WWI General Court-Martialed for Bucking the System/Recommending Better Tech!

General Billy Mitchell is one of the more fascinating stories in American military history.

He was a WWI combat hero who ended up in charge of airplane and tank development in the 1920s.

He quickly saw that all future wars would be won or lost by the combatants with the best airplanes and tanks.

As a result, he pushed so aggressively for more tank and airplane development that he upset his higher-ups so much that they actually arrested, court-martialed and demoted him to colonel.

The military brass at the time (including such notables as General MacArthur and Pershing) was stuck in the last war and totally committed to developing better infantry or soldiers in the field.

The military brass at the time did not want to admit they were wrong; they did not want to give up power to some upstart tank and airplane commanders; they did not want to give up the sunk costs committed to infantry; they didn’t want to risk resources on unproven technology; and they utterly failed to see the obvious future b/c they were so mired in the status quo.

As a result of this thinking, when WWII started America got its ass kicked at first (for want of a better phrase).

Our planes and tanks were woefully behind Germany’s and Japan’s – and thousands of lives were needlessly lost as a result.

We quickly caught up with planes but our tanks remained deficient until the war’s end.

America’s military quickly learned this lesson and thus committed everything to the technology that effectively won the war – the atomic bomb. But, it was too late to save the lost lives or the reputation of Billy Mitchell who died disgraced in 1936 at the age of 56.

Interestingly, America’s military returned to its luddite ways after WWII and we again got caught with inferior technology at the start of the Korean War in 1951 (when Soviet-supplied tanks and planes were better than ours).

I find the Billy Mitchell story utterly fascinating b/c of the drama and intrigue, but also b/c it is so analogous to almost every business.

It is a huge reminder that we all need to constantly scan the horizon for new systems and technology that will completely upend the way we currently do business.

And, we need to experiment with those new systems and tech no matter how vested we are in our current models, and no matter how time-consuming, costly and painful those experiments are.

This is simply one of the necessary pains behind long-term success.

Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
(855) 855-4491 | DRE# 01524255, NMLS# 335646

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