The stories of America's knights of the skies can
not properly be told without a tribute to perhaps the greatest pioneer of American air
power. He was the World War I hero of American aviation that made a former race car
driver his personal driver, then encouraged that young man to fly in the Army Air Service.
His driver was Eddie Rickenbacker.
His independent, outspoken advocacy for American
air power led to his courts martial in the period between the two world wars.
Rickenbacker and a young general named Douglas MacArthur were among his few allies.
His proclamation that "A qualified air service is the life insurance of our national
integrity," went unheeded. He resigned his distinguished and heroic career
after fighting in vain for what he believed in. He died before his vindication by a
new generation of American airmen in World War II.
In 1939, three years after General William Billy
Mitchell's death, the United States Congress ordered a special medal of honor be
awarded Mitchell "in recognition of his outstanding pioneer service and foresight in
the field of American military aviation."