||Pershing: General of the Armies,
by Donald Smythe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
The story of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I and its commander, General John J. Pershing, are forever entwined in the history of the United States’ noble effort to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Donald Smythe has been studying and researching Pershing’s life for almost three decades, and his current work is the sequel to his 1973 book, Guerrilla Warrior: The Early Life of John J. Pershing, and completes the biography of this almost legendary soldier.
The book begins with Pershing’s selection to command the AEF shortly after the U.S. entered the war in April 1917. Pershing grew in maturity and competence as the war progressed, as did the AEF, the evolution of which Smythe tells about in rich detail. Smythe makes magnificent use of unpublished manuscripts, interviews, correspondence, and oral reminiscences in addition to published sources to tell his story.
Although he is an obvious admirer of his subject, Smythe’s work has been done with great objectivity, including details concerning Pershing’s personal life. He does not try to cover up allegations of Pershing’s fathering illegitimate children in the Philippines, his two cases of gonorrhea contracted when he was a younger man, or his surreptitious relationship with Micheline Resco, which started in 1917 and to whom Pershing was secretly wed in 1946.
One of the major contributions of the book is the clarification of the issues that seriously divided the Americans from the British and French concerning the use of the American forces in France.
Overall, the book is a model of clarity, scholarship, incisiveness, and readability. It has a 41-page section of notes and a 33-page bibliography, plus photographs of the major personalities of the day and outstanding, easy-to-read maps. It is an indispensable and authoritative reference for anyone interested in Pershing and in the AEF and the role the U.S. played in the “war to end all wars.”
Book Review, Pershing: General of the Armies, by Donald Smythe, Infantry 76 (November-December 1986): 50.