On December 20, 1913, Pershing received orders to take command of the 8th Brigade at the "Presidio in "San Francisco. With tensions running high on the border between the United States and Mexico, the brigade was deployed to "Fort Bliss, Texas on April 24, 1914, arriving there on the 27th.
After a year at Fort Bliss, Pershing decided to take his family there. The arrangements were almost complete, when on the morning of August 27, 1915, he received a telegram informing him of a fire in the "Presidio in "San Francisco, where a lacquered floor caught fire and the flames rapidly spread, resulting in the smoke inhalation deaths of his wife, Helen Frances Warren, and three young daughters, Mary, age 3, Anne, age 7, and Helen, age 8. Only his 6-year-old son Francis Warren survived. After the funerals at Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Pershing returned to Fort Bliss with his son, Warren, and his sister May, and resumed his duties as commanding officer.
Two years after the death of his wife and children, Pershing courted Anne Wilson "Nita" Patton, the younger sister of his protégé, "George S. Patton. Pershing met her when she traveled to Fort Bliss to visit her brother, and he introduced them. Pershing and Nita Patton soon began a relationship; they became engaged in 1917, but their separation because of Pershing's time in France during World War I ended it. Pershing had wartime affairs, including one with an artist who painted his portrait, and he later expressed regret that he had let Nita Patton "get away". She never married, and Pershing never remarried.
On March 15, 1916, Pershing led an expedition into Mexico to capture "Pancho Villa. This expedition was ill-equipped and hampered by a lack of supplies due to the breakdown of the Quartermaster Corps. Although there had been talk of war on the border for years, no steps had been taken to provide for the handling of supplies for an expedition. Despite this and other hindrances, such as the lack of aid from the former Mexican government, and their refusal to allow American troops to transport troops and supplies over their railroads, Pershing organized and commanded the "Mexican Punitive Expedition, a combined armed force of 10,000 men that penetrated 350 miles (560 km) into Mexico. They routed Villa's revolutionaries, but failed to capture him.
At the start of the United States' involvement in "World War I President "Woodrow Wilson considered mobilizing an army to join the fight. "Frederick Funston, Pershing's superior in Mexico, was being considered for the top billet as the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) when he died suddenly from a heart attack on February 19, 1917. Following America's entrance into the war, Wilson, after a short interview, named Pershing to command, a post which he retained until 1918. Pershing, who was a "major general, was promoted to full general (the first since "Philip Sheridan in 1888) in the "National Army, and was made responsible for the organization, training, and supply of a combined professional and draft Army and National Guard force that eventually grew from 27,000 inexperienced men to two Armies (a third was forming as the war ended) totaling over two million soldiers.
Pershing exercised significant control over his command, with a full delegation of authority from Wilson and "Secretary of War "Newton D. Baker. Baker, cognizant of the endless problems of domestic and allied political involvement in military decision making in wartime, gave Pershing unmatched authority to run his command as he saw fit. In turn, Pershing exercised his prerogative carefully, not engaging in politics or disputes over government policy that might distract him from his military mission. While earlier a champion of the African-American soldier, he did not advocate their full participation on the battlefield, understanding the general racial attitudes of white Americans. In addition, Wilson held reactionary views on race and owed political debts to southern Democratic politicians.
"George Marshall served as one of Pershing's top assistants during and after the war. Pershing's initial chief of staff was "James Harbord, who later took a combat command but worked as Pershing's closest assistant for many years and remained extremely loyal to him.
After departing from "Fort Jay at "Governors Island in New York Harbor under top secrecy in May 1917, Pershing arrived in France in June 1917. In a show of American presence, part of the 16th Infantry Regiment marched through Paris shortly after his arrival. Pausing at the tomb of "Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, he was reputed to have uttered the famous line "Lafayette, we are here," a line spoken, in fact, by his aide, Colonel "Charles E. Stanton. American forces were deployed in France in the autumn of 1917.
Pershing never remarried, but in September 1917 the French government commissioned a portrait of Pershing by 23-year-old Romanian artist, Micheline Resco. Pershing removed the stars and flag from his car and sat up front with his chauffeur while traveling from his AEF headquarters to visit her by night in her apartment on the rue Descombes. Their friendship continued for the rest of his life.
