PERSHING, JOHN JOSEPH ), American dier, was born near Laclede, Mo., on Sept. 13, 1860—destined to as astonishing a rise from humble circumstances as Joffre, the first commander-in-chief in the World War of the other great republic. By teaching in a children's school he gained the means to study at the Kirksville, Mo., normal school and then seized the chance to compete for entry into the U.S. Military Academy, proving successful. Passing out in 1886, he was commissioned in the 6th Cavalry and saw immediate service against the Apaches in Arizona. In 189o, during an uprising of the Sioux, he served in Dakota, in charge of the Indian scouts. In 1891 he was appointed military instructor at the University of Nebraska, where he took the opportunity to graduate in the law school. After being instructor in tactics at the U.S. Military Academy, he served in Cuba through the Santiago campaign (1898), where he earned from his commander the tribute, "Pershing is the coolest man under fire I ever saw." Soon afterwards he had the chance to show that he was more than merely brave and energetic, for, sent to the Philippines, he pacified by 1903 the fanatical Moros of Mindanao through an apt blend of force and diplomacy. In i9o5 he went to Japan as military attache and witnessed part of the campaign in Manchuria. As a reward for his success in the Phil ippines, President Roosevelt in 1906 promoted him direct from captain to brigadier general, passing him over 862 senior officers. Subsequently, he returned to the Philippines as commander of the department of Mindanao and governor of the Moro Province. Returning in 1913, he was sent from San Francisco in 1916 to command the punitive expedition into Mexico against Francisco Villa, and after the death of Maj. Gen. Funston in 1917 he suc ceeded him as commander on the Mexican border.
On America's entrance into the World War Pershing was chosen to command the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, an honour gained perhaps not only by his record of achievement but also by his proofs in Mexico of extreme loyalty to Government authority under hampering circumstances. With his staff he reached England on June 9, 1917, and four days later landed in France. To pass from guerilla expeditions in jungle, mountain and desert to the vast siege then in progress—or stagnation—on the western front was an extreme test, but in compensation for a military experience limited to petty expeditions he brought a trained administrative sense, with the will and knack of carrying through plans under difficulties. From the start Gen. Pershing insisted that the integrity of the American army be preserved, making a firm stand against French tutelage and against the French desire to infuse the new blood of America's man-power into their own military system. And while the Washington war
department was contemplating a limited liability war, Pershing in France was methodically laying the foundation for an army of 3,000,00o men—stamped with the Pershing seal. If this plan, inevitably slow in fruition, imposed a severe strain on the ex hausted Allies, it was justified not only by the proverbial warning against "putting new wine into old bottles"; for the alternative would have demanded an unprecedented sacrifice of national pres tige. If the realization of an independent American army would be, as Pershing felt, a serious blow to German morale, it was also likely to uplift the military spirit and self-confidence of the United States not only for the moment but for all time.
The disasters of early 1918 seemed to show that a great risk had been taken in pursuit of this ideal, and they led Pershing to place all his resources freely at Foch's disposal. But directly the crisis began to pass he reverted to his policy, and at St. Mihiel in September it was consummated by the victory of the first American army in the first entirely American operation. This was followed by the Meuse-Argonne battle (q.v.; see also WORLD WAR) under Pershing's direction. If the attainment of its aims was slower and more costly than had been expected, Pershing had accepted the actual battle-ground in deference to his allies and against his own preference for a blow towards Metz. Even so, it is probable that he underrated the difficulties of breaking through a strongly organized trench system, as well as the causes that had sapped the offensive spirit of the French. He had a Grant like ruthlessness, similarly lacking the personal magnetism which leads men to lay down their lives gladly, but he had the character which compels men not only to die but to work, grumbling perhaps but respecting him.
It was a just recognition of his achievement in creating almost from nothing the vast structure of the national army that, on Sept. 1, 1919, he was confirmed in the permanent rank of general, a grade held previously by only four Americans—Washington, Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. In 1921 he was appointed chief of-staff, and during his tenure of office he designed the new per manent framework of the United States army. Subsequently, ap pointed by President Coolidge as the United States representative and ex-officio head of the commission to supervise the plebiscite under the Tacna-Arica arbitration award, he went to Arica in July, 1925, but, owing to health, had to resign. He returned home in Feb. 1926. (See TACNA-ARICA QUESTION.) (B. H. L. H.)