National Geographic Magazine/Volume 31/Number 5/Stand by the Soldier

Stand by the SoldierEdit

By Major General John J. Pershing, U. S. Army

From a meeting of the American Red Cross War Council, Washington, D.C., May 24–25, 1917

I have been requested by some of the officers of the Red Cross to say a word as to the part that organization played in our little expedition into Mexico.

Just before Christmas, an official of the Red Cross wrote me a note and asked me what the Red Cross could do for the men in Mexico.

There was not anything that we really needed, but her idea was to arouse a little enthusiasm among the members of the Red Cross by encouraging them to work for our own people; so I telegraphed her a list of things that I thought might be acceptable as Christmas presents, including cigarettes, cigarette papers, smoking tobacco, pipes, old-fashioned candy, comfort bags, bandanna handkerchiefs, pocket-knives, and perhaps a dozen articles, thinking that she would select from these some one thing to give to each man.

But she took the telegram literally, and sent word around to the various chapters throughout the country, and prepared not only a comfort bag, but a comfort bag containing each and every one of those articles for each man in the division.

We arranged a Christmas tree and had various Christmas celebrations at the various camps, and those presents were distributed.

Make the soldiers feel you're back of themEdit

The point I wish to make is that those things cause the soldier to remember that the people at home are behind him. You do not know how much that is going to mean to us who are going abroad. You do not know how much that means to any soldier who is over there carrying the flag for his country. That is the point which should be uppermost in the minds of those who are working for the soldier.

The great work, however, for this Red Cross is to help our allies. As I understand it, the people in France need supplies of all kinds. Therefore, it is our first duty to help them rehabilitate themselves.

We must help their orphans and their widows. We must help put them in a position to produce. We must help them in every way to relieve the French nation from the drain upon it which will, in turn, be a drain upon its military resources.

Our people have not begun to realize that we are in this great war. It is all very well to write newspaper editorials about it and to talk about it on the platform; but it has not yet been impressed upon the people everywhere.

I have just come from a county where they talk to you and say, “Oh, well, we haven't lost anybody; none of our vessels has been destroyed, and we do not really feel that we are at war.”

I put this question to all such men: “Now that we are in this war, do you realize that we must take the place of every man that is killed among the Allies, that we must support the widows and orphans? If we do not, who will do it?”

The representatives of business interests are the men to start this enterprise among our people and bring them to a full realization of the very grave seriousness of this war, to make them feel that we are in this war to win, and the probability is that our entering this war is going to be the deciding factor, and that the burden of the success is going to rest upon the United States.

Source: John J. Pershing (May 1917), “Stand by the Soldier”, The National Geographic Magazine 31(5): 457–459.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1948, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.