For the first time in American history, Pershing allowed American soldiers to be under the command of a foreign power. In late June, General "Rawlinson, commanding the British Fourth Army, suggested to Australian Lieutenant General "John Monash that American involvement in a set-piece attack alongside the experienced Australians in the upcoming "Battle of Hamel would both give the American troops experience and also strengthen the Australian battalions by an additional company each. On June 29, General Bell, commanding the American 33rd Division, selected two companies each from the 131st and 132nd Infantry regiments of the 66th brigade. However, Monash had been promised ten companies of American troops and on June 30 the remaining companies of the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 131st regiment were sent. Each American platoon was attached to an Australian company. However, there was difficulty in integrating the American platoons (which numbered 60 men) amongst the Australian companies of 100 men. This difficulty was overcome by reducing the size of each American platoon by one-fifth and sending the troops thus removed, which numbered 50 officers and men, back to battalion reinforcement camps.
However, the day before the attack was scheduled to commence, Pershing learnt of the plan and ordered the withdrawal of six American companies. While a few Americans, such as those attached to the 42nd Battalion, disobeyed the order, the majority, although disappointed, moved back to the rear. This meant that battalions had to rearrange their attack formations and caused a serious reduction in the size of the Allied force. For example, the 11th Brigade was now attacking with 2,200 men instead of 3,000. There was a further last-minute call for the removal of all American troops from the attack, but Monash, who had chosen 4 July as the date of the attack out of "deference" to the US troops, protested to Rawlinson and received support from Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. The four American companies that had joined the Australians during the assault were withdrawn from the line after the battle and returned to their regiments, having gained valuable experience. Monash sent Bell his personal thanks, praising the Americans' gallantry, while Pershing set out explicit instructions to ensure that US troops would not be employed in a similar manner again.
Under "civilian control of the military, Pershing adhered to the racial policies of "President "Woodrow Wilson, "Secretary of War "Newton D. Baker, and southern Democrats who promoted the ""separate but equal" doctrine. African-American ""Buffalo Soldiers" units were not allowed to participate with the "American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during "World War I, but experienced "non-commissioned officers were provided to other segregated black units for combat service—such as the 317th Engineer Battalion. The American Buffalo Soldiers of the "92nd and "93rd Infantry Divisions were the first American soldiers to fight in France in 1918, but they did so under French command as Pershing had detached them from the AEF. Most regiments of the 92nd and all of the 93rd would continue to fight under French command for the duration of the war.
In early 1918, entire divisions were beginning to serve on the front lines alongside French troops. Pershing insisted that the AEF fight as units under American command rather than being split up by battalions to augment British and French regiments and brigades (although the "27th and "30th Divisions, grouped under "II Corps command, were loaned during the "desperate days of spring 1918, fought with the British/Australian/Canadian "Fourth Army until the end of the war, taking part in the breach of the "Hindenburg Line in October).
In October 1918, Pershing saw the need for a dedicated "Military Police Corps and the first U.S. Army MP School was established at Autun, France. For this, he is considered the founding father of the United States MPs.
Because of the effects of "trench warfare on soldiers' feet, in January 1918, Pershing oversaw the creation of an improved "combat boot, the ""1918 Trench Boot," which became known as the "Pershing Boot" upon its introduction.
American forces first saw serious action during the summer of 1918, contributing eight large divisions, alongside 24 French ones, at the "Second Battle of the Marne. Along with the British Fourth Army's victory at "Amiens, the Allied victory at the Second Battle of the Marne marked the turning point of World War I on the "Western Front.
In August 1918 the "U.S. First Army had been formed, first under Pershing's direct command and then by Lieutenant General "Hunter Liggett, when the "U.S. Second Army under Lieutenant General "Robert Bullard was created. After a quick victory at "Saint-Mihiel, east of "Verdun, some of the more bullish AEF commanders had hoped to push on eastwards to "Metz, but this did not fit in with the plans of the Allied Supreme Commander, "Marshal Foch, for three simultaneous offensives into the "bulge" of the Western Front (the other two being the Fourth Army's breach of the Hindenburg Line and an Anglo-Belgian offensive, led by "Plumer's Second Army, in Flanders). Instead, the AEF was required to redeploy and, aided by French tanks, launched a major offensive northwards in very difficult terrain at "Meuse-Argonne. Initially enjoying numerical odds of eight to one, this offensive eventually engaged 35 or 40 of the 190 or so German divisions on the Western Front, although to put this in perspective, around half the German divisions were engaged on the "British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sector at the time.
