Thursday Review of John Perry’s Pershing: Commander of the Great War, 9.22.11

Pershing: Commander of the Great War (The Generals)



“To most of the millions of men he commanded during his career, John J. Pershing was not likeable in the least. He was instead an insufferable nitpicker obsessed with the smallest detail of military regimentation. Troops dreaded the sight of the massive limousine flying the four-star general’s flag. Its arrival meant a long list of deficiences in need of correcting immediately…”


So writes John Perry in the introduction of his biography of John J. “Black Jack” Pershing who commanded the American Expeditonary Force in World War One.

Born prior to the Civil War (and able to recall a battle that came to his home personally in Laclede, Missouri in 1864 near to his 4th birthday) and dying after the Second World War, Perry’s telling of Pershing and his life and accomplishments makes clear to this reviewer that he was a military officer who was a bridging figure in the conduct of war whose use of coordinated attacks and innovations such as the Military Police in World War 1 was the precursor of modern 20th century warfare.

Part of Thomas Nelson’s series The Generals, Perry introduces us to an American General he believes has fallen to either the “second or third tier of America’s historical consciousness” in part of because of his nitpiking ways. As he does so he also re-introduces us to the developments both domestically and internationally as well as militarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sympathetically and firmly written, Perry brings to the fore a portait of really two men: the demanding task master in uniform and the devoted and passionate man, husband, father, and… dancer who was rarely seen by those in uniform. In doing so he provides a diverse picture of Pershing.

This volume is a wonderful and shorter introduction to this American General that provides with helpful and necessary glimpses of his life and times. I have read other volumes in this series on Robert E. Lee and George S. Patton (who’s sister Nita was one of Pershing’s love interests after he became a widower) and I have found all three to be very helpful introductions to each of them.

On my scale of 1 (bad) and 5 (great) I give this book a 4 or ‘good’ read. An excellent book for middle school age and up.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program called Book Sneeze (  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

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