Bios

John Joseph Pershing

John Joseph 'Black Jack' Pershing, America’s greatest general of the First World War, was born in Linn County, Missouri in 1860.

Spending some time as a schoolteacher at Prairie Mound, Pershing entered and won a fiercely competitive entry process to secure an appointment at West Point Military Academy in 1882.

Pershing was no great scholar, finishing 30th out of a class of 77, but his leadership qualities were immediately noted.

The class of 1886 elected him president and he achieved highest rank in the cadet battalion. He commanded the cadet corps as they presented arms to the funeral cortege of Ulysses S. Grant.

Having won the Silver medal fighting on frontier duty against the Apache and Sioux since 1886, he took up a professorial position at Nebraska University in 1891.

He also saw action in the Cuban War (1898), the Philippines (1903) and the Ruso-Japanese War (1904-5). Promoted to Brigadier General, he led the campaign against Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1917.

With his assumption of the role of Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, he set about enlarging the National Army from 25,000 men to almost three million.

Though his optimism was tempered by experience of the Western Front, he successfully led to Meuse Argonne offensive of 1918.

Pershing argued for a complete military victory and punitive cease-fire terms, and was highly critical of Versailles.

In 1921, he became Chief of Staff of the US Army, later winning the Pulitzer Prize for My Experience of War in 1932.

Pershing died on 15 July 1948 in Washington, D.C.