The offensive was, however, marked by Pershing's failure: his reliance on massed infantry attacks with little artillery support led to high casualty rates in the capturing of three key points. This was despite the AEF facing only second-line German troops after the decision by "Erich Ludendorff, the "German Chief of Staff, to withdraw to the Hindenburg Line on October 3–and in notable contrast to the simultaneous British breakthrough of the Hindenburg Line in the north. Pershing was subsequently forced to reorganize the AEF with the creation of the Second Army, and to step down as the commander of the First Army.
When he arrived in Europe, Pershing had openly scorned the slow trench warfare of the previous three years on the Western Front, believing that American soldiers' skill with the rifle would enable them to avoid costly and senseless fighting over a small area of "no-man's land. This was regarded as unrealistic by British and French commanders, and (privately) by a number of Americans such as "Army Chief of Staff General "Tasker Bliss and even Liggett. Even German generals were negative, with Ludendorff dismissing Pershing's strategic efforts in the Meuse-Argonne offensive by recalling how "the attacks of the youthful American troops broke down with the heaviest losses". The AEF had performed well in the relatively open warfare of the Second Battle of the Marne, but the eventual American casualties against German defensive positions in the Argonne (roughly 120,000 American casualties in six weeks, against 35 or 40 German divisions) were not noticeably better than those of the Franco-British "offensive on the Somme two years earlier (600,000 casualties in four and a half months, versus 50 or so German divisions). More ground was gained, but by this stage of the war the "German Army was in worse shape than in previous years.
A speech given from Allied Headquarters, Chaumont, France, 1918
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Some writers have speculated that Pershing's frustration at the slow progress through the Argonne was the cause of two incidents which then ensued. First, he ordered the U.S. First Army to take "the honor" of recapturing "Sedan, site of the "French defeat in 1870; the ensuing confusion (an order was issued that "boundaries were not to be considered binding") exposed American troops to danger not only from the French on their left, but even from one another, as the "1st Division tacked westward by night across the path of the "42nd Division (accounts differ as to whether "Brigadier General "Douglas MacArthur, then commanding the 84th Brigade of the 42nd Division, was really mistaken for a German officer and arrested). Liggett, who had been away from headquarters the previous day, had to sort out the mess and implement the instructions from the Allied Supreme Command, Marshal Foch, allowing the French to recapture the city; he later recorded that this was the only time during the war in which he lost his temper.
Second, Pershing sent an unsolicited letter to the Allied "Supreme War Council, demanding that the Germans not be given an armistice and that instead, the Allies should push on and obtain an unconditional surrender. Although in later years, many, including President "Franklin D. Roosevelt, felt that Pershing had been correct, at the time, this was a breach of political authority. Pershing narrowly escaped a serious reprimand from Wilson's aide, "Colonel "Edward M. House, and later apologized.["citation needed]
At the time of the "Armistice, another Franco-American offensive was due to start on November 14, thrusting towards "Metz and into "Lorraine, to take place simultaneously with further BEF advances through "Belgium.
In his memoirs, Pershing claimed that the American breakout from the Argonne at the start of November was the decisive event leading to the "German acceptance of an armistice, because it made untenable the Antwerp–Meuse line. This is probably an exaggeration; the outbreak of civil unrest and naval mutiny in Germany, the collapse of "Bulgaria, the "Ottoman Empire, and particularly "Austria-Hungary following "Allied victories in "Salonika, Syria, and Italy, (as well as the collapse of the co-belligerents of the "Central Powers) and the Allied victories on the Western Front were among a series of events in the autumn of 1918 which made it clear that Allied victory was inevitable, and diplomatic inquiries about an armistice had been going on throughout October. President Wilson was keen to tie matters up before the mid-term elections,["citation needed] and as the other Allies were running low on supplies and manpower, they followed Wilson's lead.["citation needed]
American successes were largely credited to Pershing, and he became the most celebrated American leader of the war. Critics,["who?] however, claimed that Pershing commanded from far behind the lines and was critical of commanders who personally led troops into battle.["citation needed] MacArthur saw Pershing as a desk soldier, and the relationship between the two men deteriorated by the end of the war. Similar criticism of senior commanders by the younger generation of officers (the future generals of "World War II) was made in the British and other armies, but in fairness to Pershing, although it was not uncommon for brigade commanders to serve near the front and even be killed, the state of communications in World War I made it more practical for senior generals to command from the rear. He controversially ordered his troops to continue fighting after the armistice was signed. This resulted in 3,500 American casualties on the last day of the war, an act which was regarded as murder by several officers under his command.
The year of 1918 also saw a personal health struggle for Pershing as he was sickened during the "1918 flu pandemic, but unlike many who were not so fortunate, Pershing survived. He rode his horse, Kidron, in the Paris victory parade in 1919.
