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Address by Gen. John J. Pershing

From: "Addresses Made by General John J. Pershing, U.S.A., and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. to Officers and Soldiers of the 33rd Division in the Field, Luxembourg, April 22, 1919.", Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, volume 15, numbers 1-2: 519-523. (Reported by Sgt. H. L. Livingstone, Q. M. C., 33rd Division, 1907 S. 8th St., Springfield, Ill.)

By Gen. John J. Pershing

Although I have followed the effort that has been made by the 33rd Division from the time of its landing up to the time of the Armistice, it has not been my good fortune to have an opportunity to inspect it as a whole, nor to say a word of a personal nature as to what it has accomplished.

Now that demobilization has begun it is well for you, before you leave, to form in your minds a very distinct impression of what has been accomplished by the American Expeditionary Forces, of which you have been such an important part.

When we entered the war we found the Allied Army in a very low state of morale and our entry gave them new hope. When our Divisions, even partly trained though some of them were, were thrown into the line, stopped the onslaughts of the armies of the Central Powers, then our Allies took a new courage and a new spirit of aggressiveness.

Beginning with the battle of Sampigny, of splendid memory, following the operations of the American Army on down to Chateau Thierry, and in the Marne-Aisne offensive, in the Champagne, and under our own splendid army in the battle of St. Mihiel and later in the final great victory of the war, the Argonne, we have to our credit nothing by a succession of victories. This is one thought that you must carry home very clearly in your minds. Another is that the very good effort we made to provide for four million men was completed only to accommodate two million men, as we found that the stuff of which those two million men was made was sufficient to carry the war to a successful conclusion in 1918, instead of prolonging it to 1919, as we all thought might be necessary, or even to 1920. These things, then, have been a part of your work. They are to your credit, credit of the entire American Expeditionary Forces, but they would not have been possible except through the very splendid individual efforts that you have offered to the cause. Whether you know it or not, whether you fully realize it or not, there has been in each individual a spiritual uplift which carried him forward with an aggressiveness, which, combined as a whole, made the American Army an invincible one. You have belonged, then, to the greatest army, the most splendid army of modern times, under probably the best organization and composed of a personnel unequaled in modern times with an aggressiveness and fighting spirit unsurpassed by any. You have in that army, and as a part of it, fought in the greatest cause for which mankind ever fought. You have as a part of that army and in that cause represented perhaps the greatest nation, at least in many respects, in the world today.

Isn't it a proud thing, men, for you to carry home these thoughts with you, and when you contemplate it I am sure none will dare to minimize your efforts in your presence or speak discouragingly of them.

It is necessary that you carry home with you a very correct impression of what you have done, because your service has been far from home and far from you people, who will expect you to carry back a story of what American has accomplished in the war. It has been a very great privilege for every individual to have served as a part of this army in the war and each has given his very best, each has made the supreme effort to carry out the wishes of our people, but in doing so you also have received much. You have received a strengthening of character, you have received a breadth of vision which you had not before and you have prepared yourselves, unconsciously, to take up the duties that will devolve upon you when you return to your homes and to your firesides. These duties may be manifold, none of us can tell what we are going to be called upon to do, but we know, we are assured, that each will return to his home and follow whatever calling may fall to his lot with the very same earnestness, with the same industry, and with the same integrity of purpose with which you have fought the battles of our country.

When you return home with the military victory, as you are going to do, I am going to add to that another victory, and that is a moral one, which you are carrying back. It is the greatest moral victory that has ever been accomplished by an army. Isn't it a splendid thing that each one of you will be able to return home and say to his mother, or wife, or sister, or sweetheart, that he belonged to an army of two million men, served in a foreign country for more than two years, under more than ordinary temptations and yet returned home to the bosom of his family absolutely clean, morally as well as mentally and physically? Wouldn't that be a splendid thing to say to the womanhood of America, who remained back there waiting and praying that you might return with a victory? Wouldn't it be a tribute and honor to the women who made many sacrifices and came to the fight alongside of you in Europe and administered to the wounded and sick and otherwise maintained an esprit and morale? Wouldn't it be a find thing for the coming generations of young men of America for you to be able to say that this was an army of moral crusaders who returned home with a victory such as the world never has seen? More than all the splendid victory is the individual whose earnest work as such will make the combined victory possible. Let us bear that in mind, carry it out, go home with it proudly as we shall return home with the military victory.

I shall close by simply expressing to you, your commander and your officers, my very sincere thanks and my appreciation of the splendid work that has been done by you since your entry into the war. You are returning home with a record of which you should be exceedingly proud. You are returning home with that gratitude of all of those who are familiar with what you have done. You are returning home with the gratitude of the Allies, who know what work you have performed, not only upon your own front, but elsewhere on the western front. May I extend to you the thanks and gratitude of the American people, but I shall express the hope that you, yourselves, at a very early date, may receive from their own lips, at your own firesides, in your own homes in America, their thanks and their congratulations. Thank you very much.

In honor today of the presence of the Honorable Secretary of War, who has witnessed this splendid review, splendid appearance of this Division, I am going to ask him to say a word to you, although he has several times declined my invitations.

Address of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker

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