The award-winning documentary “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” tells the story of World War I General John J. Pershing’s life and the personal tragedy so painful Pershing could never speak of it.
Black Jack Pershing: Love and War – is an important, dynamic, entertaining documentary featuring a man and his life which was pivotal to America’s successful campaigns during World War 1. The story and history as developed by Barney McCoy adds to our understanding of American history accurately and poignantly, and exemplifies the power of filmmaking. -Ron Hull, Nebraska Public Broadcasting
When America entered WWI in April of 1917 its military was hardly prepared for war. There were roughly 220,000 U.S. soldiers and officers. America’s troops initially lacked the training needed to effectively fight a veteran German army that used modern warfare tactics.
Germany’s high-powered artillery, poison gas, machine guns, fortified defensive positions and fighter planes exacted a heavy toll on U.S. troops. The Americans fought German troops with French, British, Canadian, Australian and other allied forces in deadly combat along 400 miles that comprised the Western Front.
General John J. Pershing was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. His nickname was “Black Jack.”
Commanding U.S. troops against overwhelming odds would be the greatest challenge of Pershing’s military career. Twenty months after America joined the fight, Pershing and two million troops helped turn the battle tide. Germany was forced to surrender on November 11, 1918.
November 11th is Armistice Day, also recognized as Veteran’s Day in America. The WWI armistice began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 and marked the end of four years of bitter World War I fighting between Germany and the Allies.
November 11, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice. The following 100-day World War I pictorial countdown will take us up to the 100th anniversary of the Great War’s armistice.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018-
He was the American doughboy who would be America’s president. Harry Truman was the only American president that saw combat action in World War I. According to author H.W. Crocker III, after two enlistments with the National Guard, Truman returned to the family farm in Missouri in 1911 to help support his family.
That changed in April 1917. When America declared war against Germany, Truman quickly reenlisted in the National Guard in June. Before his unit finished training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Truman was recommended for promotion to captain. By April 1918, he was in France attending Advanced Artillery School and graduated with his captain’s promotion. Truman didn’t particularly care for France or the French. Typical was his frustration with the dining habits of French officers: “It takes them so long to serve a meal that I’m always hungrier when I get done than I ever was before.”
Truman saw his first action in August 1918, amid the mud and mire of the Vosges mountain range in Alsace-Lorraine, firing an artillery barrage and being fired on in return. The captain stood his ground. Many of his men did not. He cursed them for it, and won their respect.
September brought Truman to the Argonne Forest and the Meuse-Argonne offensive that would end the war. Truman remembered that the opening barrage, to which his battery contributed, belched out “more noise than human ears could stand. Men serving the guns became deaf for weeks after. I was deaf as a post from the noise. It looked as though every gun in France was turned loose and the sky was red from one end to the other from the artillery flashes.”
The artillery followed the infantry, and at the end of it all, with the armistice in November, only one man in Truman’s battery, Battery D, had been killed in action and only two others had been wounded, all of them while detailed to another command. He had performed exceptionally well. The war was the making of Truman. Decades later he would become America’s 33rd president.
Below: Read a letter Harry Truman wrote his future wife Bess during the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne in October 1918.
Monday, August 20, 2018-
On a cold January night in 1919, U.S. Army Col. Luke Lea and six American soldiers made an illegal crossing into Holland and a brazen visit to a 17th-century Dutch castle. There, German Kaiser Wilhelm II lived in exiled comfort with his wife and entourage. Lea demanded an audience with the deposed WWI ruler. Lea’s intention, he claimed, was to kidnap “Kaiser Bill,” and deliver him to face war-crime charges in Paris, where the allies were holding peace talks.
After learning of the German troop retreat from her district in World War I, a French woman returns to find her home a heap of ruins. During the First World War, specifically at the time of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, many villages in northern France were destroyed by the fighting. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
According to Reuters, ten months of fighting saw German and French troops being pushed backwards and forwards, and by December 1916 the French had retaken almost all the territory that had been lost. German troops did not come through, but nine villages had been utterly wiped out. An estimated 300,000 French and German soldiers were killed and over 450,000 were injured.
After the Great War, it was decided that the villages should not be rebuilt, and most have remained without any inhabitants. But nonetheless they are still administered by unelected mayors, who are chosen by local authorities after a law was passed in 1919, symbolically maintaining their administrative existence.
See the BBC video below for more on the devastation left behind after WWI ended.
