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Analysis from Winged Defense by William Mitchell

Mitchell, William. Winged Defense. The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power, Economic and Military … With 16 Illustrations. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York & London, 1925.

William “Billy” Mitchell is to most Americans the person responsible for observing and recognizing the potential of air power to the United State’s national defense as an integral aspect. He was an adherent campaigner for the above that his actions resulted in a court-martial hearing for his accusation of insubordination. At the time of publishing of the Winged Defense, Mitchell was of the notion that the United States was at a time where it was advisable for it as a republic to establish and develop strong air power departments, calling upon the general public to unanimously embrace the above idea. According to him, the vision and the greatest possibilities of aviation as applied in warfare illustrated strong growth and capability in the future and it was not whatsoever right to judge it by the past, since its past was so much short in comparison to both infantry and navy. According to his observation, which featured predominantly in his campaign, the United States at that point was at a dilemma requiring choosing embracing air power initiatives independently or disregarding their importance in warfare. In light of the above, Mitchell’s campaign found the rationale behind various significant arguments. It is upon such arguments that he looked forward towards the Unites States Defense Department and the federal government in general understanding his plea for the establishment of the air force as an independent wing with respect to the defense structure of the United States.

One of his arguments featured an economic aspect. According to his observation, the economic nature of the airplanes operation is very different from other war machines. Ideally, it was possible to use every military airplane in times of peace to undertake activities that are not necessarily connected to the war. Additionally, the United States had the ability to use every civil pilot in cases of war while still using the same pilots with over 95% efficiency level times of peace. Apparently, at that time, every airplane used in times of war was 100% efficient in times of peace. From the perspective of Mitchell, during the peaceful times, the nation would employ aeronautical advances and developments for civil and commercial aviation, employing the same kind of efforts for military purposes in times of war. The above was a great way of striking an economic balance between military and civil development at the same time. Still on the economic aspect, the development of air power was far much easier to advance compared to the supreme defense at that time – the navy. The effective Navy defense depended upon battleships. However, during the time of Mitchell’s campaigns, the cost of making one battleship was between 50 and 70 million dollars (Mitchell 100). With respect to the fact that it requires complementary services for full functionality and maintenance, the above cost averaged at 100 million dollars. At the same time, building a fighter plane required hardly over 20 thousand dollars. In light of the above, over 4000 fighter planes could be made in place of one battleship (Mitchell 110).

Another argument from Mitchell for the campaign for and independent air force for the United States found its basis in the fact that other significant internationally powerful country had invested and embraced in the above idea. Mitchell took notice that England created a separate air force with equal powers to the army and the navy soon after the World War I. Operating equally with the army and the navy, the new air force in England had equal representatives with equal voice in the Council of Imperial Defense. Additionally, other than England, Sweden had embraced the idea of an independent air force and established an independent wing as well. Japan, a relatively bitter rival of the United States at the time, though having not established a definite organization of an independent air force were focused and concentrating on consolidating military aviation activities.  Moreover, Russia was another power rival at the time and was as well developing sufficient air power and was in the process of adding an air force arm in its single national defense department (Mitchell 116). Such developments in the air force for key rivals of the Unites States were sufficient enough to warrant the above campaign by Mitchell.

Finally, Mitchell’s campaign took into consideration the aspect of efficiency. Both the army and the navy featured for a long time in the defense systems of nations across various nations. With respect to internal security, the army was efficient for land attacks. On the other hand, the navy was overly sufficient with respect to matters concerning international conflicts. In the United States, the battleships had featured supreme necessity and command in terms of their application to international warfare. They held enough firepower, military, and many other important features wartime necessities. However, the application of air power was much more efficient both domestically and internationally. The use of the air force would be more efficient and quicker for land reconnaissance activities. On the other hand, the use of the airplane in international warfare was starting to be better than the use of Navy battleships (Mitchell 109). Ideally, using a battleship required a lot of resources and took much time. The use of airplane took much fewer resources and time. Warfare involving the use of air power took place and ended super fast compared to the traditional navy and army warfare. More so, fewer lives were risked since only the pilots, and their assistants in the fighter planes were directly at risk. The above indicates how much efficiency air power warfare was promising and the reason as to why Mitchell vehemently campaigned for the establishment of an independent air force in the United States.

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