“Black Jack” Pershing

Today in History, March 16, 1916:

Misconceptions. US General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing leads a force south across the border with Mexico to assist in the chase of Mexican rebel Pancho Villa.

I knew this. I also knew that Pershing served as the commanding US General during WWI. What I didn’t know? He was born during the Civil War, was a leading cadet during his time at West Point…leading the contingent at the funeral of Ulysses S. Grant.

He fought Apaches and Sioux during his career.

He served in the 10th US Cavalry, the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”, or the original African-American soldiers (we had a Buffalo Soldier that came to the City Hall cafeteria routinely before his passing…what an honor).

The surprise for me was that I thought “Black Jack” was because he was seen as a pirate or a gambler…instead the cadets he supervised while a strict instructor at West Point hated him, and because he served in an African-American command, they called him “N****R Jack”….later amended to “Black Jack”…and it stuck.

He served in that same regiment as they charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, then served in the Philippines. Roosevelt took a liking to him, appreciating his abilities, and made him an envoy to Tokyo in 1905…so he served as an observer to the Russo-Japanese War, then received his generalship by appointment by TR.

In 1915 Pershing was commanding the Presidio in San Francisco when his regiment was reassigned to Ft. Bliss, Texas because of the problems with Mexico.

After a year there, he sent for his family to join him…only to find out that his wife and three daughters had died in a house fire at the Presidio…leaving only his young son to join him.

After his exploits in Mexico, along with young George S. Patton, he would become the commanding General of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI, becoming the mentor to the likes of Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, George C. Marshall, Omar Bradley and many others. What a life!

Shared Army & Navy History

Today in History, March 16, 1802:

Connections through history.

The US Congress approves legislation creating the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York…now one of the oldest military academies in the world.

The post had been created during the Revolutionary War on the Hudson River…Gen. George Washington at one time used it as his command post…and Gen. Benedict Arnold betrayed his country when he connived with the British in an attempt to give up the post.

One of the first superintendents of the USMA, Sylvanus Thayer, is credited with establishing the high standards now famous for West Point.

One of his instructors, Dennis Hart Mahan, was so impressed with Thayer, he named his child after him…Arthur Thayer Mahan.

Arthur Thayer Mahan would go on to be the author and creator of US Naval strategy in the 19th and 20th Centuries. He authored the Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which was considered a Naval Bible by the world’s navies and was read by the world’s leaders, and thus influenced the creation modern navies.

Hero…Scapegoat…Hero…

Today in History, March 16: 1916 – German Admiral, and commander of the German Navy Alfred von Tirpitz, submits his resignation to kaiser Wilhelm, who accepts it. Tirpitz had been a trusted advisor to the kaiser, overseeing the build up of the Navy begun in 1897.

Despite his best efforts, the German surface fleet never became a match for the Royal Navy. In 1914 Tirpitz began unrestricted submarine warfare in the war zone…sinking neutral ships as well as combatants. When the Lusitania was sunk, with significant loss of neutral American lives, Wilhelm became nervous that America would enter the war, and Tirpitz, formerly a national hero, fell out of favor. Thus his resignation. The ship pictured was commissioned in 1936 and named after Tirpitz. It would be sunk by RAF bombers in 1944.