John J. Pershing

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General of the Armies John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing (September 13, 1860 – July 15, 1948) was a senior United States Army officer. His most famous post was when he served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) on the Western Front in World War I, 1917–18.

Quotes[edit]

I want to see all of my people and speak to them so that we may forever be friends.
  • I write you this letter because I am sorry to know that you and your people refuse to do what the government has ordered. You do not give up your arms. Soldiers were sent to Taglibi so that you could come into camp and turn in your guns. When the soldiers went to camp a Taglibi, your Moros fired into camp and tried to kill the soldiers. Then the soldiers had to shoot all Moros who fired upon them. When the soldiers marched through the country, the Moros again shot at them, so the soldiers had to kill several others. I am sorry the soldiers had to kill any Moros. All Moros are the same to me as my children and no father wants to kill his own children. ... I want to see all of my people and speak to them so that we may forever be friends.
    • My Life Before the World War, 1860--1917: A Memoir, pp. 292–293 [1]
  • I am very sorry these Moros are such fools—but this Dajo will not mean the slaugter of women and children, nor hasty assaults against strong entrenchments. I shall lose as few men and kill as few Moros as possible.
    • My Life Before the World War, 1860--1917: A Memoir, p. 293 [2]
  • There was never a moment during the investment of Bud Dajo when the Moros, including women, on the top of the mountain would not have fought to the death had they been given the opportunity. They had gone there to make a last stand on this, their sacred mountain, and they were determined to die fighting. Their former experience on Bud Dago did not deter them from taking this step, and it would not have deterred them from fighting to the death had an effort that their solid determination to fight it out could be broken. The fact is that they were completely surprised at the prompt and decisive action of the troops in cutting of suplies and preventing escape, and they were chagrined and disappointed in that they were not encouraged to die the death of Muhammadan fanatics.
    • My Life Before the World War, 1860--1917: A Memoir, p. 451 [3]
  • In each succeeding war there is a tendency to proclaim as something new the principles under which it is conducted. Not only those who have never studied or experienced the realities of war, but also professional soldiers frequently fall into the error. But the principles of warfare as I learned them at West Point remain unchanged.
    • My Experiences in the World War

Quotes about Pershing[edit]

