Saturday, November 19, 2011
Pershing: Commander of the Great War by John Perry
Let's not talk high-sounding phrases. Let's not use old words, shopworn words, words like "glory" and "peace" without thinking exactly what they mean. There's no "glory" in killing. There's no "glory" in maiming men. There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious living. The most glorious thing is life. And we who are alive must cling to it, each of us helping. (John Pershing- from the book)
Pershing is one of America's unsung heroes. The first man to be promoted to General of the Armies, he's largely responsible for winning WWI but is all but forgotten today. John Perry does an admirable job of reminding the rest of us who General John J. Pershing was and why he deserves our respect and a place in history.
A graduate of West Point, Pershing was a inflexible, impeccable leader that cut no slack with himself or anyone else. As one reporter wrote, “no one will be calling him 'Papa Pershing'.” But it was this minute attention to detail that whipped every troop under him into tip top fighting shape and insured the success of every battle Pershing and his armies were engaged in.
Perry traces Pershing's career through commanding the Buffalo soldiers out west, fighting Pancho Villa during the Mexican War, fighting with Teddy Roosevelt against the Spanish in Cuba and again in the Philippines and ultimately taking inexperienced American soldiers and training them to push back the Germans and regain the land the Allies had lost in WWI.
Perry shows a man who refused to compromise his principles when the French and English demanded that the untrained Americans be absorbed into their own armies. He insisted the Americans had to fight on their own under his command. When he was relieved of duty, he ignored it, took his untrained troops and in a very short time trained them into an army the Germans couldn't push back and ultimately surrendered to.
Yet Pershing was a man of justice and wisdom as well. He took the command over black soldiers, the “Buffalo Soldiers”- when nobody else was willing to take on the job of leading black men- and turned them into a powerful fighting force. With the American Indians he treated them with respect and always chose peace talks rather than battles with them, earning their trust and cooperation. He worked the same way with the Muslim Phillipino natives, and as a result acquired peace there as well.
Perry does a good job showing Pershing's courageous and strong sense of honor that made him only fight when there was no other alternative and treating all men-regardless of race- as he would himself expect to be treated.
The descriptions of the battles and strategies that caused so much unnecessary death and carnage in WWI as well as Pershing's own strategies and battles that led to the German defeat is especially interesting to read and, in short, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Military history and an extremely important epoch of American and European history.
I received the book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers