Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy: The Interwar Rivalry Over Air Power

Overview


When Billy Mitchell returned from WWI, he brought with him the deep-seated belief that air power had made navies obsolete. However, in the years following WWI, the U.S. Congress was far more interested in disarmament and isolationist policies than in funding national defense. For the military services this meant lean budgets and skeleton operating forces. Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy recounts the intense political struggle between the Army and Navy air arms for the limited resources needed to define and ...
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Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy: The Army Air Corps and the Challenge to Seapower

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Overview


When Billy Mitchell returned from WWI, he brought with him the deep-seated belief that air power had made navies obsolete. However, in the years following WWI, the U.S. Congress was far more interested in disarmament and isolationist policies than in funding national defense. For the military services this meant lean budgets and skeleton operating forces. Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy recounts the intense political struggle between the Army and Navy air arms for the limited resources needed to define and establish the role of aviation within their respective services in the period between the two world wars.

After Congress rejected the concept of a unified air service in 1920, Mitchell and his supporters turned on the Navy, seeking to substitute the Air Service as the nation's first line of defense. While Mitchell proved that aircraft could sink a battleship with the bombing of the Ostfriesland in 1921, he was unable to convince the General Staff of the Army, the General Board of the Navy, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or Congress of the need for an independent air force. When Mitchell turned to the pen to discredit the Navy, he was convicted by his own words and actions in a court-martial that captivated the nation, and was forced to resign in 1925.

Rather than ending the rivalry for air power, Mitchell's resignation set the stage for the ongoing dispute between the two services in the years immediately before WWII. After Mitchell's resignation, the rivalry for air power between the two services resurfaced when the Navy's plans to procure torpedo planes for the defense of Pearl Harbor and Coco Solo were brought to the attention of the Army. The book concludes with a description of the events surrounding the Air Corps' abysmal performance at Pearl Harbor and Midway followed by a critical assessment of how the development of aviation was pursued by the Army and the Navy after WWII.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a very readable and well-researched account of Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell's campaign to consolidate all American airpower within an independent air force. This story has been the subject of a number of books and articles and even a 1955 movie starring Gary Cooper, but never has it been told so well."--Journal of America's Military Past

"Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy is such a rich biographical treatment as the reader learns history as well as gets to know the man with all of his strengths and foibles. Wildenberg illustrates the path Mitchell traveled in a most revealing, dramatic (there is no other way to tell the story of this complex, incendiary and forward thinking man) and understandable way. This is not a book for those who look for a polarized and clear understanding of this significant part of history -- it is the book for those who knows that human history, especially history involving war and politics, is a gumbo where some flavors remain identifiable and some blend to make other flavors. This book is so well written it can be used to teach a college level course about the man as well as a course about the business of historically researching for a biography."--Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Thomas Wildenberg accomplished the challenging task of writing a narrative that will appeal equally to both general readers and informed professionals. The book is supported with meticulous notes, an extensive bibliography, and highly useful appendices. Mitchell's passion, intelligence, and recklessness clearly emerge from the book's pages, as does the U.S. naval leadership's frustration with and animosity towards this high-energy proponent of an independent U.S. Air Force."--Naval History Book Reviews

"…A fascinating look at interwar American defense doctrine and politics."--Military Heritage

"...a seminal and extraordinary contribution that is especially recommended for academic library 20th Century American Military History reference collections in general, and American Military Aviation Studies supplemental reading lists in particular."--The Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870210389
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 344,108
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Thomas Wildenberg is an independent historian/scholar specializing in the development of naval aviation and logistics at sea. He has written extensively about the U.S. Navy during the interwar period. His articles have appeared in several scholarly journals including the Journal of Military History, American Neptune, and Proceedings. He is also the author of three books on U.S. naval history that cover such varied topics as replenishment at sea and the development of dive bombing. Besides All the Factors of Victory and Destined for Glory, his most recent work, co-authored with Norman Polmar is Ship Killer: A History of the American Torpedo.
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