Tuesday, October 6, 2015

John "Blackjack" Pershing — An Outlandish Urban Legend

For the past several years an outlandish urban legend has circulated on the Internet regarding Pershing's handling of the Islamic Moro population during the early 20th century war in the Philippines.

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There is more than one version of the legend, but the gist of the story, completely untrue, claims Pershing rounded up 50 Muslim terrorists, executed 49 of them with bullets soaked in pigs' blood, had them buried in a mass grave and covered the bodies with pig entrails, barring them by an erroneous perception of Islamic law from entry into heaven.  The yarn goes on to claim Pershing released the 50th terrorist so he could pass the word about what happens to scoundrels who mess with the United States.

While Pershing indeed had skirmishes with the Moros while he was in the Philippines, there is no evidence he ever had anyone executed.  To the contrary he said many times he wanted to avoid any Moro casualties. 

When asked about this tale, Dr. Frank E. Vandiver, professor of history at Texas A&M University and author of Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, said, "I never found any indication that it was true in extensive research on his Moro experiences.  This kind of thing would have run completely against his character."

In addition, according to the American Muslim Association in North America, "The notion that a Muslim would be denied entrance to heaven for touching a pig is ridiculous."

Legitimate historians today agree this story is nothing more than a wild legend possibly originating or gaining momentum in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Pershing was certainly a strict disciplinarian, but he was neither impulsive nor cruel.  As a whole, the Moros revered him and voluntarily bestowed their highest honors upon him.  Pershing, by his actions, showed he respected the Moro population and, when asked about his mission in the Philippines said, "I am here to wage peace."

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