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MITCHELL, WILLIAM “BILLY.” (1879-1936). American general considered the father of the United States Air Force. TLS. (“Wm. Mitchell”). 1p. 4to. (Tacoma), May 3, 1926. On his stationery bearing the Mitchell family crest with the motto Sapiens qui assiduous (He is wise who is assiduous).  To lecture manager James B. Pond, Jr.


“We have been going so rapidly that I fear I have not answered your letters as soon as I should. First, as to collecting money due, I think you should collect if you can do it without causing a fuss. The amounts involved do not warrant legal proceedings. The Texas engagements showed little profit because they were booked, in the majority of cases, with irresponsible organizations. On the Pacific Coast, we have had excellent audiences, but should have had a great deal more in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Staley was not a good man to book with. Of course, I understand that sometimes it is not possible for an advance agent to check some of these things up. I have wanted to finish the tour for some time, after arriving at the Pacific Coast, and May 20th is as far as I can possibly stretch it, as I have a great deal to do at home. Your outfit has certainly done business in a very quick and energetic way, and although the profits have not been as big as they might have been, the object which I desired has been entirely attained, that is, the opening up of these questions for public discussion, and having the people learn what it is all about. From my standpoint, this tour has been a very great success. I hope that the May bookings will turn out well. No accounts after April 3rd. have yet reached me. I hope they will arrive in Denver. Hoping to see you when I come to New York soon after the tour…”


After commanding American air combat units in France during World War I, for which he was highly decorated, Mitchell became an outspoken advocate for military investment in air power, specifically calling for future bombers to be designed to sink battleships. His ongoing public criticism of his superiors, however, resulted in his demotion from brigadier general to colonel in 1925, after he criticized the Army and Navy for “almost treasonable administration of the national defense,” (The Army and Its Air Corps: Army Policy toward Aviation, 1919–1941, Tate). For his comments, he was court martialed on direct orders of President Coolidge. Douglas MacArthur was one of the 12 judges who suspended Mitchell for five years without pay in December 1925. Mitchell resigned on February 1, 1926 and devoted himself to writing and lecturing about the need for improved air power, as can be seen from our letter. Mitchell’s court martial, however, allowed Congress to focus on his concerns and the 1926 Air Corps Act laid out a five-year plan to expand air services. Mitchell also found a receptive ear in Franklin Roosevelt after his 1932 election, and in 1935 the War Department founded the General Headquarters of the Air Force and shifted its focus from support of ground troops to air assault and defense. This new mission prompted the development of bombers such as the Boeing B-17 which played a strategic role during World War II. In 1941, the United States Army Air Force was created and was succeeded by the United States Air Force in 1947.


The location of Tacoma, Washington, has been added in the upper right corner in pencil in an unknown hand as well as noting that Mitchell’s return address is Middleburg, Virginia. Folded with normal wear and in very good condition. Accompanied by a vintage, black-and-white bust photograph of Mitchell in uniform with a full chest of medals.



Item #20170

This autograph will be auctioned live on May 23, 2018. For more information and to place your bid click the "BID NOW!" button above.
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