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.