Military History - American Civil War

"A Question of Loyalty" by Douglas Waller 

This is a very good biography of one of the 20th century's controversial figures; Army General Billy Mitchell. Prior to his court-martial in 1925, Mitchell had served in combat in the Spanish-American war and rose to Brigadier General in World War I as Pershing's Air Commander. Mitchell is best remembered for his demonstration of aircraft sinking a battleship. The movie "The Court- martial of Billy Mitchell" staring Gary Cooper glamorized the sinking and the court-martial. The battle ship was stationary and it took two days and many bombs to sink it. But, Mitchell proved correct about the vulnerability of capitol ships, as demonstrated in World War II. Mitchell liked to live the good life and to supplement his income, he did a lot of writing that cut against the grain of the mind set of the military commanders. What really got him in trouble was his press release after the disastrous loss of the airship Shenandoah and the loss of a Navy seaplane attempting a nonstop flight from San Diego to Hawaii. His press release was so scathing of the military command, there was no option but a court-martial for insubordination. Mitchell had many good ideas, but he went about pushing them forward the wrong way. He had a big mouth and no patience and in the end, got what he deserved.

A couple of interesting facts. Eddie Rickenbacker, famous WWI ace, was Mitchell's driver and Mitchell put him in the air. Douglas McArther was a member of the court-martial board. When asked after he had read the screenplay for the Mitchell movie if he could accurately play Mitchell, Gary Cooper replied, "I get paid to play myself".
Reviewed by Kenneth S. Smith

Available from:
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY  10022

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