Saturday, August 18, 2018-
German soldiers in France in 1918. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
In August 1914, Europe’s great powers prepped their armies and navies for a fight, but no one was preparing for a long struggle—both sides were counting on a short, decisive conflict that would end in their favor. “You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees,” Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany assured troops leaving for the front in the first week of August 1914. More than four years later, Germany surrendered WWI on November 11, 1918, its economy in shambles and army badly tattered. According to a summary of World War I casualties, complied by the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, 1,773,700 German soldiers and sailors were among the war dead, 4,216,058 wounded, 1,152,800 prisoners, for a total of 7,142,558 casualties- a sobering 54.6 percent of the 13,000,000 soldiers Germany mobilized for the war. Click here to read more from the German perspective.
Friday, August 17, 2018-
U.S. Army Infantry troops: African-American unit, marching northwest of Verdun, France, in World War I. Because of segregationist policies, most African-American combat troops served, not with white U.S. troops, but with French troops during WWI. Many of the African-American soldiers were later given medals for their battlefield gallantry and valor by the French government. Photo: Library of Congress.
According to Military.com, while still discriminatory, the Army was far more progressive in race relations than the other branches of the military. Blacks could not serve in the Marines, and could only serve limited and menial positions in the Navy and the Coast Guard. By the end of World War I, African Americans served in cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer, and artillery units, as well as serving as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists, and intelligence officers.
Although technically eligible for many positions in the Army, very few blacks got the opportunity to serve in combat units. Most were limited to labor battalions. The combat elements of the U.S. Army were kept completely segregated. The four established all-black Regular Army regiments were not used in overseas combat roles but instead were diffused throughout American held territory.
There was such a backlash from the African American community, however, that the War Department finally created the 92nd and 93nd Divisions, both primarily black combat units, in 1917. The video below about the 93rd Division was created by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWI.
According to the National Museum of the U.S. Army, In October 1917, 639 African-American men received their commissions as either captain or first or second lieutenant, and were assigned to infantry, artillery, and engineer units with the 92nd Division. This was to be the first and only class to graduate from Fort Des Moines; the War Department shut it down soon after their departure. Future black candidates attended either special training camps in Puerto Rico (from which 433 officers graduated), the Philippines, Hawaii, and Panama, or regular officer training facilities in the United States .
The Army had no written policy on what to do if an officer training camp became integrated, so each camp was allowed to decide for itself the manner in which the integration was executed. Some were completely segregated and others allowed for blacks and whites to train together. Over 700 additional black officers graduated from these camps, bringing the total number to 1,353.
Although African Americans were earning higher positions in the Army, that did not necessarily mean they were getting equal treatment. Black draftees were treated with extreme, racist hostility when they arrived for training. White men refused to salute black officers and black officers were often barred from the officer’s clubs and quarters. The War Department rarely interceded, and discrimination was usually overlooked or sometimes condoned. Because many Southern civilians protested having blacks from other states inhabit nearby training camps, the War Department stipulated that no more than one-fourth of the trainees in any Army camp in the U.S. could be African American.
Even when integrated into fairly progressive camps, black soldiers were often treated badly and sometimes went for long periods without proper clothing. There were also reports of blacks receiving old Civil War uniforms and being forced to sleep outside in pitched tents instead of warmer, sturdier barracks. Some were forced to eat outside in the winter months, while others went without a change of clothes for months at a time.
Not all black soldiers suffered treatment like this, however, as those who were lucky enough to train at newly erected National Army cantonments lived in comfortable barracks and had sanitary latrines, hot food, and plenty of clothes.
Thursday, August 16, 2018-
Lady ambulance drivers decorated for their bravery during WWI air raids assemble to be presented with commendation medals in March of 1918. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
Author Evangeline Holland summed it up nicely when she wrote: “In the early 1900s, driving an automobile was an act of independence and privilege, and…a woman driving an automobile in the early 1900s exercised her ability to go wherever she wanted when she wanted. This was an undoubtedly terrifying specter in the era of militant suffragist demonstrations, and the resistance towards women stepping outside of their “place” forced women ambulance drivers during WWI to carefully navigate their roles as “helpmeets” (proper femininity) with their “masculine” positions in the thick of the war.”
American Mary Dexter, a volunteer with the British Red Cross wrote vivid and compelling descriptions of her time as an ambulance driver in France during WWI. Wanting to get closer to the Front … Mary Dexter joined the Hackett-Lowther Unit for an initial six-month term. The Hackett-Lowther Unit was a private ambulance and canteen service run by two women and ‘the only’ female unit at the Front. The British would not permit women so close to the front, and they were surprised to drop by the French facility and see women there. See Dexter’s photo below from her time as an ambulance driver.
