WarPeople - John J Pershing

John Joseph Pershing, born 1860, graduated from West Point in 1886, and graduated 30th in a class of 77, although he was commended by the Superintendent of that prestigious military academy as having high leadership skills. He went on to serve with the 6th Cavalry and saw action before the Great War, against the Apache, the Spanish, and the Mexicans, during the course of which he became an expert marskman - he was rated second in pistol and fifth in rifle out of all soldiers in the US Army.

Popular with Theodore Roosevelt, the president convinced Congress to appoint Pershing a brigadier general, thus skipping three ranks and outraging several high ranking Army officers, who for the rest of their careers maintained that Pershings rank was due to political connections rather than military expertise.

In 1917 Woodrow Wilson placed Pershing in command of the American Expeditionary Force, making him responsible for training, organising and supplying a force of 27,000 men which would grow to a size of over 2 million soldiers. He fought constant political battles to keep the AEF from being split up to augment British and French forces - only partially successful in this initially, this greatly slowed the arrival of large numbers of US troops to the front lines, but on the other hand it did give the volunteers and conscripts time to actually train and have a chance to learn something before being sent to the guns. In the final months of the war the AEF took up its place on the line, relieving the exhausted French, and under his command executed the successful Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the final great Allied push of the war.

He retired from active duty in 1924, having been awarded the title of "General of the Armies", a rank previously held only by George Washington (and then only due to a retrospective award in 1976).

"I have come to tell you that the American people will hold it a high honour that their troops should take part in the present battle.
I ask you to permit this in my name and in theirs. At the present moment there is only one thing to do, to fight. Infantry, artillery, aeroplanes - all that I have I put at your disposal - do what you like with them. More will come - in fact, all that may be necessary.
I have come expressly to tell you that the American people will be proud to take part in this, the greatest and most striking battle of history.

- John J Pershing to Ferdinand Foch, 28th March, 1918"

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