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Ralph Johnson Mitchell
Mitchell as Major General, USMC
Born (1891-09-25)September 25, 1891
Died May 31, 1971(1971-05-31) (aged 79)
Place of birth New Britain, Connecticut
Place of death San Diego, California
Place of Burial Scattered at sea
Allegiance United States
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1915–1948
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Service number 0-673
Commands held 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
Director of Marine Corps Aviation
MCAS Cherry Point
9th Marine Aircraft Wing
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Battles/wars

World War I
Nicaraguan Campaign
World War II

Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal (2)

Ralph Johnson Mitchell (September 25, 1891 - May 31, 1970) was a decorated Aviation Officer of the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Lieutenant General. He is most noted for his service as Director of Marine Corps Aviation during the years 1939-1943 and Commanding officer of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing during World War II.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Ralph J. Mitchell was born on September 25, 1891 in New Britain, Connecticut.[1] He attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated on June 5, 1915. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on the same date. He served first as a ground officer in the States and at Guam and after World War I, he was assigned to the flight training. He completed the training and was designated Naval aviator in the Marine Corps in June 1921.[2]

His first aviation assignment was with Naval Air Station Guam, where he stayed until 1923, when he was assigned to the aviation section of the Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. Later he attended Army Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, Virginia. He also attended Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After graduation, Mitchell was appointed Aircraft Squadron Commander within West Coast Expeditionary Force stationed at Naval Air Station San Diego, California.[3]

In December 1929, Major Mitchell was appointed Commander of Squadron attached to the Second Marine Brigade, which was sent to Nicaragua to suppress Sandino Rebellion. On June 19, 1930, Major Mitchell led six-plane patrol, which encountered and attacked a large enemy unit of Sandinistas bandits near the town of Jinotega. Squadron under Mitchell's Command inflicted heavy casualties to Sandinitas Bandits and forced them to retreat. For the extraordinary ability and excellent judgment, Major Mitchell was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross.[4] He was also decorated with the Presidential Order of Merit with Gold star by the Government of Nicaragua.[5]

After his return to the United States, Mitchell was appointed Aircraft Squadron Commander within East Coast Expeditionary Force stationed in Quantico, Virginia. He also attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island in June 1932 and subsequently was transferred to the Headquarters Marine Corps, where he served in Commandant's Department.

In 1935, Mitchell participated in the fleet exercises aboard the USS Lexington and USS Ranger and was involved in the developing of the carrier aircraft operations.[6]

Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell was listed as the Technical Advisor in the opening credits of the 1935 movie called "Devil Dogs of the Air" which starred James Cagney and Pat O'Brien.

World War II[edit | edit source]

Major general Ralph J. Mitchell and Brigadier general Field Harris at Torokina Airfield during air operations within Bougainville Campaign.

Mitchell was promoted to the rank of Brigadier general on March 11, 1939 and was appointed Director of Aviation within Headquarters Marine Corps.[7] In this capacity, he was responsible for the organization of the Marine Air arm for the Pacific Campaign. He was later awarded with the Legion of Merit for his service in this capacity.[8]

Mitchell was subsequently transferred to the Pacific, where relived Major general Roy S. Geiger from command of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on April 21, 1943. He was promoted to the rank of Major General on the same date. He was also Commander Marine Aircraft, South Pacific. Mitchell commanded these units during initial stage of Rabaul operation and subsequently planned and coordinated air strikes against Japanese fortifications at Rabaul.[9] In the upcoming Bougainville Campaign, general Mitchell successfully attacked the supply lines of enemy cargo ships. For his tireless effort Mitchell was decorated with the second Legion of Merit and Navy Distinguished Service Medal.[10]

He continued to command 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and was also appointed Commander of Aircraft at Northern Solomons. He distinguished himself in neutralizing of enemy bases in the Northern Solomons, New Britain and New Ireland and was decorated with Army Distinguished Service Medal.[11]

General Mitchell later participated in the Philippines Campaign and served in the Pacific Theater until June 5, 1945. During his World War II service, he was also decorated with two Air Medals and made Companion of Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath by New Zealand.[citation needed]

Postwar life[edit | edit source]

He returned to the United States in August 1945 and was appointed commander of the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. In this capacity, he was simultaneously a Commander of the 9th Marine Aircraft Wing and later 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, stationed there.

During the summer of 1947, Mitchell was transferred to the Hawaii, where he was appointed Commander of Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. He returned to the United States in early of the year 1948, awaiting retirement.