Author Jennifer Robson wrote: “The ambulance vehicles were difficult to drive and maintain, particularly so in cold or rainy weather. The routes the drivers traveled were exceptionally treacherous and the hours they worked were very long. Worst of all was the suffering of their passengers, to which they were witness day after day, night after night, month after soul-destroying month. Ernest Hemingway, himself a volunteer ambulance driver with the Red Cross, described it simply in a letter to his parents. “The ambulance is no slacker’s job.””
Wednesday, August 15, 2018-
First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, World War I American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France.
With 26 aerial victories, he was America’s most successful fighter ace in WWI. Rickenbacker was also considered to have received the most awards for valor by an American during the war. Rickenbacker flew a total of 300 combat hours, reportedly more than any other U.S. pilot in the war. His life story may exceed even the imagination of Hollywood.
When Rickenbacker learned of the WWI armistice, he flew an airplane above the western front to observe the ceasefire and the displays of joy and comradeship, as the formerly warring troops crossed the front lines and joined in the celebrations.
Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross a record eight times. One of these awards was converted in 1930 to the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre by France. After WWI, Rickenbacker was a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines. Photos: National Archives and Records Administration
In the late 1950s, a film profile on Rickenbacker, named “The Immortal Ace,” was narrated and hosted by Arthur Godfrey. From: PeriscopeFilm.com
After the successful trial use of Harley-Davidson motorcycles by the U.S. Army to hunt down Pancho Villa and his troops during the Mexican Revolution, the government ramped up their use in Europe during World War I. more than 60,000 Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles were manufactured for the U.S. military. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
Pictured above- The Indian Powerplus Big Twin: Leading into World War I, Indian motorcycles dedicated nearly all of its production resources to the war effort.
Author Maxwell Barna noted that the result was 50,000 Indian Powerplus Big Twins, which were both faster and, thanks to a swanky rear suspension, more maneuverable than their Harley counterparts.
Below: The very first American who set foot on German soil in Germany the day after the 11/11/1918 Armistice, was a corporal named Roy Holtz of the U.S. Army. Holtz entered Germany riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and sidecar. According to Harley-Davidson archivist Bill Jackson, the first year of military production was 1917 when half of Harley’s production went to the military. By 1918, the vast majority of Harley’s production was going to the military with both Harley and Indian as suppliers. The motorcycles were primarily used for dispatch use, carrier use and troop escort services. Photo: Harley-Davidson
Monday, August 13, 2018-
From all along the battlelines these German prisoners filed into France as the French, British and American troops turned the WWI battle tide against Germany along the Western Front in late 1918.
The situation of WWI prisoners of war s an aspect of the conflict little covered by historical research. However, the number of soldiers imprisoned reached a little over seven million for all the belligerents who fought in the Great War.
Photo: Keystone View Company
Sunday, August 12, 2018-
Wake up America! Civilization calls every man, woman and child!
By: James Montgomery Flagg.
Given the troubled political times America finds itself in today, I thought this WWI poster might be appropriate.
This poster shows a woman dressed in Stars & Stripes, symbolizing America asleep. After two and a half years of neutrality, the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. James Montgomery Flagg, who created some of the war’s most indelible images, sounded the alarm for all citizens in this poster which was featured in “Wake Up, America” Day in New York City just thirteen days later on April 19th. Actress Mary Arthur was Flagg’s model for Columbia who is a personification of America and Liberty. She is shown asleep, wearing patriotic stars and stripes and a Phrygian cap–a symbol of freedom since Roman times. While she dozes against a fluted column, another visual reference to Western classical antiquity and civilization, sinister storm clouds gather in the background. (Source: Library of Congress)
Saturday, August 11, 2018-
Soldiers in the U.S. 23rd Infantry gun crew fighting in the Argonne Forest in France during the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne in late 1918. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.
The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne lasted 47 days and was the pivotal America-led part of the Allies push against German troops that ended the war and forced Germany’s surrender. The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne was the largest battle in American military history with more than 1.2-million Doughboys and 50,000 French troops fighting German troops at its peak in late October and early November of 1918.
