One Hundred and Fifty Six years ago, September 13, 1860, the commander for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War 1, General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, was born in Laclede, Missouri. He graduated from West Point in 1886, and fought during the Indian Campaigns as a cavalry officer from 1886 to 1891.
From 1891 to 1898, Lt. Pershing instructed tactics at both the University of Nebraska and West Point Military Academy. During the Spanish-American War, he fought with the Tenth Cavalry and the years following the war, he became the Chief Ordinance Officer and rose to the rank of Major. Major Pershing served in the Philippines from 1903 to 1906. In that same year, Pershing was promoted to the rank of General by then President Theodore Roosevelt.
General Pershing, France c. 1918
As General, he governed the Moro Provinces of the Philippines, and during that time was commander during the Battle of Bagsag, July 12, 1913.
In 1915, General Pershing was dealt a great blow to his family, with the deaths of his wife and three daughters. The fire that took them, spared his only son (Warren) who was six years old at the time.
In 1916, he led the expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. Later that year he was made a Major General. In 1917, he was given the command of the AEF, and in October of 1917, was made a full general.
The following link is a recording of General Pershing’s short speech to the American people, recorded in France on April 4, 1918, asking for their support in the war. This Audio is available from the National Archives. Below is the transcription of this recording.
“Three thousand miles from home, an American Army is fighting for you. Everything you hold worthwhile is at stake. Only the the hardest goals can win against the enemy we are fighting. Invoking the spirits of our forefathers, the army asks your unblinking support to the ends, that the high ideals for which America stands may endure upon the earth.”
Gen. John J. Pershing was the supreme commander of American Forces during World War 1, and at the conclusion of The Great War, General Pershing was promoted to “General of the Armies”. Although this post was previously only held by Gen. George Washington, Pershing, nor any other US General could be ranked equal to General Washington.
General Pershing retired in 1924, and passed away on June 15, 1948, at the age of 87. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.