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Billy Mitchell's Influence on USAF's Culture

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Billy Mitchel is a controversial character. His achievement is still debated today. In his time, like Icarus, he pursued his goal so high that his wings burned and he eventually fell. Nonetheless, he struggled so hard for his cause that he succeeded in sacrificing himself. His posthumous legacy is evidence of his success. Despite his stubbornness, his political awkwardness and his insubordination, his vision, energy and courage are unanimously praised, and he is considered today the founder of the US Air Force. More importantly, he is considered the founder of American airpower. To achieve this, he first used his reputation as a war hero and all the relationships he built during WWI to oblige Department of war elites to create the Army Air Corps (AAC). Then, as a civilian, he continued to speak and write to promote his ideas, both at a tactical level in the AAC and at a strategic level in the political arena; the strength of his ideas led to the creation of the Army Air Forces (AAF). Finally, WWII lessons learned confirmed most of Mitchell’s predictions and theories and led the administration not only to create an independent air force, but also the Department of Defense (DoD) that we know today. When he came back from Europe after WWI, Mitchell was not only a national hero. He was also an international one. As a reward for his outstanding service, he earned many honors and decorations in UK, France, and Italy. He tied very close relationships with airmen and senior officers in these countries. He was the one, who planned and led the air battle in Saint-Mihiel, which is considered the first air battle. He carved out American credibility proving American capabilities to the allies. Hurley underlined this success writing “St-Mihiel... ... middle of paper ... ...arles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (Initially published in 1857 and in 1861) Albatrosses Often our sailors, for an hour of fun, Catch albatrosses on the after breeze Through which these trail the ship from sun to sun As it skims down the deep and briny seas. Scarce have these birds been set upon the poop, Than, awkward now, they, the sky's emperors, Piteous and shamed, let their great white wings droop Beside them like a pair of idle oars. These wingèd voyagers, how gauche their gait! Once noble, now how ludicrous to view! One sailor bums them with his pipe, his mate Limps, mimicking these cripples who once flew. Poets are like these lords of sky and cloud, Who ride the storm and mock the bow's taut strings, Exiled on earth amid a jeering crowd, Prisoned and palsied by their giant wings. — Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)
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