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My Fellow Soldiers

Letters from World War I

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General John J. Pershing
Courtesy of the National Archives

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General John J. Pershing to “My Fellow Soldiers”

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Courtesy of Andrew Carroll
The letters of John Pershing, the general who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces, demonstrate his understanding of the power of the personal, written word. Pershing wrote of the importance of individual endurance in both his private and public correspondence. In personal letters, he poignantly shared his grief over the deaths of his wife and daughters. In this famously public letter, at the end of the war, he thanked every member of the AEF for service “to the nation.”



FRANCE, February 28, 1919.



Now that your service with the American Expeditionary Forces is about to terminate, I can not let you go without a personal word. At the call to arms, the patriotic young manhood of America eagerly responded and became the formidable army whose decisive victories testify to its efficiency and its valor. With the support of the nation firmly united to defend the cause of liberty, our army has executed the will of the people with resolute purpose. Our democracy has been tested, and the forces of autocracy have been defeated. To the glory of the citizen-soldier, our troops have faithfully fulfilled their trust, and in a succession of brilliant offensives have overcome the menace to our civilization.

As an individual, your part in the world war has been an important one in the sum total of our achievements. Whether keeping lonely vigil in the trenches, or gallantly storming the enemy's stronghold; whether enduring monotonous drudgery at the rear, or sustaining the fighting line at the front, each has bravely and efficiently played his part. By willing sacrifice of personal rights; by cheerful endurance of hardship and privation; by vigor, strength and indomitable will, made effective by thorough organization and cordial co-operation, you inspired the war-worn Allies with new life and turned the tide of threatened defeat into overwhelming victory.

With a consecrated devotion to duty and a will to conquer, you have loyally served your country. By your exemplary conduct a standard has been established and maintained never before attained by any army. With mind and body as clean and strong as the decisive blows you delivered against the foe, you are soon to return to the pursuits of peace. In leaving the scenes of your victories, may I ask that you carry home your high ideals and continue to live as you have served—an honor to the principles for which you have fought and to the fallen comrade you leave behind.

It is with pride in our success that I extend to you my sincere thanks for your splendid service to the army and to the nation.

Faithfully, John J. Pershing Commander in Chief.

OFFICIAL: ROBERT C. DAVIS, Adjutant General.

Copy furnished to ____________