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John J. Pershing: Born into War
May 19, 2011 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Born into War. In 1863, a 3 yr old John J. Pershing was pinned to the floor by his mother to protect him from confederate raiders. In 1886, he left West Point for the western frontier, having been elected class president four years in a row. In 1890 he was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre. In 1898 he fought with Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba, commanding a black cavalry regiment at San Juan Hill. From 1898 to 1901 he was fighting Philippine insurgents. In 1905 he served as an observer in the Russo-Japanese War, arguably the first "modern" war. In 1906 Teddy Roosevelt promoted him to Brigadier General, skipping over 862 senior officers. In 1916 he was hunting Poncho Villa in Mexico. In 1917, Pershing was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Entire American Expeditionary Force of WW1, in which he built an army almost from scratch, organizing, training, and supplying an inexperienced force that eventually numbered two million. 1919 saw Pershing promoted to the highest U.S. Army rank in history, "General of the Armies", a position held previously by George Washington. Pershing lived to see Allied Victory before his death in 1948.
posted by thisisdrew (41 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome post! Thanks, a lot to read.
posted by clockzero at 8:58 AM on May 19, 2011


Never knew the origin of the "Black Jack" nick. ("buffalo soldiers" link) Very cool. I guess he was the first "black" general in the same sense Clinton was the first "black" president.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:02 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


this post is a great read on Black Jack Pershing, as he was known to his troops.
posted by taxpayer at 9:02 AM on May 19, 2011


You say "Philippine insurgents", we say "freedom fighters".
posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 AM on May 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


Look at that profile picture in Life Magazine (last link). That's an 87 year old man who will straight up tan your hide, no questions.
posted by boo_radley at 9:07 AM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Poncho Villa

Come down to Poncho Villa, where the ponchos are ¡muy barato! Look for our store next to Serape Hut.

posted by zamboni at 9:12 AM on May 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


tragic what happened to his wife and three daughters
posted by needsnoprosecutor at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


other asides:

Here is a photo of Pershing with Teddy Roosevelt at near San Juan hill. (via)

..in 1891, was rated second in pistol and fifth in rifle out of all soldiers in the U.S. Army. (via)

Pershing's wife and three daughters were killed in a fire in 1915; only his son Warren survived. (via)
posted by thisisdrew at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any no mention of the Drill that bears his name ?
posted by k5.user at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2011


"Black Jack" is a softening of the original nickname, of course.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:30 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


this post is a great read on Black Jack Pershing, as he was known to his troops

Actualy, Black Jack is a euphamism for the name used by the troops, which used another colorful term for the African-American troops he commanded.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:31 AM on May 19, 2011


1919 saw Pershing promoted to the highest U.S. Army rank in history, "General of the Armies", a position held previously by George Washington.

Actually, Pershing was the first person anointed General of the Armies. The honor was bestowed on Washington rather posthumously in 1976. But otherwise, great post!
posted by Tsuga at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


boo_radley: "Look at that profile picture in Life Magazine (last link). That's an 87 year old man who will straight up tan your hide, no questions"

scroll down to page 39 of the ish to learn of new 12-inch records that can hold an entire symphony.
posted by mwhybark at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2011


Just a nitpick. It's Pancho, not Poncho.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2011


General Pershing's time spent leading black soldiers significantly affected him throughout his military career. He remained deeply concerned with their well being and was instrumental in getting the black organizations into combat rather than being relegated to support operations in the rear. 

Gee, thanks.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great stuff, a whole lot of history there.

This guy was larger than life. Fascinating post.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:57 AM on May 19, 2011


And on November 10/11, 1918, knowing the armistice had been signed and the war was effectively over, he continued hostilities anyway in the belief that the Germans needed to be taught a lesson. Thousands of unnecessary casualties (on the American side alone) were the result of his decision.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:00 AM on May 19, 2011


Just a nitpick. It's Pancho, not Poncho.

Did Pershing know Pancho Villa? you ask. Of course!

One day in Carrizal, they had lunch together.
posted by Herodios at 10:23 AM on May 19, 2011


needsnoprosecutor - Thank you for that link. That is tragic. I wonder what happened to his 5-year-old son, Warren, who survived. (" Only five year-old Warren survived after being rescued by Pershing's long-time black orderly. ")
posted by scunning at 10:29 AM on May 19, 2011


thisisdrew - this is why I come to metafilter constantly, for posts like this one. Thanks.
posted by scunning at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just a nitpick. It's Pancho, not Poncho.

I think the original post was referring to Pershing's inability to find a parking place near the famous Ciudad Chihuahua raincoat outlet store, Poncho Villa.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:31 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look at that profile picture in Life Magazine (last link). That's an 87 year old man who will straight up tan your hide, no questions.

It's the eyes. He sees right through you.
posted by tommasz at 10:32 AM on May 19, 2011


unfortunately, military biographers always seem to be adoring supplicants of their subjects and are able to write glowingly of their actions without asking the obvious important questions such as why in hell we were in cuba, the phillipines and mexico in the first place.
posted by kitchenrat at 10:37 AM on May 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


without asking the obvious important questions such as why in hell we were in cuba, the phillipines and mexico in the first place.

Except that would be more relevant to biographies of the people who sent them there. Indeed, sometimes I just want to know about the people and battles themselves- I can praise or condemn on my own judgement without a lecture.
posted by spaltavian at 10:52 AM on May 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


While I can appreciate the remark made by Spaltavian, nonetheless the question is well worth considering, since many of our heroes are in fact from questionable engagements, ie, Custard's Last stand,and I recall the Nurenburg trials--simply carrying out orders...and, in passing, it was the usual custom for many years to have Black outfits led by white officers.
But it was a delicious post, so thanks.
posted by Postroad at 11:01 AM on May 19, 2011


this is why I come to metafilter constantly, for posts like this one. Thanks.

