Person in Aviation Term Paper

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Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell

Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell

It may seem that aviation has a long and storied history because it seems now to have been a part of the national landscape forever. But, the reality is that the history of flying is very short even considering the many different types of vehicles that have been used. When it comes to actual powered airplanes, that history is even shorter, but it does have a colorful history. A large part of the landscape that has given air travel some of its most storied moments is the military wing of aviation history. It is impossible to examine the story of air power without looking at the life and accomplishments of one person, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. This paper examines the man as a child and young officer, his assent to the highest reaches of the war department, his fall from grace, what lasting effects Mitchell has had on aviation and the reason that General Billy Mitchell was chosen for this assignment.

Early Years

William Mitchell was born December 28, 1979 to a Senator from Wisconsin, John, and his second wife Harriet (Long, 1998). As a child and young man he lived part of the year in his native Wisconsin and at times in Washington, but as a child of privilege he traveled a great deal with his parents to the four corners of the Earth. Mitchell seemed destined to become a military man from early in life, and he decided to enlist as a private during the Spanish-American War in 1898. His father did not want him to join the Army, but insisted on procuring Billy a commission through contacts when he did join (Long, 1998). Unfortunately for Mitchell he did not enter the service in time to fight in the war, but after it was over he decided to stay a member, and was sent to Alaska to help build the new purchase for the United States.

As he always would throughout his military life, Mitchell distinguished himself in his Alaskan endeavors and he started to discover his lifelong work. He oversaw the stringing of telegraph lines across the wilderness . While in this duty, he began to read of glider experiments that had become famous in 1901 and he developed an interest in aviation. In 1906, while a student at the Army Staff College in Kansas, he saw a demonstration by Orville Wright and decided that military aviation would be his career (National Museum USAF, 2010).

Mitchell finished his studies at the Staff College and was assigned as the only signal officer on the general staff in Washington. He continued this post until he was assigned to study the British use of air power at the beginning of World War I. During this time he continued to study aviation and he began advocating for the military to adopt aircraft as a real asset to its fighting force.

His Assent

Mitchell went to England and worked with one of the pioneers of military air tactics. "Mitchell met with many Allied air commanders, but Sir Hugh Trenchard, the Royal Air Force commander who advocated using independent air power as an offensive weapon, had the greatest impact" (National Museum USAF, 2010). Trenchard became a lifelong friend and a mentor to Mitchell who showed the young officer how an air wing could be used on the battlefield. When the United States declared war with Germany in 1917, Mitchell began serving as the deputy director of the Army Air Corps. He was able to successfully plan many missions, but his crowning achievement was to coordinate an attack on Germany at the end of the war using more than 1,100 allied aircraft.

After the war, Mitchell became an even greater advocate for military use of airpower. Many have said of him that "during his time in France, Mitchell proved a highly effective commander, but his aggressive approach and unwillingness to operate in the chain of command made him numerous enemies" (Hickman, 2012). His brusque approach curtailed many of the awards of higher command that he could have been offered and made him the bane of…

Sources Used in Document:


Hickman, K. (2012). Military aviation: Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. Retrieved from Billy-Mitchell.htm

Long, C. (1998). General William "Billy" Mitchell: Aviation pioneer. Retrieved from

National Museum USAF. (2010). Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. Retrieved from

Sterner, C.W. (2008). Fight for survival, the battle at home and the court martial of Billy Mitchell. Retrieved from

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