John J. PershingMilitary Leader / World War I Figure
Born: 13 September 1860
Died: 15 July 1948
Birthplace: Laclede, Missouri
Best known as: Commander of American armies in Europe during World War I
A school teacher when he went off to West Point military academy in 1882, John Joseph Pershing became the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I and ended up being one of the most celebrated soldiers in United States history. After graduation from West Point (1886), Pershing distinguished himself in Indian campaigns and in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, where he was in the 10th U.S. Cavalry, the African-American unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers (the association earned him the nickname "Black Jack" Pershing). He commanded forces in the Philippines from 1899 to 1905, then did duty as a military attaché to Japan and an observer in the Russo-Japanese War (1905-06). President Theodore Roosevelt promoted Pershing from captain to brigadier general (over 862 officers senior to him) and sent him back to the Philippines, where he served until reassigned to the Mexican border in 1914. In 1915 his wife and three daughters died in a fire -- only his son, Warren, survived. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson sent Pershing after Mexican general Pancho Villa, who had attacked Columbus, New Mexico and killed 17 civilians. For ten months Pershing pursued Villa into Mexico, but was ordered home in 1917 without capturing him. A few months later Pershing was appointed commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) and was sent to France to guide American armies in World War I. A national hero when he returned in 1919, Pershing was given the title General of the Armies, once held exclusively by George Washington. Pershing retired in 1924 and published his memoirs in 1931 (his book My Experiences in the World War won a 1932 Pulitzer Prize).
Extra credit: Pershing had a tremendous influence on other famous soldiers in the United States, including George S. Patton, Jr. and George C. Marshall.
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