Pershing Arrives in Paris
June 14, 1917
When, in April 1917, Congress declared war on Germany, President Wilson turned to “Black Jack” Pershing to command the American Expeditionary Force. Pershing had fought in Cuba, in the Philippines, had served in Manchuria, and had commanded the Expeditionary Force to Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. The situation that confronted Pershing when he arrived in Paris was desperate. The Germans were everywhere victorious. Pershing saw that to prop up Allied morale, a token American force was essential; to win the war, a total of no less than three million soldiers. Wilson responded, and on July 4th, the first contingent of Yanks marched up the Champs d’Elysees. Within a year, the trickle of American troops rose to a flood and a million and a half American troops had arrived in France. By midsummer 1918, they were fighting side-by-side with the French and British from the Marne to the Channel; the German breakthrough to capture Paris had been hurled back, and the U-Boat menace aborted. That fall, the Allies siezed the offensive; from Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry. By September the Allied forces - with over a million tanks in the lines - were ready for the great counter-offensive. In two months of incessant fighting they smashed the German defenses and pushed the German ranks back to the German border. On November 11, 1918, the Yanks could go home.
Pershing’s arrival in Paris on June 14, 1917 is commemorated in the above painting.