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The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

U.S. Cavalry Insignia




Presented the Great War Society


September 13, 1860
Born at home Laclede, Missouri in Linn County, son of a railroad section boss. The family was of Alsatian origins, originally spelling their name "Pfirsching".

To help the family finances which were still reeling from the depression of 1873, JJP begins teaching at a Negro school in Laclede.

Moves to Prairie Mound school district 10 miles away.

West Point Parade

Finishes first out of sixteen in competitive examination for an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point.

June 1882
After attending a tutoring academy run by former Confederate officer Colonel Caleb Huse for six months, JJP enters the academy.

June 1886
JJP graduates as First Captain ranking 30th in his class. It was at West Point that he receives his nickname "Black Jack".

September 1886
2nd Lt. Pershing reports for duty with 6th Cavalry at Fort Bayard, New Mexico. Participated in the tragic Wounded Knee campaign.

10th Cavalry on Patrol

Assigned to the University of Nebraska as military science professor where he serves for four years meeting future US Vice-President and subordinate general officer, Charles Dawes. He studies the Law at Lincoln.

Various Cavalry assignments in the West, including the 10th Cavalry, the black Buffalo Soldiers.

Assistant Instructor of Tactics at West Point.

Buffalo Soldier in Winter Kit

May, 1898
JJP re-assigned back to the 10th Cavalry.

July 1, 1898
With 10th Cavalry in assault on San Juan Hill in Cuba where he is photographed with Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt. JJP is singled out by his commander, Lt. Col. T.A. Baldwin, a Civil War veteran, as "the coolest man I ever saw under fire..."

Fall 1899
JJP sails to the Philippines where he is assigned to the Eighth Army Corps. His mission was mainly to subdue the combative Moro tribesmen. Eventually promoted to Captain. He serves as an adjutant, engineer, customs officers and cavalry commander.

Philippine Insurrectionists

Opponents to American Rule of the Philippines

After returning to Washington for service with the War Department JJP meets Frances Warren, daughter of Wyoming senator Francis E. Warren

January 26, 1905
Frances and JJP marry at the Church of the Epiphany and hold their reception at the Willard Hotel in Washington.

February 14, 1905
Mr. & Mrs. Pershing sail for JJP's new duty, Military Attache in Tokyo.

March-September, 1905
Serves as observer to Russo-Japanese War.

September 1906
First of four Pershing children, Helen Elizabeth, is born; President Roosevelt gives Captain Pershing a jump to Brigadier General over 862 senior officers to command the Department of California, and Fort McKinley.

Back in the Phillipines, JJP leads successful assault on Moro stronghold at Mount Bagsak, Island of Jolo. Subsequently writes Adjutant General that he did not believe he was entitled to the Medal of Honor for which he was being considered. Served as governor of Moro Province and, later, Commander of Mindanao.

JJP takes command of the Presidio of San Francisco and the 8th Brigade. Subsequently the Brigade is assigned to the Mexican border with Pershing second-in-command to Maj. Gen. Frederick Funston.

August 1915
Frances and all three Pershing daughters die in a fire at the Presidio. JJP returns back to San Francisco to attend the funeral and arrange for bringing his surviving son Warren to Fort Bliss in Texas.

March 9, 1916
Pancho Villa raids Columbus, New Mexico. Within days Pershing is sent with a force of nearly 10,000 in pursuit of the bandit.

Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa

February 1917
After 10 frustrating months, US President Wilson and Mexican President Carranza reach an understanding and the punitive expedition is sent home. Meanwhile, Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare and America starts down the final path to World War.

April 6 1917
The United States declares war on Germany.

May 10, 1917
JJP, recently made a Major General after the death of his immediate superior, Frederick Funston, is called to Washington. At 10:30 am, Secretary of War Newton Baker informs him that he is to command the American troops to be sent to Europe.

May 19, 1917
President Wilson instructs JJP "to proceed to France at as early a date as practicable."

May 28, 1917
JJP and staff leave for Europe aboard White Star liner Baltic.

June 8, 1917
JJP arrives in Liverpool, England.

June 1917 - September 1919

It is impossible to summarize Pershing's day-to-day activities in France here. The editors of THE DOUGHBOY CENTER will be adding articles covering this period and welcome contributions on Pershing's effort as Commander of the AEF.

Pershing, Admiral Sims & Other Dignitaries

Pershing, Adm. Sims & Allied Generals

Inspecting a French Outpost

September 1, 1919
With Marshall Foch personally bidding him adieu, JJP departs for home aboard the liner Leviathan.

September 8, 1919
JJP arrives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

September 17, 1919
JJP leads a victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Two days later he addresses a Joint Session of Congress.

July 1, 1921
JJP named Army Chief of Staff.

After the War

Post-War Ceremony

September 13, 1924
On his 64th birthday, JJP retires from the Army. The night before, he had become the first Chief of Staff to address the nation coast-to-coast on the radio.

May 13, 1937
JJP attends the opening of the Meuse-Argonne Monument on Montfaucon culminating his post-army active leadership and on going support for the American Battle Monuments Commission.

February 1938
While vacationing in Tucson, Arizona JJP is stricken with a severe coronary/renal ailment and lapses into a coma. He subsequently makes a near-miraculous recovery and the planning for his funeral halted.

Pershing warns that the United States active and reserve forces were no longer adequate. He makes his last visit to the cemeteries and memorials in France just before World War II began.

In the Declining Years

In declining health, JJP takes up permanent residence at Walter Reed hospital. There he receives distinguished visitors and his former subordinates heading off to fight another war while occasionally making quotable observation about the military situation.

July 15, 1948
General of the Armies John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces of World War I dies in the early morning hours. He is buried at Arlington with his men beneath a standard gravestone.


The Iron Commander

Sources and thanks: Excerpted from THE YANKS ARE COMING: The Story of General John J. Pershing. By the Editors of the Army Times; Putnam's, 1960. Photos from Pershing's Rifles and various US Army websites. MH

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