The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

Synopsis: The true story of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneering crusader for the Army's fledgling air corp. In spite of an impressive performance during the First World War, the commanders of America's armed forces still think of the airplane as little more then a carnival attraction. Even after sinking an "unsinkable" captured German battleship from the air, Mitchell sees funds dry up and friends die due to poor equipment. He is court-martialed after questioning the loyalty of his superiors for allowing the air corp to deteriorate.
Genre: Biography, Drama, War
Director(s): Otto Preminger
Production: Warner Bros.
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
100 min

Jimmy, how are you?

Billy, it's good

to see you.

Admiral Sims,

General Mitchell.

We've met.


you know Admiral Gage?

We've exchanged


This is Commander Landsdowne

of our lighter-than-air service.

His dirigible

will patrol the area

during maneuvers.

I know

the commander.

General Mitchell.

I'd like to

clearly state, Billy,

that I'm extremely

and utterly impartial...

in your dispute

with the navy.

That's why

the general staff

assigned me...

to decide whether

to allow you to

carry out this mission.

I assume you have

no objection to me.

I wouldn't want

a fairer judge.

Very well, then.

Admiral, will you state

the navy's position?

That battleship

is the primary target

of our maneuvers.

The air service believes

that it can be sunk

by aerial bombardment.

The navy denies this...

and asks that they

be allowed to sink it

with naval gunfire.

Why does the navy feel

the ship can't be sunk

from the air?

That ship

was once the pride

of the German navy--

the battleship


The British called her

"the unsinkable Dreadnought."

Are you aware

of these facts, General?

Yes, sir.

Would you care to fly

back to Langley Field?

I'll show you exactly

how I intend to sink her.

Yes, I'll be glad to.


What'd you think of that?

All hits or near misses.

Quite impressive.

We'll send that scow

to the bottom

in nothing flat.

Somebody's burning!

Someone's burning!

Look! He's burning!

Call out the crash truck

and the ambulance!

Why doesn't he

use his parachute?

We have no parachutes.

[ Siren Wailing ]

[ Siren Continues ]

[ Coughing ]

Are you all right,


Yeah, I--

I guess so.

I'm a little singed

around the edges.


What happened?

It's that fuel line.

I smelled gas

in the cockpit

when I took off.

Why'd you go up

when you knew

something was wrong?


if it isn't one thing,

it's another.

Today it was that fuel line.


it was an oil pump.

And last week

I almost lost a wing.

And yet I'm luckier

than a lot of the guys.

Now you see, Jimmy,

why I need money so badly.

She certainly could

use some improvements.

But that's not

an impressive weapon,

any way you take it.

It can be. Come here.

I'd like to show you



Sentry, this is

General Guthrie.

Give me a hand,

will you.

Where'd you get those?

I had Ordnance

make it up for me.

One ton

of cast T.N.T.

You're not trying to tell me

that your planes can carry

a 2,000-pound bomb.

Of course they can.

They'll sink the battleship

as though it were a tin can.

Let's be realistic,


A 2,000-pound bomb

is not practical

under wartime conditions.

Maybe you'll

get it in the air,

but never to the target.

That's exactly

what I want to do.

Give me a chance,

and I'll show you

it can be done.

On a staged exhibition, maybe,

but never in combat.

How high do you want to fly?

I'd like to come in

at a thousand feet.

You know as well as I do that

anti-aircraft will knock down

any planes lower than 5,000.


In a real fight,

our pursuit ships

would be in there

strafing their decks.

I have to be realistic

in this, Billy.

After all,

we have performance figures

on our guns.

But the airplane

is an unproved weapon.

I'll prove it to you

if you'll let me.

One of these days,

half the world will be

in ruins from the air.

I want this country

to be in the other half.

If I sink that ship,

we may have

a real air force.

Where's the money coming from?

There's not enough to go around

for the army and navy now.

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Milton Sperling

Milton Sperling (July 6, 1912 – August 26, 1988) was an American film producer and screenwriter for 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., where he had his own independent production unit, United States Pictures. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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