It is my habit to use this blog only for book reviews however yesterday I published a review of a book entitled YANKS by John Eisenhower about the American experience in the First World War. Central to that experience is the leadership of General of the Army, John J. Pershing. There is an excellent biography of Pershing by the late Frank Vandiver but unfortunately I do not have a copy to review. That will not stop me however from offering this brief entry on possibly the greatest American general of the 20th century. Not all of his campaigns were unalloyed successes – he had to put up with political meddling from both Democrats and Republicans who felt that war was too important to be left to the generals – but in the fundamental principle of leadership by example and in the even higher principle of caring for both his troops and the civilians under his control he was without peer. Here then is a small testament to a man who became a soldier and a soldier who was so loved and trusted by the nation that he was looked to for leadership long after he had taken his last salute in the field.
Once in U.S. history an episode of Islamic terrorism was very quickly stopped. It happened in the Philippines about 1911, when Gen. John J. Pershing was in command of the garrison. There had been numerous Islamic terrorist attacks, so “Black Jack” told his boys to catch the gang that was dressing in women’s clothing and then falling on both soldier and civilian with their Kris [long knives] and teach them a lesson. Forced to dig their own graves, the terrorists were all tied to posts, execution style. The U.S. soldiers then brought in pigs and slaughtered them, rubbing their bullets in the blood and fat. Thus, the terrorists saw that they would be contaminated with pig’s blood which would mean that they could not enter Heaven, even if they died as martyrs. All but one was shot, their bodies dumped into the grave, and the pig guts dumped atop the bodies. The lone survivor was allowed to escape back to the terrorist camp and tell his brethren what happened to the others. This brought a stop to terrorism in the Philippines for the next 50 years.
The Pershing “punitive” expedition : well named. Man, dressed in Mexican attire (probably Pancho Villa) labeled “Villa, dead or alive,” looking at soldier (probably John Pershing) tied to a cactus, with volcano in background. And although neither the Philippine campaign nor the expedition into Mexico were high points of his career they formed the crucible of leadership that made him trusted to help raise and manage an army that in less than eighteen months would go from 200,000 men to over four million with two million of those deployed in Europe.
He was so successful that a U.S. Navy recruitment poster showing a soldier and a sailor reading the want ads in a newspaper. The sailor says: “How about trying the Navy, Doughboy? Food, quarters, training, treatment, pay, and promotion are all good. Think it over and be my shipmate.”
General Pershing says: — A chance for you […] earn while you learn […] your government furnishes everything. Not that every soldier was expected to carry a rifle but even then the blandishments of good pay for agreeable work were dangled in front of the prospective recruits.
About as close to Lord Kitchener or Uncle Sam as Pershing ever got was this war-horse poster. You are wanted by the U.S. Army 660 Market St. San Francisco or any Army recruiting station
Put the church behind Pershing To win this war the boys at the front need strength of spirit : a khaki testament for every soldier’s kit. We, as a nation, had not yet begun to apologize for our beliefs as a condition of supplying manpower for storms brewed in other men’s worlds. Since their first military Scripture partnership in 1817, the American Bible Society has continued to supply Scripture to our nation’s military. Even Woodrow Wilson is quoted on the poster, This is an object which I am sure all Christian people will wish to see accomplished. I hope that it may be for the sake of the men going to the front. They will need the support from the only book from which they can get it.
Not on the Bible Society but the Red Cross is actively promoted – not for a gratuity, nor for the promise of future employment but for nothing more than offering support from the Army to another organization heroically involved in the struggle.
The YMCA is entered into the rolls and their fund-raising drive is supported as well. YMCA United War Work Campaign, November 11-18, 1918 Cabled from France
August 21st, 1918, “A sense of obligation for the varied and useful service rendered to the army in France by the Y.M.C.A. prompts me to join in the appeal for its further financial support. I have opportunity to observe its operations, measure the quality of its personnel and mark its beneficial influence upon our troops, and I wish unreservedly to commend its work for the Army.” Pershing.
Keep it coming – waste nothing “We must not only feed our soldiers at the front but the millions of women & children behind our lines” Gen. John J. Pershing. Not only the church, the Red Cross and the YMCA were called upon to help the soldiers he recruited but everyday citizens were asked to participate in food, medicine and medical supply drives not only for the army but for the millions of displaced civilians. Just like the Marshall Plan would be ignored – or worse, called colonialism – a quarter of a century later the United States undertook not only the liberation of Europe from German aggression in 1917 but for 10 years thereafter provided for refugees and Pershing, and the men he had trained, were integral to the leadership of these efforts.