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Aces of Aviation

North American B-25B Mitchell of William Mitchell

North American B-25B Mitchell of William Mitchell

North American B-25B Mitchell, as it was used in the first American incursion against Japan (Doolitle Raid), the 18th April 1942.

Wingspan: 20.60 meters.

Length: 16.12 meters.

Height: 4.82 meters.

Engine[s]: Two Wright R-2600 of 1700 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 507 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 8230 meters.

Range: 3860 kilometers.

Armament: Four Browning M2 12.7-millimeter machine guns; three 227-kilogram demolition bombs; one 227-kilogram incendiary bomb.

Generally accepted as the first architect of the United States air power, William Mitchell did not live long enough to see the results of his crusade. The posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor was the late recognition to his indefatigable efforts to ensure the power of United States in the skies, regardless of his crusade involving the charges, set by a military court, of "wrongful conduct from an officer".

Born in France in 1879, Mitchell graduated "cum laude" in the George Washington University and enlisted as private in the Infantry of United States. After obtaining a destination he was sent to the Signal Corps, where he became an expert telegraphist. It was not until the age of thirty-six that he learnt to pilot an aircraft, and then, with the rank of Major, he was assigned to the Aviation Section and sent to Europe in 1917.

During his stayings in France, Mitchell was quickly influenced by the ideas of General Hugh Trenchard about the utilization which should be given to the offensive power of aviation; in turn, Mitchell passed this influence to General John Pershing, who was in command of the United States Expeditionary Force in France. Albeit Mitchell was strictly a High Staff officer, he was the first pilot of the United States Army who crossed the battle line in the Western Front in the spring of 1917. In recognition of subsequent actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918.

The return of Mitchell to United States in February 1919 was surrounded of the popular recognition as an exceptional air captain. He took advantage of this position to divulge everywhere his recommendations in favor of air power, and prepared several exhibitions to attract attention towards the possibilities of military aviation. To demonstrate the affirmation from Mitchell that air bombings could sink large ships, two groups of trials were carried out in 1921, and in both instances the results confirmed Mitchell's expectations. Bombers of the Navy were used to drop bombs upon obsolete warships such as the USS Alabama, being most prominent the sinking of the old German battleship SMS Ostfriesland.

Mitchell stated that strategic air bombing would be decisive in future conflicts, in a time when the continuous importance of fighter aviation was consolidating. But despite of being wholly right in his predictions, the intransigent public declarations that Mitchell did, accusing of "criminal neglicence" the Service Department, led him to a court-martial and, after being confirmed his sentence, he resigned from his position in the Navy in 1926. Eventually, his efforts were formally recognized when the B-25 bomber (model presented in the illustration) was named after him, few years after his decease.