Reenacting the Sinking of the Ostfriesland

A gaggle of F-22s, F-15Es, F-16s, A-10s, T-38s, KC-135s, a B-1, a B-52, and AWACS from nine different bases were assembled at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., last week to commemorate the 95th anniversary of Gen. Billy Mitchell’s airmen sinking the decommissioned German battleship Ostfriesland. The large force employment exercise culminated with aircraft attacking the same spot where the Ostfriesland was sunk on July 21, 1921. Offensive airpower for the US in the early 1920’s was too radical an idea for America to grasp conceptually, so Mitchell pushed an actual demonstration against the premier power projection capability of the day; a battleship—and sunk it. Mitchell recognized the “glacial pace” at which doctrine evolves, and chose a course where the “facts” of airpower’s value and capability could speak for themselves. His crusade was to convince US political and military leadership of the absolute need to develop and better orchestrate air power. Today, the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute works to accomplish the same objectives. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Buzz Moseley spoke about the importance of the event during a July 22 ceremony in the 94th Fighter Squadron hangar at Langley. (See also: Billy Mitchell and the Battleships from the June 2008 issue of Air Force Magazine.) (Watch historical video of the bombing.)