In 1919, in recognition of his distinguished service during World War I, the "U.S. Congress authorized the President to promote Pershing to "General of the Armies of the United States, the highest rank possible for any member of the United States armed forces, which was created especially for him and one that only he held at the time. (In 1976 Congress authorized President "Gerald Ford to posthumously promote "George Washington to this rank as part of the "United States Bicentennial; Washington previously held the rank of General of the Armies in the "Continental Army; his earlier date of rank in the 1976 promotion ensured that Washington would always be considered the U.S. Army's highest-ranking officer.) Pershing was authorized to create his insignia for the new rank and chose to wear four gold stars for the rest of his career, which separated him from the four (temporary) silver stars worn by Army Chiefs of Staff of the 1910s and early 1920s.
In 1919, Pershing created the "Military Order of the World Wars as an officer's fraternity for veterans of the First World War, modeled after the "Military Order of Foreign Wars. Both organizations still exist today and welcome new officer members to their ranks. Pershing himself would join the MOFW in 1924.
There was a movement to draft Pershing as a candidate for president in 1920; he refused to campaign, but indicated that he "wouldn't decline to serve" if the people wanted him. Though Pershing was a Republican, many of his party's leaders considered him too closely tied to the policies of the "Democratic Party's President Wilson. Another general, "Leonard Wood, was the early "Republican front runner, but the nomination went to Senator "Warren G. Harding of "Ohio, who went on to win the "general election.
In 1921, Pershing became "Chief of Staff of the United States Army, serving for three years. He created the "Pershing Map, a proposed national network of military and civilian highways. The "Interstate Highway System instituted in 1956 bears considerable resemblance to the Pershing map. On his 64th birthday, September 13, 1924, Pershing retired from active military service. (Army regulations from the late 1860s to the early 1940s required officers to retire on their 64th birthday.)
On November 1, 1921, Pershing was in "Kansas City to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the "Liberty Memorial that was being constructed there. Also present that day were Lieutenant General "Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral "David Beatty of Great Britain, Marshal "Ferdinand Foch of France, and General "Armando Diaz of Italy. One of the main speakers was Vice President "Calvin Coolidge. In 1935, bas-reliefs of Pershing, Jacques, Foch and Diaz by sculptor "Walker Hancock were added to the memorial. Pershing also laid the cornerstone of the "World War Memorial in Indianapolis on July 4, 1927.
On October 2, 1922, amidst several hundred officers, many of them combat veterans of World War I, Pershing formally established the "Reserve Officers Association (ROA) as an organization at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. ROA is a 75,000-member, professional association of officers, former officers, and spouses of all the uniformed services of the United States, primarily the Reserve and United States National Guard. It is a congressionally chartered Association that advises the Congress and the President on issues of national security on behalf of all members of the Reserve Component.
In 1924 Pershing became a member of the Pennsylvania Society of the "Sons of the American Revolution. He was also an honorary member of the "Society of the Cincinnati and a Veteran Companion of the "Military Order of Foreign Wars.
Pershing served on a committee of the "Sons of the American Revolution to establish and recognize "Constitution Day in the United States.
During the 1930s, Pershing largely retreated to private life, but returned to the public eye with publication of his memoirs, "My Experiences in the World War, which were awarded the 1932 "Pulitzer Prize for history. He was also an active "Civitan during this time.
In 1940, before and after the "Fall of France, Pershing was an outspoken advocate of aid for the "United Kingdom during "World War II. In August 1940, he publicly supported the ""Destroyers for Bases Agreement", whereby the United States sold fifty warships from World War I to the UK in exchange for lengthy leases of land on British possessions for the establishment for military bases.
In 1944, with Congress' creation of the five star rank of General of the Army, Pershing was still considered to be the highest-ranking officer of the United States military as his rank was General of the Armies. "In  Congress created for "George Washington the rank of General of the Armies ... General "[Ulysses S.] Grant received the title of General of the Army in 1866 .... Carefully Congress wrote a bill (HR 7594) to revive the rank of General of the Armies for General Pershing alone to hold during his lifetime. The rank would cease to exist upon Pershing's death." Later, when asked if this made Pershing a five-star general, "Secretary of War "Henry L. Stimson commented that it did not, since Pershing never wore more than four stars, but that Pershing was still to be considered senior to the present five-star generals of World War II.
