Pershing and His Generals: Command and Staff in the AEF

Pershing and His Generals: Command and Staff in the AEF

Pershing and His Generals: Command and Staff in the AEF

Pershing and His Generals: Command and Staff in the AEF

Synopsis

When the United States entered the Great War in April of 1917, there were few officers with any staff training, and none had actually served on large, complex staffs in combat. This work traces the development of the staff of the AEF and describes how Pershing found the generals to command those divisions that fought on the Western Front in World War I. Many of Pershing's generals had been colonels only a few months prior to assuming command of divisions. John J. Pershing's task was to mold a diverse group of men into effective staff officers and into general officers to face the rigors of modern combat. How he accomplished this task, and how well the AEF did, is the focus of this work on the AEF's command and staff structure.

Excerpt

John J. Pershing was born in Laclede, a small, rural Missouri town, in 1860. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1882 to 1886. As a cavalry officer Pershing served on the frontier and proved himself to be a superb leader of men. While on the frontier Pershing served with the black 10th Cavalry Regiment earning him the lifelong nickname of “Black Jack.” Pershing’s association with black troops was not unsatisfactory, but he never liked the name. in 1891 he was posted to the University of Nebraska as a professor of military science, and he earned a law degree while there. During the Spanish-American War Pershing’s reputation as a commander of men grew. in 1905 this son of rural America married well, taking as his wife Francis Warren, the daughter of the powerful U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming. Returning to the United States after observing the Russo-Japanese War (1905–1906), Pershing attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who promoted him over 862 other officers from captain to the rank of brigadier general. From 1907 to 1913 Pershing was in the Philippines, where he served with almost every officer who would rise to high rank under him in the Great War.

In 1915 his beloved wife and three daughters were killed in a tragic fire that consumed their home at the Presidio, a military base in San Francisco. the grieving general threw himself into his next assignment, the expedition into Mexico to catch the legendary Mexican leader Pancho Villa. Pershing left Mexico two months before a troubled President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against the German empire. Much to Pershing’s surprise, he was tapped to command the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).

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