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I once read that Gen. Pershing threatened to execute hundreds of American soldiers for cowardice because they refused to attack machine guns across an open field.  I have searched many of his biographies and have not been able to find evidence.  Is it true?  Did this happen?

Bob Shebesta

Dear Mr. Shebesta,

General John J. Pershing has been criticized for numerous controversial decisions and actions during World War I, arguably the most damning being his orders for his troops to fight on after the armistice went into effect at 11 AM on November 11, 1918, which resulted in about 3,500 unnecessary American casualties. In all the years I’ve studied World War I and the Meuse-Argonne campaign, however, I have never come upon a viable reference to his threatening to execute hundreds of his men for cowardice.


Jon Guttman

Research Director

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