In July 1944, Pershing was visited by "Free French leader General "Charles de Gaulle. When Pershing asked after the health of his old friend, Marshal "Philippe Pétain – who was heading the pro-German "Vichy regime – de Gaulle replied tactfully that, when he last saw him, the Marshal was well.
On July 15, 1948, Pershing died of "coronary artery disease and "congestive heart failure at "Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., which was his home after 1944. Following a "state funeral, he was buried in "Arlington National Cemetery, near the grave sites of the soldiers he commanded in Europe.
It was during his initial assignment in the American West that Pershing's mother died. On March 16, 1906, his father died.
Colonel Francis Warren Pershing (1909–1980), John J. Pershing's son, served in the "Second World War as an advisor to the Army Chief of Staff, General "George C. Marshall. After the war he continued with his financial career and founded a stock brokerage firm, "Pershing & Company. He was father to two sons, Richard W. Pershing (1942–1968) and John Warren Pershing III (1941–1999). Richard Pershing served as a second lieutenant in the "502nd Infantry and was killed in action on February 17, 1968, in "Vietnam. John Pershing III served as a special assistant to former Army Chief of Staff General "Gordon R. Sullivan, also attaining the rank of "colonel. He helped shape army and the "ROTC programs nationwide. Colonel Pershing died of cardiovascular disease in 1999.
|No Insignia||"Cadet||"United States Military Academy||July 1, 1882|
|No Insignia in 1886||"Second Lieutenant||6th Cavalry, "Regular Army||July 1, 1886|
|"First Lieutenant||10th Cavalry, Regular Army||October 20, 1892|
|"Major||"Chief Ordnance Officer, "Volunteers||August 18, 1898|
|"Major||"Assistant Adjutant General, "Volunteers||June 6, 1899
(Reverted to permanent Regular Army rank of captain on July 1, 1901.)
|"Captain||Cavalry, Regular Army||February 2, 1901|
|"Brigadier General||Regular Army||September 20, 1906|
|"Major General||Regular Army||September 25, 1916|
|"General||Emergency||October 6, 1917|
|"General of the Armies||Regular Army||September 3, 1919|
|"General of the Armies||Retired List||September 13, 1924|
|"General of the Armies, Regular Army, Retired. Proposed six-star rank from December 14, 1944. General of the Army was created as five-star rank by an Act of Congress on a temporary basis with the enactment of Public Law 78-482. The law creating the five-star rank stipulated that Pershing was still to be considered senior to the five-star generals of World War II. This could be understood to mean that he was a "six-star general". However Pershing died in 1948, so Congress never officially adopted the proposed six-star insignia for the General of the Armies rank.|
Note: The dates indicated are the date the award was made rather that they date of the service which was recognized.
In 1932, eight years after Pershing's retirement from active service, his silver citation star was upgraded to the "Silver Star decoration.
In 1941 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action leading an against hostile Moros at Mount Bagsak, on the island of Jolo in the Philippines on June 15, 1913. 
Distinguished Service Cross Citation
"For extraordinary heroism against hostile fanatical Moros at Mount Bagsak, Jolo, Philippine Islands on June 15, 1913. He personally assumed command of the assaulting line at the most critical period when only about 15 yards from the last Moro position. His encouragement and splendid example of personal heroism resulted in a general advance and the prompt capture of the hostile stronghold." 
In 1941, he was retroactively awarded the "Army of Occupation of Germany Medal for service in Germany following the close of World War I. As the medal had a profile of Pershing on its obverse, Pershing became the only soldier in the history of the U.S. Army eligible to wear a medal with his own likeness on it. (Navy admirals "George Dewey, "William T. Sampson and "Richard E. Byrd were also entitled to wear medals with their own image on them.)
...and the boys stood in formation from noon till evening before the arrival of the automobile bearing the impressive insignia of four gold stars.
Anna May Pershing, a sister of the late General of the Armies John J. Pershing, died yesterday at the age of 89. ...
Brother of General Succumbs to Cerebral Thrombosis After a Long Illness. Was President of an Insurance Company. Formerly a Clothing Manufacturer. ...
Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, the famous "Black jack" of the regulars, will go down in history as the first American army officer to command troops on the battlefields of Europe. He (Pershing) is one of the officers picked by Colonel Roosevelt, when the Colonel was President, for rapid promotion to the highest of army commands. ...
The war in Europe at the time that the United States became an associate of the Allies was still at a stalemate. The Allied countries were reaching the exhaustion of both men and supplies...
Immediately before the parade starts the general will be presented with a handsome general's flag, bearing four gold stars, by the Girls' Overseas club.
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