..thanks. A little backstory: I live in Little Rock, AR, near a "Pershing Blvd", but then while traveling I saw a few more "Pershing" streets. This got me to wondering who was this guy? ..which resulted in an enthralling, all-night internet learning experience, followed by a visit to the local library to get a few books. ..I wanted to share some of that stuff. My high school and university history education was apparently very poor as I'd never heard of Pershing. I suspect I'm not alone.

Next was an embarrassing incident involving myself and my wife at a local Mexican restaurant. I see this picture on the wall, and begin telling her, "hey I know those guys. that's John J. Pershing, standing next to Pancho Villa. Let me tell you how cool that Pershing fellow was.." ..followed by my wife becoming bored with the conversation and calling me a history nerd. ..Posting these links to Mefi fills the need to share this Pershing story with people who might be as enthralled, or more enthralled.

Fascinating to me, is that his generation lived to see SO MUCH hostility. Imagine this poor Missouri kid born in 1860,..living through the Civil War, Indian "wars", Spanish American War, WW1, and WW2. The majority of which he experienced first-hand.
posted by thisisdrew at 11:10 AM on May 19, 2011 [3 favorites]




General Pershing's time spent leading black soldiers significantly affected him throughout his military career. He remained deeply concerned with their well being and was instrumental in getting the black organizations into combat rather than being relegated to support operations in the rear.

Gee, thanks.


Like it or not, it black participation in combat was a major driver of white support for civil rights. Harry Truman's turn about face on civil rights was triggered by an incident where a returning soldier was attacked for wearing his decorations in public. And besides, it's not like the rear is a particularly safe or pleasant place to be in wartime either. If the artillery doesn't get you, the diarrhea might.
posted by ocschwar at 11:20 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Imagine this poor Missouri kid born in 1860,..living through the Civil War, Indian "wars", Spanish American War, WW1, and WW2. The majority of which he experienced first-hand.

Special place in hell for him, then.
posted by jokeefe at 11:28 AM on May 19, 2011


Surprised the Pershing series of medium range missiles weren't mentioned in this post....
posted by KokuRyu at 11:49 AM on May 19, 2011


One of my paternal ancestors served with Pershing hunting down Pancho Villa. I never knew much about Pershing, so thanks for the post.
posted by pentagoet at 12:01 PM on May 19, 2011


ocschwar: "it's not like the rear is a particularly safe or pleasant place to be in wartime either. If the artillery doesn't get you, the diarrhea might."

Rear...diarrhea...I see what you did there.
posted by notsnot at 12:19 PM on May 19, 2011


Is this the same Pershing that allegedly buried Muslims in pig skin to discourage the insurgency?
posted by exhilaration at 12:29 PM on May 19, 2011



Rear...diarrhea...I see what you did there.


Ouch. I didn't mean to do that. Honest. It was my hindbrain's fault.
posted by ocschwar at 12:31 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


scroll down to page 39 of the ish to learn of new 12-inch records that can hold an entire symphony.
posted by mwhybark

The woodwinds in groove c are rather happy with the baggage arrangement, I hear.

Pershing came to Flint Mi. before the first world war or during. He spoke on Charlie Nashs' porch (house is still there) and on the site were the crowd was, the Arrowhead club was built and kitty-corner to that is the Durant-Dort carriage factory office, the office were General Motors was founded.
posted by clavdivs at 12:44 PM on May 19, 2011


Pentagoet, I came here to post that my grandfather, too, was on the punitive expedition to Mexico with Pershing.

Years ago, as I was getting ready to go to Fort Benning for a course, I was cleaning out my grandfather's old footlocker in the front yard. Something fell out into the grass. It was a worn, old Mexican Peseta from 1917.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pershing may also have invented, and lent his name to, the jumping jack -- allegedly as a punishment for cadets (the same ones, no doubt, who came up with that nickname). It's not clear how credible this attribution is, but it's been around for almost a century.
posted by dhartung at 2:12 PM on May 19, 2011


Like it or not, it black participation in combat was a major driver of white support for civil rights.

And indeed, many black veterans became signal drivers of civil rights themselves.
posted by dhartung at 2:14 PM on May 19, 2011


Is this the same Pershing that allegedly buried Muslims in pig skin to discourage the insurgency?

Clearly yes according to your own link. But let's put that allegedly in bold, shall we? The evidence is vanishingly small, really doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I wonder what happened to his 5-year-old son, Warren, who survived.

Followed in the family business and Wall Street.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2011


Are you sure your grandfather didn't go to Spain by mistake atchafalaya?
posted by Omon Ra at 4:58 PM on May 19, 2011


A little backstory: I live in Little Rock, AR, near a "Pershing Blvd", but then while traveling I saw a few more "Pershing" streets. This got me to wondering who was this guy?

My Pop drove a Pershing tank in the Korean War. Thanks for the background; I'll be many days chewing over this post, and sharing a lot of it with my Dad.

Now, ya got anything on Gen. Oliver P. Smith?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:05 PM on May 19, 2011


This is an AMAZING post! Thank you so much! Honestly, you should a) write a best-selling historical fiction novel, b) write a screenplay or c) turn it into a reality show somehow.

All kidding aside, thanks for sharing this with us.
posted by Blogwardo at 8:30 PM on May 19, 2011


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