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Aide-de-Camp to General Pershing
Born August 31, 1884; Died February 28, 1926
A Brief Biography by Bob Bailey, Yazoo City, MS
John George Quekemeyer, a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, graduated from Yazoo City High School, attended the University of Mississippi, and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1906.(1) Lt. Quekemeyer performed regular duty in Colorado, Arizona Territory, and Hawaii until his horsemanship won him a slot on the U.S. Olympic Polo Team. He then reported to Fort Riley, Kansas, to train. However. he did not participate in the Olympics due to a broken collar bone from a riding accident.(2)
From July 1914 until July 1917, Captain Quekemeyer was posted to Europe, where he performed duty in Paris, Rome, The Hague and London, providing assistance to stranded U.S. citizens attempting to leave Europe due to the war conditions. In July 1917, Major Quekemeyer was assigned as AEF Liaison Officer and Chief of American Mission at British HQ, London. On May 1, 1918, General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, selected him as his personal Aide-de-Camp. General of the Armies John J. Pershing held the highest "flag rank" ever awarded to an American military man, other than George Washington, who received the rank posthumously.(3) Quekemeyer had the privilege and duty to serve this distinguished man.
This duty--so important, so difficult, so exacting, requiring so much tact, so much discernment--he fulfilled with such eminent satisfaction that except for brief periods, he continued in this capacity until his death. And there was built up between General and Aide a feeling of mutual respect and admiration that is uncommon, and a sentiment of affection and friendship and comradeship that is rare. Quek continued as Aide after the General returned from France and after his retirement and became of such invaluable help that he seemed indispensable. An editorial in a southern newspaper (Richmond, Virginia News Leader, dated March 1, 1926) commenting on Quekemeyer's services to General Pershing, stated, 'As personal aide to General Pershing during the whole of his service abroad, Major Quekemeyer had to act as buffer between the commanding general and his associates in the allied armies and between Pershing and his subordinates in the A.E.F. In this post of difficulties almost past imagining, Major Quekemeyer not only retained the confidence of General Pershing, but also gained the affection of nearly every one whose wounded sensibilities he had to treat or whose bruised pride he had to salve. He acquired also the respect of all the G.H.Q. representatives of the allied powers. It is scarcely too much to say that he was the Weygand of the A.E.F. He was a foursquare man and a gentleman unafraid. If General Pershing is not to set down his memoirs, the death of Major Quekemeyer removes the man best qualified to write the general's biography'.(4)
In addition to many foreign honors, Quekemeyer was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the U.S. with the following citation: "For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. As chief of the American Mission at British General Headquarters, he administered the duties of the office with tact and ability, promoting cordial relations between members of the Allied Armies with whom he came in contact. As aide-decamp to the commander in chief, he has performed his important duties with marked distinction and sound judgment."(5)
After the Armistice, Colonel Quekemeyer and Major (later General) George C. Marshall accompanied General Pershing on horseback in the Victory Parade in London. Upon arriving at the reviewing stand, Quekemeyer and Marshall dismounted and were welcomed to the reviewing stand, where General Pershing sat with the King and Queen of England for the remainder of the parade. Quekemeyer gained favor with many members of the royalty during his service in London before and during his service with General Pershing.(6)
After the war Quekemeyer was reduced from his wartime rank to his permanent rank of major, which was the normal procedure for career officers. He resumed regular duties, which included Command and General Staff School, but General Pershing soon selected him again, this time to accompany him to South America to participate in the Centennial of the Battle of Ayacucho. Upon returning, Quekemeyer assumed regular duty as an instructor at Command and General Staff School.(7) On July 17, 1925, Quekemeyer left Washington, D. C., returning to South America with General Pershing and his military and civilian staff. General Pershing headed the Tacna-Arica Plebisicitary Commission, which had responsibility for settling border disputes between Chili and Peru. (8) Quekemeyer's personal diary reveals many behind-the-scenes circumstances surrounding the difficult job General Pershing faced and his own assistance in delicately handling potentially explosive situations. As the commission attempted to work out mutual problems, Quekemeyer was responsible for orchestrating the social protocol to be carefully exercised by the commission and staff people.
