John Pershing

John Pershing
An 1886 graduate of West Point and a veteran of the Spanish-American War, General John J. Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. Stiff in bearing and stern in manner, Pershing was the consummate soldier and the ideal leader to represent the interests of the United States abroad. He insisted that American troops fight under their own colors, and prevented them from being routinely siphoned off to French and British units depleted by three years of trench warfare. Pershing also trained his army rigorously for open field maneuvers. In the fall of 1918, some 1,250,000 Americans, including George Marshall, participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which helped weaken Germany's resolve to prolong the war. Afterward, Marshall served as an aide-de-camp to Pershing and they developed a close working relationship. Following Pershing's retirement in 1924, Marshall made every effort to remember the General of the Armies: Marshall always sent his greetings on Pershing's birthday, and Pershing was the best man at Marshall's second wedding in 1930. Later, as chief of staff, Marshall regularly visited Pershing, by then an invalid at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Marshall even secretly revised plans for Pershing's military funeral.

General John J. Pershing, 1860-1948
Sir William Orpen (1878-1931)
Oil on canvas
(16 1/16 x 12 15/16 in.), circa 1919
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of the International Business Machines Corporation

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