Who is John J. Pershing?

John J. Pershing, in full John Joseph Pershing was born 13 September 1860 in Laclede, Missouri, U.S. and died 15 July 1948, Washington, D.C. U.S. Pershing was an army general who commanded the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe during World War I.

1886. The beginning 

Pershing graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1886. After serving several campaigns and being wounded in battle, he was appointed as an instructor in tactics at West Point in 1897.


The Spanish-American War gave Pershing opportunity for rapid promotion. He served in Cuba through the Santiago campaign (1898) and was appointed major of volunteers. In June 1899 he was made adjutant general. He established the Bureau of Insular Affairs in the War Department and acted as head of that bureau.

1906 and Roosvelt promotion

In 1899, Pershing was dispatched to the Philippines as adjutant general of the department of Mindanao. In 1905, he was military attaché to the U.S. embassy in Japan. In 1906, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt promoted Pershing. He next gained attention as commander of the punitive expedition sent against the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who had raided Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916. 


In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson selected Pershing to command the American troops being sent to Europe – he landed in France on 9 June 1917 – to fight in WWI. The transition from the anti-insurgency campaigns that had characterized much of Pershing’s career to the vast stagnant siege of the Western Front was an extreme test, but Pershing brought to the challenge a keen administrative sense and a knack for carrying out plans in spite of adversity. 

Pershing returned home with a sound reputation, and, on 1 September 1919, he was given the rank of general of the armies of the United States. Pershing’s nickname, “Black Jack,” derived from his service with a black regiment early in his career. Eschewing politics, Pershing remained in the army, serving as chief of staff from 1921 until his retirement in 1924.