William "Billy" Mitchell (December 28, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was a United States Army general who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force. He is one of the most famous and most controversial figures in the history of American airpower.
Mitchell served in France during World War I 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 advocating increased investment in air power, believing that this would prove vital in future wars. He argued particularly for the ability of bombers to sink battleships and organized a series of bombing runs against stationary ships designed to test the idea.
He antagonized many people in the Army with his arguments and criticism and, in 1925, was returned to his permanent rank of Colonel. Later that year, he was court-martialed for insubordination after accusing Army and Navy leaders of an "almost treasonable administration of the national defense." He resigned from the service shortly afterward.
Mitchell received many honors following his death, including a commission by President Franklin Roosevelt as a Major General. He is also