The battle cost 28,000 German lives, 26,277 American lives and an unknown number of French lives. It was the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), which were commanded by General John J. Pershing. U.S. troop losses were exacerbated by the inexperience of many of the troops and the tactics used during the early phases of the operation.
Friday, August 10, 2018-
Some of the American “Hello Girls” who, according to the Doughboy Center, answered General John J. Pershing’s appeal for bilingual telephone-switchboard operators from the U.S. to serve in France during WWI. Pershing’s “Emergency Appeal” specifically requested women, who worked as switchboard operators for the new Bell Telephone Company, be sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Pershing stated, “women have the patience and perseverance to do long, arduous detailed work.”
According to NPR, at the height of the fighting, 223 “Hello Girls” connected over 150,000 calls per day. Meanwhile, male Signal Corps soldiers were busy stringing telephone wire for communications from the combat trenches to Pershing’s A.E.F. headquarters at Chaumont, France. It was the first time in the history of warfare that soldiers in the front-lines were connected to the General command. Because they were women, the Department of War denied the “Hello Girls” veteran status — including benefits, medical care, commendations, honorable discharges, military funerals, even the right to wear their uniforms for 60 years until their service was finally recognized during the Carter presidency in 1977. Photo: Harvard University Archives
Thursday, August 9, 2018-
General John “Black Jack” Pershing arrives in France with the first American troops on June 13, 1917.
There were 190 American soldiers and civilians in Pershing’s entourage when it stepped onto French soil at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during WWI which grew to more than 2-million fighting U.S. troops by the end of the war.
Photo: Imperial War Museum
Wednesday, August 8, 2018-
The deadly aftermath of a battle between U.S. 4th Division troops and dug-in German machine gunners along a sunken road near Arras., France in February 1918.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
Tuesday, August 7, 2018-
The first party of American soldier engineers to arrive at the British front in France in early 1918. Near Boisleux-en-Mont, France in the Arras area.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
Monday, August 6, 2018-
Photo 1: Some of the African-American soldiers from the 369th “Harlem Hellfighters” Regiment on their return trip home from serving with French troops in WWI. These men were decorated by the French government with the French Croix de Guerre because they distinguished themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy.
Photo 2: African-American soldiers of the 369th in service with French troops during WWI. Two-point-three million blacks registered [for the draft]” during WWI. Although the Marines would not accept them, and the Navy enlisted few and only in menial positions, large numbers served in the army. Some 375,000 blacks served overall, including “639 men [who] received commissions, a historical first,” author Chad L. Williams writes in his essay “African Americans and World War I.”Photos: National Archives and Records Administration
Sunday, August 5, 2018-
Officers and crew of the German submarine U.58, captured by the U.S.S. Fanning, entering the War Prison Camp at Fort McPherson, Georgia in April 1918.
In late January 1917, Germany announced that its U-boats would engage in unrestricted submarine warfare. On March 17, German submarines sank three American merchant vessels, and the U.S. declared war on Germany in April 1917.
Photo: Mathewson & Winn
Unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 was initially very successful, sinking a major part of Britain-bound shipping. With the introduction of escorted convoys, shipping losses declined and in the end the German strategy failed to destroy sufficient Allied shipping. An armistice became effective on 11 November 1918 and all surviving German submarines were surrendered. Of the 360 submarines that had been built, 178 were lost, but more than 11 million tons of shipping had been destroyed.
U-boats in a German harbor. Photo: Library of Congress
Saturday, August 4, 2018-
A shattered church in the ruins of Neuvilly, France becomes a temporary shelter for WWI American wounded in September 1918.
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
Friday, August 3, 2018-
The devastated coal mining region in the town of Lens in northern France during WWI. An estimated seven-point-five million men lost their lives on the Western Front during World War One. The front was opened when the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium in 1914 and then moved into the industrial regions in northern France.
It was in this region that both sides dug vast networks of trenches that ran all the way from the North Sea to the Swiss border with France. This line of tunnels remained unaltered, give or take a mile here and a mile there, for most of the four-year conflict.
We’re off to see the Wizard. Actually, we’re off to screen “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” at this year’s Kansas International Film Festival. Our documentary on the life of WWI General John J. Pershing has been selected to screen at the festival during it’s run from October 12-18 in Overland Park, Kansas.
We’ll post more details for the screening date, time, tickets, and theater in the coming weeks. Hope you’ll join us in Overland Park this October.
My sincere appreciation to all who came to the National World War I Museum and Memorial for the screening of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” in Kansas City, Missouri on August 2.
