U.S. general Billy Mitchell, one of the most peculiar officers in U.S. history, died on this day. He is even considered the “Father of the U.S. Air Force”, and became a war hero during his career.
However, Mitchell also lived to be court-martialed, which sentenced him to a five-year suspension without pay. This caused a great commotion among the U.S. public, and a film was even made about the event, starring the famous Gary Cooper as Mitchell.
According to the year of his birth (1879) Mitchell was a peer of Albert Einstein and Stalin. He participated in World War I as a U.S. Air Force officer, serving at the front in France. By the end of war he had even reached the temporary rank of general, and was the commander of all U.S. air forces in France – even though he was still in his thirties.
After the end of World War I Mitchell became the dominant proponent of strengthening the aerial component of the U.S. Armed Forces. For example, he considered investment into armored battleships to be a waste of money, and that such funds were better spent on the Air Force (which would prove true in World War II).
Mitchell was sometimes very harsh in voicing his opinions, which led to him being court-martialed. He was accused of insubordination. Although he allegedly had public support, he was declared guilty. After the sentence was passed, he resigned.
Even as a civilian, Billy Mitchell continued to promote the importance of a military air force. He died on this day in 1936, at the age of 56. He was later rehabilitated, and was posthumously awarded the title of major general.
Furthermore, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, which became famous in World War II, was named after him. It is interesting that Mitchell thus became the only person in the history of the USA to have a type of military aircraft named after him. Almost 10,000 B-25 Mitchell bombers were produced.