The Day by Day History of the
John J. Pershing Died
July 15, 1948
John J. Pershing fought the American Indians,
chased Pancho Villa into Mexico, and molded the American troops
into a fighting army during World War I. When he died on July
15, 1948, he was given a hero's burial at Arlington National
Born in Laclede, Missouri, on September 13,
1860, Pershing was the oldest of six children. His mother taught
him at home, where he developed a love of learning. How did
Pershing become a military hero?
After graduating from
the United States Military Academy at West Point, Pershing
commanded the 6th Cavalry Regiment in the West, where he
participated in the campaigns against the Apache and Sioux
When a new law authorized the U.S. Army to form
cavalry and infantry regiments of black soldiers, Pershing
became first lieutenant of the 10th Cavalry Regiment in Montana,
one of several segregated regiments. The African American troops
of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Divisions played a prominent role in
the battles of Santiago and San Juan Hill during the
Spanish-American War in 1898. Pershing was awarded a Silver Star
Citation for gallantry in both those battles, but he had yet to
meet the notorious Pancho Villa.
President Wilson sent
Pershing after Pancho Villa, the Mexican bandit who had been
making murderous raids across the border into the United States.
For nine months, Pershing and his troops chased the elusive
Villa through Mexico. Although Pershing never caught Villa,
Wilson was impressed with the way the general handled his
command in a foreign country.
When the U.S. entered World
War I, Wilson appointed Pershing commander of the American
Expeditionary Forces to Europe. Before his death in 1948,
Pershing's brilliant military career earned him the title of
General of the Armies of the United States. He was the first
general awarded the title since George Washington.