In the primary document, General William Mitchell discusses the issue of air forces within the United States military. He declares that the United States does not have pursuit aviation, while 70% of European air forces are pursuit plains. As the General concludes, this approach to managing aviation put the United States at risk of an enemy’s attack. More attention should be dedicated to developing the U.S. air force as this part of the military will become essential in protecting the state.
The General compares the cost of a single pursuit plane, which is $80,000, to that of a gun, which is $500,000. It appears that the General is making specific comparisons in terms of price to influence the decision-makers and prompt them to purchase pursuit planes. Moreover, the General specifically references Congress’s decision to allow 16,000 soldiers to be in the air force, with appropriate preparations and planes needed for their service. However, general Mitchell argues that France has ten times of this force in terms of planes and manpower. Additionally, he discusses the potential development of aviation, such as the use of communications to control these forces and the capabilities of planes in the air and on land.
The author of this document is General William Mitchel, who was a military professional since his first enlistment in the Wisconsin Infantry in 1898.1 He served in the army as a Brigade General until his resignation on February 1, 1926.2 The General’s critique of the air force was written in the 1920s. General Mitchel is trying to depict the picture of the air force becoming the first line of defense with appropriate funding and purchasing of the required airships.
General Mitchell wrote the text in question in 1920 to voice concerns about the lack of attention given to the development of the air force, considering that the other states have far superior reinforces. Notably, according to the U.S. Airforce’s (n.d.) website, the General “When he returned to the United States on February 28, 1919, he was detailed as Director, Military Aeronautics and Chief, Training and Operations Group, Office, Director of Air Service, Washington, D.C., to April 27, 1921.” (para. 15). Hence during the time when this text was written, General Mitchell was working closely on the development of the air forces, which might have provided him with the necessary insights to critique the state of this part of the military at that time.
Admiral William Moffett wrote a critique of General William’s assessment of the air force. Moffett published his critique five years after General Mitchel’s letter was released, more specifically, in 1925. Clearly, this related source has a different perspective since the Admiral critiques the General’s viewpoint. The main issue is that the establishment of the air force as a separate unit would provide them with full control of the airspace, impairing the authority of the Naval Forces and the development of naval aviation in particular.
One may assume that General Mitchel’s concerns were linked to the tensions in Europe and the predictions of the potential war. Hence the General wanted to ensure that the U.S. military is well-equipped. Thus, the text by General Mitchel intended to influence policymaking in the United States, with the goal of purchasing pursuit plains and investing in the air force’s development. Since the General had an official position in the military and addressed his text to policymakers, he most likely knew that it would be later read by others.
Although the General offers a fair assessment of the military affairs in the United States and abroad, one can argue that there is some bias. Namely, it is linked to his position in the air forces at that time, which would predisposition him to advocate for more funding dedicated to the air force. Years later, the U.S. Army officials seem to uphold the opinion of General Mitchell about the importance of the air forces since “the Air Force has become the world’s premier aerospace force.”3
In summary, in the primary document in question, General William Mitchell voices his opinion about the role and importance of the air forces within the United States army. Five years after the publication of this text, Admiral William Moffett critiqued Mitchell’s approach because it would hinder the development of naval air forces. However, Mitchel’s perspective is based on the role that the air forces would play in the future.
“Brigade General William Mitchell.” U.S. Air Force. n.d. Web.
“The history and roles of the Air Force.” Military. n.d. Web.
“William Mitchell.” Britannica. n.d. Web.
- “Brigade General William Mitchell,” U.S. Air Force. n.d. Web.
- “William Mitchell,” Britannica. n.d. Web.
- “The history and roles of the Air Force.” Military. n.d. Web.