William "Billy" Mitchell was the son of Sen. John Mitchell of Wisconsin. He enlisted in the Army as a private in May of 1898 at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War and was commissioned the following month. He stayed in the Army after the war and became fascinated with the concept of air power and predicted as early as 1908 that air power would be important in future wars. When the US declared war on Germany in April of 1917 then LtCol Mitchell was enroute to France to set up and command US air operations in coordination with the allies. In September 1918, he planned and led nearly 1,500 British, French and Italian aircraft in the air phase of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, one of the first coordinated air-ground offensives in history and in October was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General.
After the war he served in several capacities and promoted the use of air power. His visionary predictions and single mindedness promoting air power irritated his superiors which culminated in a court martial in 1925 for insubordination. Found guilty, he was reduced to his permanent rank of Colonel. He was also sentenced to a five year suspension from active duty without pay. Rather than accepting the verdict he resigned his commission two months after the verdict and located to Middleburg, Virginia where he continued to advocate for air power.
He died in 1936 in a New York hospital of heart problems and complications from influenza. In 1946 he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal and given the honorary rank of MajGen. Today he is remembered as the father of the Air Force and is the only individual after whom a type of American military aircraft, the North American B-25 Mitchell, is named.
1) Married on December 2, 1903 to Caroline Sarah Stoddard, daughter of Dr. Enoch Vine and Caroline Sarah (Butts) Stoddard; b. September 2, 1881 in Rochester, New York. Divorced in 1922; 3 children:
Elizabeth b. August 18, 1906 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Source: 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Fort William McKinley, Rizal, Philippines, Military and Naval Forces; Roll: T624_1784; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0206; FHL microfilm: 1375797 Ancestry.com. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
Source: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line].Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_206; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 67; Image: 828 Ancestry.com. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Source: 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Scott, Fauquier, Virginia; Roll: 2443; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0015; Image: 388.0; FHL microfilm: 2342177 Ancestry.com. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.
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