Our audience of roughly 130 asked questions about General Pershing’s promotion over 800 more senior officers to the rank of brigadier general. Thus began his ascension to becoming the commander of U.S. forces in WWI and the highest-ranking active-duty officer in U.S. history.
The audience wanted to know what Pershing might think of today’s military and political scene in America. I told them I didn’t think Pershing would approve. They asked about Pershing’s strategic tactics in WWI that began with large U.S. combat casualties and ended with Germany’s surrender to the Allies in 1918.
I was honored to have retired lieutenant colonel Shawn Faulkner, an outstanding military historian at Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, join me in the question-and-answer session after the screening of the documentary. It was a wonderful evening in one of America’s most beautiful war memorials.
Did you know Pershing and the other four Allied commanders came to Kansas City to dedicate the war memorial in 1921? The event may have drawn the largest crowd in Kansas City history.
By the way, the National WWI Museum and Memorial is the largest of its kind in America. There is no current WWI memorial in Washington, D.C. to pay tribute to the 4-million American men and women who served and sacrificed in the Great War.
World War I remains America’s forgotten war, even though more Americans gave their lives during that war than during Korea and Vietnam combined, and even though it profoundly shaped the rest of “the American century.”
More than four million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during the Great War. 116,516 U.S. soldiers died from combat and disease. Another 200,000 were wounded, a casualty rate far greater than in World War II. More than 350,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military, as did Native Americans and members of other minority groups. And, for the first time, women joined the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.
Thanks to NWWIMM curator Doran Cart and his fantastic staff for inviting me to screen the Pershing documentary in Kansas City. Thanks to Amy Struthers, interim dean of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications who drove down to Kansas City from Lincoln to attend the screening and meet with CoJMC alumna.
And a very special thanks to Rebecca Richmond and her son Tyler who came to our screening. Becky’s husband Brad was one of the videographers and an enthusiastic supporter of the Pershing documentary project.
Brad passed away this summer after a long battle with cancer. He was a former TV News colleague, a great father and husband, a protector of animals, and a dear friend of mine.
General John “Black Jack” Pershing escorts French General and WWI Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch on a visit of America that culminates with the last time the allied commanders of WWI would be together for the November, 1921 dedication of the War Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. See the video below.
On August 1, 1937, WWI General John “Black Jack” Pershing dedicated the American memorial in Montfaucon, France that honored the U.S. and French soldiers who died fighting in the 1918 Battle of the Meuse-Argonne. As he reflected on the pivotal battle of the Great War, Pershing delivered one of the greatest military speeches in American history. Listen and watch it in the video below.
General John J. Pershing, a Missouri native and prominent historical figure in Nebraska, commanded American troops in World War I. He rose to global recognition with an illustrious military career that included the Allied victory in WWI. Drawn from personal papers, archival photographs and film, the award-winning documentary Black Jack Pershing: Love and War tells the story of Pershing’s military career and his personal life, including tragedies seldom examined.
We are thrilled to report that “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” has been honored with an Impact DOCS Award of Excellence in this year’s international documentary feature category. The Impact DOCS judges based their decision on the documentary’s quality, creativity, and technical execution. ” These skilled filmmakers highlighted issues ranging from renewable energy to gun violence and important historical events. The judges honor them for their passion and expert filmmaking craft,” the judges said.
The award-winning documentary “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” tells the story of World War I General John J. Pershing’s life and the personal tragedy so painful Pershing could never speak of it.
The Impact DOCS judges said this year’s winners represent filmmakers whose experiences range from Oscar winners to first-time filmmakers and who hail from all corners of the globe. “They (the winning filmmakers) make a – made a huge IMPACT entertaining audiences and bringing awareness to the critical issues of our times,” said Impact DOCS officials.
Please join us at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, August 2 at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
It’s a free screening and discussion of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War.” To reserve your free tickets click on this link.
General John J. Pershing, a Missouri native, rose to global recognition with an illustrious military career that included the Allied victory in WWI. Drawn from personal papers, archival photographs and film, the award-winning documentary Black Jack Pershing: Love and War tells the story of Pershing’s military career and his personal life, including tragedies seldom examined.
There was a real-life lieutenant general in the audience too- Lieutenant General Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the U.S. Army National Guard attended the standing room only screening of our documentary about General Pershing’s life.
It’s always special to screen the documentary in Nebraska where Pershing spent many formative years of his life.
In the 1890’s, Army Lieutenant, Pershing spent four years commanding the student Cadet Corps at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while earning a law degree.