General Mitchell retired from the Marine Corps in May 1948 and was advanced to the rank of Lieutenant General on the retired list for having been specially commended in combat. Lieutenant General Ralph J. Mitchell died on May 31, 1970 in Naval Medical Center San Diego, California. He was survived by his widow, Belle Thompson Mitchell and their son, Ralph J. Mitchell, Jr., Lieutenant Commander, USNR.[12]

Decorations[edit | edit source]

Here is the ribbon bar of Lieutenant general Ralph J. Mitchell:

Naval Aviator Badge.jpg
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Naval Aviator Badge
1st Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal Army Distinguished Service Medal
2nd Row Legion of Merit with Gold Star Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with Gold Star World War I Victory Medal
3rd Row Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars
4th Row World War II Victory Medal Philippine Liberation Medal with two stars Nicaraguan Presidential Order of Merit with Gold star Companion of Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath

Citations[edit | edit source]

Navy Distinguished Service Medal citation[edit | edit source]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell (MCSN: 0-673), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility while in Command of Aircraft, Solomon Islands, 20 November 1943 to 15 March 1944. Skillfully planning and executing the coordinated air strikes in crushing, offensive blows against the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, New Britain Islands, Major General Mitchell reduced and finally eliminated effective enemy air opposition in that area, crippling hostile shipping to such an extent that the value of Rabaul as a supply port became negligible. His intrepid airmen neutralized enemy air facilities on Bougainville and harassed shipping and barge traffic in the Bougainville-Buka-Choiseul Area, seriously disrupting lines of supply to the entrapped Japanese. During the seizure of Green Island his forces gained complete mastery of the air, thus assisting our troops in occupying this island with a minimum of resistance. As a result of Major General Mitchell's inspiring leadership and tireless devotion to duty, Allied surface ships operated unopposed and bombers carried out unescorted missions throughout the entire South Pacific Area. His indomitable fighting spirit was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[13]

Army Distinguished Service Medal citation[edit | edit source]

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell (MCSN: 0-673), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service from November 1944 to May 1945 in the highly responsible position of Commander, Aircraft Northern Solomons, Allied Air Forces. He welded together air organizations of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, overcoming their many differences in training, organization and equipment to produce a coordinated, devastating striking force which neutralized enemy bases in the Northern Solomons, New Britain and New Ireland. Despite the ever-changing composition of his command and difficult logistical problems, he maintained high morale and effectiveness, and accomplished smooth transitions without breaking the continuity of operations. By his outstanding leadership and superior organizing and administrative ability, General Mitchell made a significant contribution to the success of Allied Air offensives in the Southwest Pacific Area.[14]

Distinguished Flying Cross citation[edit | edit source]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Major Ralph Johnson Mitchell (MCSN: 0-673), United States Marine Corps, for distinguished service while participating in an aerial flight as an aviator attacked to the Second Brigade USMC, operating in the Republic of Nicaragua. On the afternoon of 19 June 1930, Major Mitchell, while a pilot and in command of a six-plane patrol, encountered and attacked a large hostile force of bandits, under Sandino, a few miles north of Jinotoga, Nicaragua. Although on this day weather conditions were far from being ideal and in the face of a very hostile ground fire, Major Mitchell, with courage, skill and great personal risk, flying at a low altitude and over high mountains and perilous jungles, where a forces landing, even if accomplished, meant almost certain death at the hands of the bandits, led and maneuvered his patrol in such an efficient manner as to bring a concentrated attack for one hour and twenty minutes with machine guns and bombs upon the bandits, pinning them to the ground, inflicting many casualties upon the bandits and causing their rout under cover of darkness. As commander of the Aircraft Squadrons in Nicaragua and leader of the flight just cited, Major Mitchell displayed extraordinary ability, excellent judgment and inspired the greatest confidence in the officers and enlisted men under his command. His actions are considered to be deserving of the highest praise.[15]
Military offices
Preceded by
Ross E. Rowell
Director of Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps
March 11, 1939 – March 29, 1943
Succeeded by
Roy S. Geiger
Preceded by
Roy S. Geiger
Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
April 21, 1943 – February 1, 1944
Succeeded by
James T. Moore

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Gen Ralph Johnson Mitchell (1891 - 1970) - Find a Grave Memorial". findagrave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=59515994. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  2. "The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: Mitchell, Ralph J.". pwencycl.kgbudge.com. http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/M/i/Mitchell_Ralph_J.htm. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  3. "LtGen Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militaryhallofhonor.com. http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=3357. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  4. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  5. "LtGen Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militaryhallofhonor.com. http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=3357. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  6. "LtGen Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militaryhallofhonor.com. http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=3357. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  7. "The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: Mitchell, Ralph J.". pwencycl.kgbudge.com. http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/M/i/Mitchell_Ralph_J.htm. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  8. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  9. "HyperWar: USMC Operations in WW II: Vol II - Isolation of Rabaul". ibiblio.org/. https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/II/USMC-II-I-3.html. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  10. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  11. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  12. "LtGen Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militaryhallofhonor.com. http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=3357. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  13. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  14. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  15. "Valor Awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell". militarytimes.com. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27325. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 

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