General “Black Jack” Pershing was born 155 years ago today: Sept. 13, 1860. Perhaps one of his greatest birthday presents, was the early victory of the American First Army in the St. Mihiel Salient in mid Sept. 1918 on his 58th birthday–97 years ago today.
“… Now from all over the country poured telegrams combining birthday salutations with congratulations for the St.-Mihiel victory, the Children of the American Loyalty League, the All-Polish Congress, the Citizens’ Vigilance Committee of Miami County, Indian… the Children of the Irving School, Bloomington, Illinois, the Community War Council of Swarthmore. They were with him to a man. The phrase was constantly repeated. They spoke of him by the nickname created by newspapermen who could hardly use his actual one deriving from service with black troops, Nigger Jack, and substituted Black Jack instead.
With General Pétain he walked through the liberated town of St. Mihiel, the inhabitants weeping for joy at seeing the Germans driven away. “We gave ’em a damn good licking, didn’t we? Pershing said.” (Smith, Gene. Until the Last Trumpet Sounds: The Life of General of the Armies John J. Pershing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998, pp. 191-2.)
But there was little time for a greater celebration, as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was less than two weeks away.