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Winged Defense

The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power--Economic and Military

Written by William Mitchell and foreword by Robert S. Ehlers Jr.

Publication Year: 2009

This book is the basis for airpower doctrine in the US, and demonstrates  how forward looking Gen Mitchell was even though the technology for conducting air operations was in its infancy  when it was written.  It is essential reading for anyone concerned with airpower history or aerospace doctrine.

William Lendrum "Billy" Mitchell (December 28, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was an American Army general who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force, and is one of the most famous and most controversial figures in the history of American airpower.

Mitchell served in France during the First World War and, by the conflict's end, commanded all American air combat units in that country. After the war, he was appointed deputy director of the Air Service and began to advocate  increased investment in air power, claiming this would prove vital in future wars. He particularly stressed the ability of bombers to sink battleships and organized a series of dramatic bombing runs against stationary ships designed to test the idea that attracted wide notice from the public.

He antagonized many  in both the Army and Navy with his arguments and criticism and, in 1925, was demoted to Colonel. Later that year, he was court-martialed for insubordination after accusing military chiefs of an "almost treasonable administration of the national defense." He resigned from the service shortly thereafter.

Mitchell received many honors following his death, including a commission by the President as a Major General. He is also the only individual after whom a type of American military aircraft is named: the B-25 "Mitchell."

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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A Note on Billy Mitchell and His Book

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pp. iii-vi

William “Billy” Mitchell was and continues to be one of the most controversial airmen in our history. Alternately lionized and vilified by military officers and civilian academics, Mitchell was undeniably one of the pivotal figures in the development of American air power. Although he began his 27‑year military career in the infantry, serving in the Spanish‑American War and ...

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pp. vii-x

Few people outside of the air fraternity itself know or understand the dangers that these men face, the lives that they lead and how they actually act when in the air, how they find their way across the continent with unerring exactness-over mountains, forests, rivers and deserts; what they actually do in improving the science and art of flying and how they feel when engaged in combat with enemy aircraft. No one can ...

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pp. xi-xix

The revolutionary war made us an independent nation; our civil war, the greatest in history, knitted our people and our political fabric closely together. From that time until our Spanish war we were busy organizing our own economical development, establishing means of communication through the country, and consolidating our governmental system. ...

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I. The Aeronautical Era

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pp. 3-26

Our ancestors passed through the "continental era" when they consolidated their power on land and developed their means of communication and intercourse over the land or close to it on the seacoast. Then came the "era of the great navigators," and the competition for the great sea lanes of power, commerce, and communication, which were hitched up and harnessed ...

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II. Leadership in Aeronautics Goes to the United States

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pp. 27-55

In the old and well established branches of learning there is something to go on that has been developed before, that one can model on and study. In aviation, particularly in its application and use, there is almost nothing to go on. The air man has to "learn" himself, for the most part. Every new development, no matter what it is, requires the greatest preparation beforehand to insure its success and with us in aviation it has been ...

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III. The United States Air Force Proves that Aircraft Dominate Seacraft

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pp. 56-76

THE stately Atlantic fleet, consisting of eight battleships, several cruisers, many destroyers and auxiliary vessels, hospital ships and tenders, moved into the Chesapeake Bay and anchored in the Lynnhaven Roads. The appearance of these great vessels was majestic. The fleet had been assembled to watch and observe the bombing tests, so that all could see what happened. ...

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IV. Civil and Commercial Aviation

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pp. 77-96

TRANSPORTATION is the essence of civilization. The more rapid the intercourse between people, the more highly what we call "civilization" will be developed. Commercial nations have always made it a point to establish and control transportation systems so that their means o

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V. How Should We Organize Our National Air Power? Make it a Main Force or Still an Appendage?

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pp. 97-119

We are at the turning of the ways in the development of our air power and the people, who are the judges of what should be done, should weigh the evidence on the subject carefully. In order to be successful in anything, it is necessary to concentrate one's mind, one's time and one's money on it in such a way as to get the greatest good with the least effort. ...

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VI. The Effect of Air Power on the Modification and Limitation of International Armaments [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 120-138

THE rapidly increasing efficiency of the airplane and the submarine gives Us the opportunity to move towards a new limitation of armaments. Both of these implements of national defense are essentially defensive in their nature as distinguished from offensive military arrangements designed for aggression across and beyond the seas. ...

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VII. A Glance at Modern Aeronautics

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pp. 139-158

THOSE of us who have chosen the air for our profession naturally are enthusiastic about it. We know that the essence of civilization, of communication, of national defense, and of all development, is transportation. Transportation with us is not a question of land, or a question of water, or a question of mountains, or a question of deserts, it is the air, and the air pern1eates everything. ...

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VIII. The Making of an Air Force Personnel

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pp. 159-180

MEN and machines have to be harnessed up and driven as a team to make up air power. The selection and training of the persons who are to fly the machines and those that are required to keep them up is the most important consideration. The next is to obtain and distribute the actual airplanes and the equipment that are necessary for use in the air. ...

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IX. The Obtaining of the Aircraft and Equipment for the Flyers

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pp. 181-198

THE second great requirement in the organizing of air power is the creation of suitable aircraft and equipment for the men that have to fly them. These must be devised, tried, experimented with and manufactured in an efficient manner. A true solution of the problem of national defense must be arrived at in order that suitable aircraft may be built, because the ...

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X. The Defense Against Aircraft

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pp. 199-213

IT was proved in the European war that the only effective defense against aerial attack is to whip the enen1Y's air forces in air battles. In other words, seizing the initiative, forcing the enemy to the defensive in his own territory, attacking his most important ground positions, menacing his airplanes on the ground, in the hangars, on the airdromes and in ...

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XI. Conclusions

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pp. 214-223

The development of air power has forced a complete reorganization of all the arrangements for national defense. The rapidity and sureness of electrical communication all over the world make it possible to combine the use of all the elements entering into national defense in a manner impossible of accomplishment theretofore. ...


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pp. 225-251


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pp. 253-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383046
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356057

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Air Corps.
  • United States -- Defenses.
  • Military doctrine -- United States.
  • Air power -- United States.
  • Aeronautics, Military -- United States.
  • Air power -- Economic aspects -- United States.
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