Pershing’s two sisters, May and Grace, attended UNL too. They spent their post-college lives living and working in Lincoln. They also helped care for General Pershing’s young son Warren between 1915-1920.
How come? Pershing’s wife Frankie and the couple’s three young daughters were killed in a fire at the commandant’s residence at the Presidio in San Francisco, California in August of 1915. At the time, Brigadier General Pershing was on duty more than a thousand miles away at Fort Bliss, Texas. Pershing was sent there amid rumors that Mexican Revolutionary General Pancho Villa was actively planning to lead his troops in a raid against El Paso. Six-year-old Warren, the only survivor of the fire, came to Lincoln to live with General Pershing’s sisters.
Seven months later, Pancho Villa and his soldiers attacked Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 Americans and burning down much of the town. Villa was furious with the town because two merchants there reneged on a promise to deliver weapons that Villa had already paid. President Woodrow Wilson sent General Pershing to retaliate in March 1916. Pershing lead 10,000 U.S. soldiers, chasing the elusive Villa, who knew his way through the difficult terrain of northern Mexico. Villa and his retreating raiders were pursued by Pershing and his soldiers across the border and 400 miles into Mexico where Pershing spent much of the next year before being ordered home. Because of the Mexican government’s dislike of Pershing’s presence on Mexican soil, it proved increasingly dangerous and impossible to capture Villa.
Between 1917 and 1920, Pershing and his son were again separated. General Pershing was ordered by President Wilson to sail for France to command 2-million U.S. soldiers.
Over the next 18-months, Pershing’s American Expeditionary Forces helped to turn the WWI battle tide in favor of the Allies along Europe’s Western Front and helped force a surrender by Germany in late 1918.
During the hunt for Pancho Villa and later in WWI, Pershing regularly wrote letters to Warren back in Lincoln, describing how dearly he missed and loved his son.
In the years after WWI, Pershing was a frequent visitor to Lincoln. He owned a home there, spent time with his sisters and friends, was touted as a potential University of Nebraska chancellor, and explored the possibility he might run for the U.S. presidency. Pershing later decided his chances were slim for a White House run and steered clear of elected politics.
Pershing also enjoyed fishing and hunting with friends in rural Nebraska. It was an opportunity to break free of the busy life he led in Washington, D.C. and where Pershing spent most of his life until his death at age 87 in 1948.
My sincere thanks to Jerry Meyer and Cody Cade at the Nebraska National Guard Museum for helping coordinate and screen today’s showing of “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” in Seward.
The museum is a treasure for Nebraska and a “must see” stop for anyone of any age interested in military history.
June 28 was a special screening night for “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C. Special because John Pershing was a member of the club a century ago as has been almost every U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln. Pershing used the private club in 1917 to interview candidates for his WWI command staff before sailing for France.
Founded during the Civil War, the Metropolitan Club is conveniently located at 17th and H streets, just two blocks from the White House. It gave Pershing quick, confidential access to President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of War Newton Baker when needed as America entered WWI in April 1917 as an ally with France and Britain against Germany.
My thanks to Ambassador (Ret.) Theodore Sedgwick from the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission and Walker Noland for inviting me to screen the Pershing documentary at the Metropolitan Club. David Hamon from the WWICC also attended the screening and dinner and was a pleasure to meet.
The WWI Centennial Commission is seeking public donations to build a memorial in Washington, D.C. to those who served and those who were wounded and died serving America in WWI.
After the documentary, I answered questions from several club members before joining them for more conversation at dinner with wife Joanne in the Metropolitan Club’s elegant dining room.
During that discussion, I learned from members that former Lincoln attorney Charles Dawes was also a member of the Metropolitan Club. Dawes first met Pershing in the 1890’s when Pershing commanded the cadet corps at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while earning a law degree. Dawes, at the time, was a young lawyer.
When Pershing earned his bachelor of laws degree at UNL he toyed with the idea of leaving the Army to become a lawyer. Dawes advised Pershing to forget it. “Better lawyers than either you or I can ever hope to be are starving in Nebraska. I’d try the Army for a while yet. Your pay may be small, but it comes very regularly,” said Dawes.
Dawes was on General Pershing’s command staff in France as the general purchasing agent during the Great War. After the war, Dawes was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and became President Calvin Coolidge’s vice president. Dawes and Pershing frequently socialized together. They remained friends for life until Pershing’s death in 1948.