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“I am here to tell the truth,” Colonel Billy Mitchell told cheering American Legionnaires upon his arrival in Washington, D.C. (NASM (9A06569-P))

The Billy Mitchell Court-Martial

Courtroom sketches from aviation's Trial of the Century.

In his concluding remarks, Major Allen Gullion, the judge advocate, took a swipe at Mitchell: “Is such a man a safe guide? Is he a constructive person or is he a loose talking imaginative megalomaniac?... Is this man a Moses, fitted to lead the people out of a wilderness?... Is he not rather the all too familiar charlatan and demagogue type...and except for a decided difference in poise and mental powers in Burr’s favor, like Aaron Burr?”

After more than seven weeks of testimony and 99 witnesses, the court-martial came to a close. In a secret ballot, the court sentenced Mitchell to a suspension from rank, command, and duty, with forfeiture of all pay for five years. “The Court is thus lenient because of the military record of the Accused during the World War,” the generals wrote.

Unwilling to accept the verdict, Mitchell resigned as an officer in the U.S. Army on February 1, 1926.

Rebecca Maksel is an Air & Space associate editor.

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