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General John J. Pershing commanded more than 2-million U.S. troops in World War I. It was America’s first real test of its military and required a rapid deployment of troops in a European battlefield thousands of miles from America. American troops emerged as the victors in the fighting but paid a dear cost in the lives of U.S. soldiers who died or were wounded in the Great War’s bloody fight against Germany.
In 1937, Pershing, now 20 years removed from war, recalled the sacrifices of his American soldiers on the battlefield during a memorial dedication at the Meuse-Argonne in France. The Meuse-Argonne battle stretched for 47 days and claimed most of the 53,000 U.S. combat deaths from the Great War.
Pershing noted that, unlike seasoned German enemy troops who had been fighting the war for years, when U.S. troops arrived in 1917 and 1918, most soldiers averaged just a few months of training as they entered the battlefield.
In the end, Pershing said U.S. troops quickly adapted to the battlefield and helped turn the tide against Germany while fighting with our nation’s French and British allies. Pershing said the valor of U.S. soldiers in WWI was a credit to the spirit and legacy of America.
Pershing died in 1948 at the age of 87. His death came just three years after American troops again fought and sacrificed; this time against Germany and Japan in winning World War II.
Pershing’s sobering words in 1938, just a few years before WWII erupted, were a reminder of the terrible consequences and the loss of innocent lives that wars may visit on all sides of the conflict.