Billy Mitchell Signed Letter to Admiral Fullam, 1921

Presented is a letter typed and signed by Brigader General William “Billy” Mitchell to Admiral William F. Fullam, written on July 26, 1921, five days after the Ostfriesland sinking demonstration. Mitchell writes to Fullam, “You are one of the few older officials who have taken an unselfish and broad interest in the organization for defense of our country.” He continues, “You probably know more about it, today, than any other one individual, and I congratulate you on the fine work that you are doing” and urges Fullam to, “Keep it up!” Both men were outspoken champions of the importance of naval aviation. 

After WWI, Brig. Gen. Mitchell, who commanded all of the American aerial combat units in France, became a huge advocate for a separate Air Force and for the investment in military preparedness. Working to promote the importance of aircrafts and their effectiveness over battleships, Mitchell urged the Army, Navy and even the White House not to let the United States fall behind in aviation, sometimes going so far as to publicly accuse them of criminal negligence and incompetence. 

On December 6 ,1919, Mitchell made a statement to the New York Times that read: "The United States had produced practically no aerial war equipment since the armistice and consequently, is not capable of meeting any first class power in the air today, as foreign countries had continued development of wartime equipment." He testified before the House subcommittee, where he told Congress that the Air Service could sink any battleship in existence and called for a demonstration in which airplanes would bomb ships. Congress and the Navy reluctantly gave in and on July 20 and 21, 1921, Mitchell and the 1st Provisional Air Brigade demonstrated to the world the superiority of air power by sinking the famous, "unsinkable" Ostfriesland, a captured German battleship. The Navy was not pleased with the outcome of the tests, but nonetheless began developing aircraft carriers, even while Congress continued to cut the Air Service's budget. 

After the Ostfriesland demonstration, a number of aviation-minded Navy admirals, including Admiral William F. Fullam, pushed for more attention to be paid to naval aviation and the concept of the aircraft carrier. As commander of the Pacific battle fleet in 1918, Fullam had witnessed 130 planes flying over his fleet in a post war celebration. At that moment Admiral Fullam concluded that naval aviation had tilted the tactical scale against the heavy warship. He   authored an exhaustive study of the use of air power and concluded that, “Sea power will be subordinated to or dependent upon air power.”


In very good condition. 1 page document, War Department Air Service cream letterhead, dated July 26, 1921. Partially typed, with black ink signature “Wm. Mitchell” at bottom. Crease at center from horizontal fold. Signature is bold and large. Three small faint foxing marks at top. Presented unframed.  Unframed Dimensions: 7 1/4" x 6".

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