Milwaukee Renames Its Airport, Stripping Father of the Air Force of His Rank (Again)

Milwaukee just renamed its airport. It’s no longer General Mitchell International Airport and will instead be called Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

  • It no longer claims to be “Chicago’s third airport”

  • It adds Milwaukee to the actual airport name

  • And it’s now just Mitchell and not General Mitchell, consequential because it’s the second time that father of the Air Force William Lendrum Mitchell had his ranked stripped.

Milwaukee airport, Credit: Americasroof, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 license

Milwaukee trademarked “Chicago’s Third Airport” in 2000 but has since abandoned the mark, and Gary, Indiana now uses it. However the Milwaukee airport once sent a cease and desist letter demanding Illinois stop using the phrase promoting a proposal for Peotone airport (an idea that’s been pushed since the 1960s).

Historically people have used Milwaukee as a cheaper alternative to O’Hare and a common destination in throwaway tickets for passengers looking to terminate their journeys in Chicago.

Originally Butler Airport it was renamed for General Mitchell in 1941, honoring the man commonly regarded as founding the Air Force.

Mitchell was court martialed and demoted to Colonel for insubordination — claiming that military leaders engaged in “almost treasonable administration of the national defense” for neglecting investment in air power. He was largely vindicated by history, his demotion attributed to bureaucratic infighting, and his rank restored with a promotion from Brigadier General to Major General posthumously by President Franklin Roosevelt. Now the airport has removed General from his title once again.

To be sure putting Milwaukee in the airport name emphasizes where it is but I don’t think anyone was referring to it as General Mitchell without reference to the city anyway, and the airport’s 3 letter code MKE is a dead giveaway. The idea that this rebranding is going to “help[..] more people recognize MKE as an option” when they want to fly to Milwaukee seems to me patently absurd.

Meanwhile the irony of an airport named for General Mitchell – who had his title of General stripped by the military — having his title stripped from the airport that honors him is a bit too much.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Outrageous! Just shows how stupid as a country we have become. Who needs history and heroes anymore, right?

    Actually, although senior officers refused to stand-up for Gen. Mitchell in the 1920s, despite knowing how correct he was, Mitchell was persecuted-and prosecuted-because he:
    1) Was a visionary re the potential of strategic bombing, to the concern of our Army.
    2) Evidenced the vulnerability of surface naval vessels to being sunk by bombers, to the angst of our Navy.
    3) Correctly predicted the attack on Pearl Harbor, but missed the projected date.

    We should not ever stand for the diminishing of our heroes!

    Note how we successfully pushed back on the novice mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, when he ignorantly proposed to re-name ORD and MDW in honor of his political pal, President Obama. How was it possible for Emanuel not to even appreciate how MDW was named in honor of the USN’s mighty victory against the Imperial Japanese Navy at Midway Island—which completely turned the tide of the war in the Pacific in June, 1942–but 6 months after Pearl Harbor. Note also how ORD was named in honor of a USN fighter pilot, “Butch” O’Hare, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving his carrier, USS Lexington; later, he died developing night fighter tactics.

    Pathetic how civil leaders are graveling as if to gain recognition by Louis XIV; energetically dismissing our history and who we are.

    Ironically, when MKE was well served by Midwest Express, MKE actually enjoyed its new found status as Chicago’s third airport, particularly in respect to Chicago’s north shore suburbs so much more convenient to MKE vs. ORD.

    To appreciate my point, do visit the wonderful display on navy pilot O’Hare at ORD (between I believe AA3-UA1).. Personally, I go there every time I fly.

    General Billy Mitchell must be honored and not abbreviated or mimized! Frankly, otherwise it would be like Marines not saying every night, “Good night, Chesty, wherever you are.”

  2. If you type “Milwaukee Airport” into Waze or Google maps it auto populates with “General Mitchell International Airport”. I think the number of confused people was vanishingly low. Now it actually sounds worse as “Milwaukee Mitchell”, should have just taken the name completely out.

  3. One of my favorite airports…. the museum and bookstore are both such great ways to spend time prior to your flight. At least they kept “Mitchell” in the title, but this seems to be a mistake by some Milwaukee Marketing Group (or whatever it’s called). Milwaukee is a fine city… stand on your own and keep what is yours and William (Billy) MItchell Airport is something to keep.

  4. At least one Billy Mitchell Airport lives. It is a small general aviation field near Cape Hatteras, NC.

    MKE is not the only airport renamed to better identify with the city. Years and years ago Weir Cook Municipal was renamed Indianapolis International. Not as famous as Mitchell, Weir Cook was a Hoosier WWI ace in Rickenbacker’s Hat in the Ring Squadron. Col. Cook was killed in WWII at New Caledonia in the South Pacific. It was a bad-weather, controlled-flight-into-terrain accident. To partially make up for the name change, the new IND terminal and its access road bear his name .

  5. After working at ORD from 1965-1989 with Delta, I transferred to MKE. What a GREAT move as

    it is a smaller terminal with most of the employees, police, and shop employees knowing each

    other, maybe NOT by name but by site. The name to me will ALWAYS remain Gen. Mitchell

    Airport. Let them do what ever they want, the name will ALWAYS stay in MY mind.

  6. We should all remember that Milwaukee is a quasi socialist city. For many years we only elected socialist (Meyer)as mayors. That mentality remains in that city. So Mitchell had his rank stopped from him but was later returned by FDR. Do we now remove the name Columbus from cities because of the recent fashion to destroy our history. Is Washington next?
    I grew up living very close to Gen. Mitchell field. I well remember when it was used as an interment camp for German POWs. To me it will always be Billy Mitchel field.

  7. Y’all need to take a deep breath, folks. The names of Chicago’s two airports are related to events in World War II in the Pacific, and neither include the full name/description. The airport on the south side isn’t called “The Battle of Midway Airport,” and the airport out north isn’t called “Lt. Commander Henry ‘Butch’ O’Hare Airport.”
    You honor the person who did the deeds, not their title, however well deserved.
    Are any of you upset that there isn’t “President” before Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport?

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