John Joseph Pershing (1860 – 1948), was a general officer in the United States Army and promoted in his lifetime to General of the Armies, the highest authorized rank in the United States Army, signifying service directly under the president.
In January 1914, Pershing arrived in El Paso to take command of the Army 8th Brigade that was stationed at Fort Bliss. The 8th Brigade had been assigned the task of securing the U.S. - Mexico border because of the Mexican Revolution.
After a year at Fort Bliss, Pershing decided to arrange for his family to join him. Shortly before their relocation, he received a telegram telling him that his wife and his three daughters had been burned to death because of a fire in the Presidio of San Francisco. Only his six-year-old son Warren could escape the fire. After the funerals Pershing returned to Fort Bliss with his son and his sister, and resumed his duties as commanding officer.
In 1916, the revolutionary and outlaw Pancho Villa attacked Columbus in New Mexico. His attack was the first on American soil since 1812. As a consequence, the U.S. sent thousands of soldiers across the border to hunt for Pancho Villa under the leadership of General Pershing (Punitive Expedition). They never caught him.
With the entry of the U.S. in World War I, Pershing was selected to lead the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. He also was promoted to general. By war's end, Pershing's command had grown to 1.8 million men. The success of American troops during World War I was largely credited to Pershing's leadership and he returned to the US as a hero. Before retiring from active service in 1924, he served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
Pershing was the most accomplished and celebrated American soldier of the early 20th century. In El Paso, he is particularly associated with the Punitive Expedition. The Pershing House at Fort Bliss is located at 228 Sheridan Rd. Fort Bliss.
General John J. Pershing
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