13 September – On this day
John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing (1860 – 15 July, 1948) was the general in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to victory in 1917 – 1918.
He rejected British and French demands that American forces be integrated with their armies, and insisted that the AEF would operate as a single unit under his command, although some American divisions fought under British command, and he also allowed all-black units to be integrated with the French army. In September 1918 at St. Mihiel, the First Army was directly under Pershing’s command; it overwhelmed the German salient which they had held for three years. Pershing shifted 600,000 American soldiers to the heavily defended forests of the Argonne, keeping his divisions engaged in hard fighting for 47 days, alongside the French. That victory was one of several factors causing the Germans to call for an armistice, although Pershing himself wanted to continue the war, occupy all of Germany, and permanently destroy German militarism.
Pershing is the only American to be promoted in his own lifetime to General of the Armies. He served as a mentor to a generation of generals who led the United States Army in Europe during World War II, including George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George S. Patton. Some of his tactics have been criticized both by other commanders at the time and by modern historians. His reliance on costly frontal assaults, long after other Allied armies had abandoned such tactics, has been blamed for causing unnecessarily high American casualties.