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The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell

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General William "Billy" Mitchell of the U.S. Army - Air Corp was a forward thinking officer who saw a need for the military to create an Air Force as a separate branch within the military structure. General Mitchell could foresee that technological advances would make air warfare an integral part of combat power in future operations. The military hierarchy

, however, did not agree with his assessment. The hierarchy

of the military put limitations on his abilities to prove his ideas. They did this by not providing proper funding to keep the aircraft they had in working order, and setting General Mitchell up for failure with testing standards in which they set the requirements.

Billy Mitchell faced many challenges in his desire to creat an "Air Force" within the U.S. Armed Forces. He had to gain support from the Army, Navy, and congressional leaders - many of whom thought air warfare was still more a carnival attraction than a viable option for our nation's defense. He also needing funding as the equipment the Air Service had was obsolete and often in disrepair, causing several wrecks and costing service members lives.

The military structure were adamantly against a separate "Air Force". Both the Army and Navy were worried about sharing their limited budgets with yet another entity. They also worried that another force structure would take away from their pool of possible soldiers and sailors. They reasoned that Naval ships were too powerful to be sunk by air craft, and the Army that the Infantry was the key to battle. They agreed, although reluctantly, to allow General Mitchell to prove his ideas by setting up demonstrations for Mitchell and his men.

The military, both Army and Navy, put conditions on demonstrations to prove the success of air power's abilities. Requiring Mitchell and his men to drop smaller bombs and from higher altitudes than he suggested would be effective. After failing due to the conditions placed on Mitchell, he decided to disobey orders by running the demonstrations as he determined would show an accurate assessment. He would not fail in his second attempt, sinking the unsinkable German battleship the Ostfriesland, and proving, at least to himself, that his assessment was correct.

His "insubordination" led to his reduction in rank to Colonel, and exile to Fort Sam



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