Historical Highlights

A State Funeral for General John Joseph Pershing

July 18, 1948–July 19, 1948
A State Funeral for General John Joseph Pershing Image courtesy of Library of Congress Known for his prowess as a military leader, General John Pershing earned additional distinction for his role in forming the United States Army Band in 1922.
On these dates, General John Joseph Pershing, who had died at age 87 in the Walter Reed Army Hospital on July 15, lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. One of the great generals in U.S. Army history, Pershing devoted nearly three-quarters of his life to military service and led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. With Congress on recess and scheduled to return on July 26th, the ceremony was authorized without a concurrent resolution from the House and the Senate. The two-day event drew crowds of dignitaries and soldiers to the Capitol Rotunda including President Harry S. Truman. Despite the summer heat of Washington, D.C., crowds waited around the clock to pay their respects to the distinguished general. On the second day of mourning, the casket was removed from the Capitol and borne in solemn procession to Arlington National Cemetery. Pershing was the 14th individual and only the third military hero to lie in state in the Capitol. (Admiral George Dewey lay in state in 1917.) When Congress returned from its recess, Members submitted their remarks honoring Pershing for the Congressional Record. New York Congressman Sol Bloom inserted an editorial entitled “General Pershing – Soldier of Liberty” summarizing the life of the widely revered general in the phrase, “As he died to make men holy[,] So he fought to make men free.”

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