Billy Mitchell

Sinking the Ostfriesland

William L. “Billy” Mitchell, known as “the father of the Air Force,” commanded U.S. flying units in World War I. After the war he participated in exercises to test the vulnerability of ships to aerial bombardment. On July 21, he attacked the “unsinkable” battleship Ostfriesland with five bombers. In only 22 minutes the ship sank, with the whole attack being recorded on film. Mitchell infuriated Army and Navy officials, but the American public learned airpower could destroy even “unsinkable” ships.

Ostfriesland photos are from the Billy Mitchell collection at the USAF Academy. You can watch film of the sinking on YouTube Ostfriesland Sinking.

Copyright by Friends of The Air Force Academy Library 2015