  • General Pershing's fame rests largely upon his personal character. He was not a genius at strategy and his tactical experience was limited, but in his indomitable will for victory, in his implacable belief in the American soldier, in his invincible resistance to all attempts to exploit or patronize American arms, he rose to the highest flights of his profession. He inspired a self-respect for our national forces and a foreign recognition of our military might which has properly placed us fully equal to the best of the human race. My memories of him sustained and strengthened me during many a lonely and bitter moment of the Pacific and Korean wars.
  • General Pershing was a martinet. There's no disputing that point, but he was a martinet with many offsetting qualities, not the least of which was demonstrated in a sidelight of World War I. When the local requisitions program for the American Expeditionary Force had bogged down, he arranged for his colorful friend Charles G. Dawes to be commissioned directly as a colonel to head the General Purchasing Board. Now Dawes did not understand much about soldiering, and he was a little too old by that point to learn it. Accordingly, Pershing knew enough not to force the issue. So when Dawes, newly promoted to brigadier general, finally rendered a passable salute, Pershing whispered, "Charlie, that's not a bad imitation, but next time move the cigar over to the other side." Secretary of War Newton Baker was also puzzled. At the end of the war he gave up trying to understand how the same man could be such a brilliant strategist and at the same time have so much concern for unbuttoned buttons. Actually, Pershing was not that great a strategist, but he was a master of organization and operations and always kept the higher-level perspectives clearly in mind. His frequent attention to petty detail was part of a much larger view. Disciplined troops fought better and had fewer casualties. In short, he could see the forest, the trees- and at times, nearly every leaf on those trees.
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 23
  • Perhaps this depth of perception explains why a single individual stands out prominently in a crisis. Events become focused, hence mandating that decision making should follow suit. Into this focal point steps a leader who must either sort out the complexities and make the momentous decisions, or be labeled by history as mediocre at best. Few individuals seek that kind of responsibility; fewer yet can handle it. Of the latter, only a rare person of character can survive the exercise of that much power without succumbing to the ever-present leech of corruption. But General Pershing was one of those rare individuals.
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 23–25
  • As a cadet, Pershing seems to have been inspired by the superintendent, Colonel Wesley Merritt (later Major General), whom he took for a role model. Merritt was a strict disciplinarian who also invited Mark Twain to lecture to the cadets. Apparently, the role model took root, perhaps a bit rigid at first. Plebes spent their first three weeks in what was called "beast barracks." At the end of that apprenticeship, they moved to summer camp across the Plain, by which time they had been trained to act rather mechanically. Upperclassmen took advantage of the situation to pull pranks on the unsuspecting plebes. One night after taps, when Pershing was walking guard, one of the upperclassmen dressed up as a ghost and approached. "Who goes there?" Pershing asked. No answer. Again, "Who goes there?" This time the "ghost" opened a folding chair and sat down. Pershing asked, "Who sits there?"
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 25
  • Pershing's academic performance was so-so, and even his otherwise clean disciplinary record was riddled with demerits for being late to formations. Yet on the leadership side,he earned the highest rank each year: the ranking corporal; next, the ranking first sergeant; and in his first class (senior) year, he won the coveted position of First Captain. He also formed a large number of friendships and was elected class president each year, and for life at graduation.
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 25
  • The tactics of trench warfare had devolved into a genocidal meat grinder, into which Pershing had no intention of feeding Americans even if it would have meant eventual victory by attrition. Instead, he advocated maneuver warfare. The problem was that he first had to prove that U.S. soldiers could fight effectively against massed troops supported by murderous machine-gun fire and backed by relentless heavy artillery. Only a Don Quixote would dream of prevailing against those odds. Pershing needed a battlefield that offered at least some temporary room for maneuver. The opportunity arose during the Aisne-Marne offensive, especially at Cantigny, Reims, and Belleau Wood.
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 30
  • Although the American contribution was only a third of the total allied effort at best, it still meant the difference between victory and prolonged trench warfare. Hence, Pershing returned home to great honor and adulation. Congress revived the special rank of General of the Armies for him, while friends encouraged the general to try politics. Unfortunately, that swamp was not for him; he sunk in up to his neck when the water was only knee deep. He stayed with the Army; and when Peyton March's term expired in 1921, moved up to Chief of Staff. Understandably, Pershing's years in that office have not been especially noted by history. His main task was to preside over a demobilized Army that Congress further depleted each year. At the end of his four years, Pershing accepted the directorship of the American Battle Monuments Commission. During that period, he compiled his war memoir, My Experiences in the World War, which was published in two volumes in 1931 and won the Pulitzer prize in history the following year. He lived until 1948, albeit in a state of increasing physical debilitation from 1941 onward. Happily, much of his character rubbed off on his surviving son Warren. When Pershing offered to visit his son at college and walk around the campus, Warren demurred on the grounds that it would be "too swank." When World War II came, Warren enlisted in the Army, went to officers candidate school, and fought in Europe, making his father quite proud.
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 31–32
  • They were having terrorism problems, just like we do, and he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.
    • Donald Trump, during a campaign stop in Pawley's Island, South Carolina (February 19, 2016) [4]. NOTE: Trump was referring to a false story about Pershing which has circulated online. Pershing gave no such orders during his time in command in the Philippines and the alleged incident never happened.
  • Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
    • Donald Trump, on Twitter after the 2017 Barcelona attack. (August 17, 2017) [5]. NOTE: This refers to a false story about Pershing which has circulated online. Pershing never actually did what Donald Trump claims he did, and there has never been any documentation that he gave orders to that effect.

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