Air Power Advocate – Father of the U.S. Air Force – The Billy Mitchell Story – Part 5

By Marty Maisel

Mitchell’s Prognostication
On December 7, 1941, at 7:48 Hawaii time, Imperial Japanese Navy carrier aircraft attacked United States military interests on the island of Oahu. Two groups of bombers and torpedo-carrying aircraft hit battleship row. Another group hit Ford Island and Wheeler Field and another attacked Hickam Field and other targets.

Several hours later, Japanese aircraft attacked Clark Field in the Philippines. Later, Japanese ground forces landed on Luzon and subsequently took Corregidor – just as Mitchell predicted 17 years earlier.

Posthumous Recognition

North American B-25 Mitchell. (USAF photo is in the public domain)

The North American B-25 was nicknamed the “Mitchell” bomber, after Billy Mitchell. The B-25 “Mitchell” is the only American military aircraft named after a person.

In 1946, Mitchell was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor “in recognition of his outstanding pioneer service and foresight in the field of American military aviation.”

The National Security Act of 1947 established the Department of Defense, unifying command of the Army, the Navy and the newly-created Air Force – as Mitchell suggested in 1919.

A major airport in Milwaukee (in his home state of Wisconsin) was named the General Mitchell International Airport.

The United States Air Force Academy dining hall was named for General Mitchell.

Mitchell Hall was named in his honor at the George Washington University in Washington D.C., his alma mater.

In 1999, General Mitchell’s portrait was put on a US airmail postage stamp.

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell movie was produced in 1955. The movie’s portrayal of Mitchell’s quest was fairly accurate.

In 1942 President Roosevelt posthumously elevated Mitchell to the rank of Major General on the Army Air Corps retired list (he was a Colonel at the time of his court martial). Congress reaffirmed the posthumous commission in 2003.

Due to his outstanding pioneering service and his foresight in the field of American military aviation, William Billy Mitchell is recognized as
the Father of the U.S. Air Force.