William Billy Mitchell as a pilot in WWI and as decorated after the warWilliam "Billy" Mitchell as a pilot in WWI (left) and wearing his many wartime decorations as a Brigadier General post war. He predicted with eerie accuracy the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, HI whichwould take place in 1941, five years after his death, binging America into WWII.

Mitchellism: the concept that airpower is "the dominant military factor" was born in WWI

By Peter T Young
via the Images of Old Hawaiʻi web site 

World War I, also known as the Great War or the War to End All Wars, began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. His murder catapulted into a war across Europe.

During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers).

Four years later, when Germany, facing dwindling resources on the battlefield, discontent on the homefront and the surrender of its allies, was forced to seek an armistice on November 11, 1918, ending World War I. (The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.)

At the dawn of WWI, aviation was a relatively new field; the Wright brothers took their first sustained flight just eleven years before, in 1903. WWI was the first major conflict to use the power of planes, though not as impactful as the British Royal Navy or Germany’s U-boats.

The use of planes in WWI presaged their later, pivotal role in military conflicts around the globe. During WWI, there was no ‘Air Force’ as we identify it today; the aviation forces were under the US Army Air Service, created during WWI by executive order of President Woodrow Wilson after America entered the war in April 1917.

Later, Congress created the Air Corps on July 2, 1926, and it was abolished with the National Security Act of 1947, establishing the United States Air Force on September 18, 1947.

Gen. William ‘Billy’ Mitchell, a staunch advocate and visionary of air power, became regarded as the ‘Father of the United States Air Force,’ because he was instrumental in bringing to the forefront the need for air superiority.

“Mitchellism” was coined by the press to symbolize the concept that airpower was now the dominant military factor and that sea and land forces were becoming subordinate.

In the intervening years, the correctness of his thinking, the accuracy of his predictions, the risks he took, the sacrifices he so willingly made of his health and his career, and, by far the most important, the influence he had on his successors have conferred a new, higher, and entirely contemporary meaning on “Mitchellism.” 

Read the entire article on the Images of Old Hawaiʻi web site.

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