Black Jack Pershing: Love and War


’Black Jack Pershing: Love and War’ tells the story of General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I and the only active duty six-star general in U.S. history. General John J. Pershing was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Nicknamed, “Black Jack” Pershing commanded 2 million U.S. troops who helped win the Great War and established America as a global superpower. Pershing also had strong Nebraska ties. He was head of UNL’s Military Cadet program in the 1890s, earned a law degree at UNL, and owned a home in Lincoln where his two sisters lived.  

 

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    The Breaking Point - A Video Guide

    For John J. Pershing, the vast scale and deadly new technology of the “Great War” posed some of the greatest challenges of his long military career. At age 58, he set out to command the American Expeditionary Forces overseas in Europe. Pershing was forced to adapt his extensive cavalry experience to wage modern warfare in the age of tanks, machine guns, and poison gas.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    A Rude Awakening - A Video Guide

    Before age four, Johnny Pershing saw his father risk his life against Confederate raiders. The boy grew up amid “life’s realities.” The family store went broke. Pershing’s father was forced to travel for work leaving a teenaged John behind who toiled three years on his family’s failing farm. Pershing decided success would depend on his own efforts. He taught school, until he heard of a life-changing chance to enter the US Military Academy at West Point.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    Black Jack - A Video Guide

    Pershing came to the University of Nebraska in 1891 to study law and fix the military program, which doubled and won a national drill title before he left to lead the African American Tenth Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. Next, Pershing returned to teaching, but his rigor sparked cadet revolt at West Point, earning him a rude nickname softened to Black Jack, a reference to his Buffalo Soldier command.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Pershing and “Life’s Realties” in Photographs

     

    John Joseph Pershing began life in the quiet town of Laclede, Missouri in 1860. The Civil War brought hardships to the Pershings. Undaunted, John took up teaching and then won entrance to the US Military Academy at West Point.  He served with the 6th Cavalry in the Southwest and then with 50 Ogallala Indian Scouts at Pine Ridge. Next, he taught cadets at the University of Nebraska. He went on to Montana to lead the African American 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. He returned to West Point in 1897, where unruly cadets nicknamed him Black Jack, a sneering reference to his Buffalo Soldier days.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    Rise of a Warrior - A Video Guide

    In 1899, Pershing was sent to the Philippines, a new American possession, where Moro tribes were resisting US troops. Pershing admired these Muslim warriors. He studied their culture, used their language, and met their chiefs. When some of the Moro leaders proved unwilling to disarm in exchange for trade and jobs, Pershing attacked. He prevailed, gaining combat experience and personal recognition.

    Grades: 9-13+
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    Fierce & Heartbreaking - A Video Guide

    In 1915, amid reports Pancho Villa might attack, Pershing was sent to the border. He missed his family deeply. One night, a fire killed his beloved wife and three daughters. Only his son survived. Pershing was devastated. Months later, after his son was settled with relatives and Pershing had returned to duty, Villa struck and Pershing pursued, winning recognition for his field command skills.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Pershing Triumph, Pershing Tragedy - Captured in Images

     

    In the Spanish American war, John Pershing led his 10th Cavalry African American Buffalo Soldiers up San Juan Hill beside the Rough Riders. In 1899, in the Philippines, when peace incentives offered to the Moro tribes failed, Pershing led US forces to victory. He married Helen Francis Warren. Over the next seven years, they raised a family. Pershing became a general. He was sent to Texas to deal with Pancho Villa and threats to the border. He left his beloved family safe in San Francisco, but one night a deadly fire swept their Presidio home, killing his wife and three of their four children.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    An Army from Scratch - A Video Guide

    In 1918, Germany’s all-out onslaught forced Pershing to mobilize all American assets despite any doubts about readiness. Pershing missed his son. The Doughboys’ first battle victory raised morale and US leverage. Pershing commanded African American regiments, but rather than integrate US forces, he had African American troops serve with French troops or carry out cargo or construction tasks.

    Grades: 9-13+
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    Have All the Men Gone Mad? - A Video Guide

    Pershing led American and French troops in the 47-day battle of the Meuse-Argonne. Germans used tactical advantages and machine gun nests to wreak havoc on ill-trained American troops amid cold, confusion, and mud. Ignoring calls for his replacement, Pershing stopped everything to reorganize and resupply. Allies took the Argonne forest. Germany was weakened but still inflicting heavy casualties.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Pershing in the Great War - Photographic Journey

     

    America entered World War I in 1917, with General John Pershing in command. The Great War had been raging since 1914. Though horses, cannons, and rifles were still in use on the battlefield, this war employed trucks, tanks, planes, and rapid fire weapons such as the Browning. It was the first modern war. America’s young soldiers, called Doughboys, lifted Europe’s morale but were untrained in this new large-scale warfare on foreign soil. Pershing kept them out of battle until trained and ready. He retained command of US troops rather than let his soldiers replace French or British soldiers.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    Invisible Enemy - A Video Guide

    In late 1918, arriving Doughboys carried a highly contagious strain of flu to the unsanitary trenches.  In the close quarters, flu spread wildly. For some, pneumonia followed flu. Many died. Pershing himself caught the flu and had to take to his bed. It affected both sides. Soldiers in the field didn’t know how to recognize or treat it. For the Americans, flu caused more deaths than enemy fire.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
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    A New Kind of War - A Video Guide

    Restructuring was successful. The Americans still suffered high casualties but German losses were higher. Out of the trenches, the Doughboys advanced so swiftly orders could barely keep up with their victories. British and French in the north forced German retreat. Germany surrendered. Pershing wanted occupation to prevent future war. Though battles raged to the last, the Great War finally ended.

                     

     

    Grades: 9-10, 12-13+
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    Remembered - A Video Guide

    The Doughboys are credited with winning the Great War. They were welcomed home as true heroes. Pershing was promoted to the rank of six star general. He is considered one of the architects of the modern army, with its ability to cross oceans and represent a truly global power. Pershing never forgot the soldiers who fought and died under him. He helped create and dedicate monuments in their honor.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Pershing’s Legacy of Courage in Pictures

     

    During World War I, General John Pershing found love with Micheline Resco.  The German onslaught forced Pershing to give Allied chief Foch all US assets, ready or not. Pershing chose not to integrate the US forces. Doughboys reclaimed Cantigny. At Belleau Woods, machine guns slaughtered US Marines. At St. Mihiel, Allies routed the foe in four days. The Meuse Argonne Battle raged 47 muddy, bloody days. Spanish Flu came via US troops. Reorganization turned the tide. War ended in November. Pershing was a six star general, a revered hero, and a man who never forgot the sacrifices of his troops.

     

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Across time: The voice of General John "Black Jack" Pershing

    Across time: The voice of General John “Black Jack” Pershing. Witness history by listening to John J. Pershing's speeches. You can find the audio under the "Support Materials" Frame/Focus tab.

     

    Grades: 9-13+

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