leader ahead of his time. Mitchell's outspoken and fearless leadership style, combined with his instinctual insights and his unwavering courage in the face of adversity, all make Billy Mitchell a leader worthy of sincere and enduring admiration.

References

Glines, C.V. (1973) The compact history of the United States Air Force, Hawthorn Books

Kline, E. (1997, Fall). Where have all the Mitchells gone?" Airpower Journal 11(3), 69-76.

Meilinger, P.S. (2003) Billy Mitchell. Air & Space Power Journal. 17(3), 109-111

Miller, R.G. (2007, Summer) Billy Mitchell, the 3d Attack Group and the Laredo Project of 1923. Air Power History 54(2), 4-15.

Rynecki,…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Glines, C.V. (1973) The compact history of the United States Air Force, Hawthorn Books

Kline, E. (1997, Fall). Where have all the Mitchells gone?" Airpower Journal 11(3), 69-76.

Meilinger, P.S. (2003) Billy Mitchell. Air & Space Power Journal. 17(3), 109-111

Miller, R.G. (2007, Summer) Billy Mitchell, the 3d Attack Group and the Laredo Project of 1923. Air Power History 54(2), 4-15.

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