Quekemeyer's appointment as Commandant of Cadets at U.S.M.A. spoke of his abilities that were known throughout the Army. His association with General Pershing, of course, did not hamper his burgeoning military career. Quekemeyer was on the same course as Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArthur and undoubtedly would have shared big responsibilities in shaping the army that would later fight another war.
Quekemeyer was no stranger to a battle. He was wounded in fighting at Argonne Forest on September 23, 1918.(9) Sadly, in 1926 Quekemeyer faced a bout that he could not win. Soon after returning from South America, he visited West Point in preparation to relieve General March Stewart as Commandant. On February 28, 1926, in spite of very attentive medical care, he was suddenly overcome by pneumonia.(10) His death was more than his mother could bear and she died on March 1, 1926, hours before his body arrived in Yazoo City. Their double funeral on March 3, 1926, at the First Presbyterian Church was attended by hundreds of people including a battalion of army troops that carried out full military honors.(11) Effective February 28, 1926, by Act of June 21, 1930, Quekemeyer was promoted posthumously to full Colonel, thereby restoring his wartime rank.(12)
His death was a sad loss to many. "---Yazoo Boys who were in the fight --- when he knew that one was in reach he never lost an opportunity to make them a visit and give a cheering word. Though clothed with the insignia of high rank, no private from his home failed to be recognized and visited if he knew where they were."(13) The Mississippi House of Representatives unanimously passed and sent to the Senate a resolution honoring Quekemeyer as a distinguished Mississippian(14), notables such as Vice President Dawes(15) and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.(16) , as well as the Government of Peru(17), sent condolences, but the personal letter from General Pershing (who was ill at the time and could not attend the funeral) to Quekemeyer's mother speaks volumes. (Mrs. Quekemeyer, of course, never read the letter). Attached herewith, as an appendix, is a transcribed copy.
It is noteworthy that General Pershing selected both Quekemeyer and a great Mississippi Hall of Fame inductee, Major General Fox Conner, to serve very important staff positions during his command of the A.E.F.
February 28, 1926
My Dear Mrs. Quekemeyer:
It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter. The unexpected death of your beloved son has come as a terrible blow to us all. Ever since he joined me as aide during the World War he has been my most constant companion and very dear friend.
His loyalty and devotion keep no bounds. Duty was always his guide. If ever an officer lived up to the ideals of West Point as expressed in its motto--Duty-Honor-Country--it was your son John.
His ability had marked out for him the continuation of his already brilliant career. His selection to be Commandant of Cadets was most fitting, and his qualifications for this position exceptional.
No man in the service had more friends than he, and all of them both here and abroad will be heart broken at his passing. His strong and charming personality held an appeal that was irresistible.
Speaking for myself, his loss is irreparable. There's no one to take his place, and no one can know better than I what it means to you his mother. Nothing can assuage your grief, and yet you will rind comfort in the years to come in the thought that you bore such a son --- possessing to a striking degree all those noble qualities that contributed to make up his rare personality, and his splendid character. The entire army and his thousands of friends throughout the country and abroad will mourn with you. My deepest sympathy goes out to you in this sad hour. I shall always esteem it a privilege to be of any possible assistance to you.
Believe me always with sincere affection.
signed John J Pershing
To Mrs. E. A. Quekemeyer
1. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy. Supplement, Volume V, 1900-1910 (Saginaw, Michigan: Seeman & Peters, 1910), 784.
2. Yazoo City newspaper clipping in family scrapbook including photo of Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig presenting the British Distinguished Service Order to Colonel Quekemeyer on April 14, 1919.
3. Raymond Oliver, Why is the Colonel called "Kernal"? The origin of ranks and insignia used by the United States Armed Forces (McClellan Aviation Museum, McClellan Air Force Base, California, 1983).
4. Fifty-Seventh Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the USNU at West Point, New York (Saginaw, Michigan: Seeman & Peters, Printers and Binders, 1926), 165.
5. Biographical Register, 1247.
6. George C. Marshall, Memoirs of My Services in the World War 1917-1918 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), 219-221.
7. Biographical Register, 722.
8. John G. Quekemeyer's Personal Diary, 1, July 17, 1925.
9. Biographical Register, 1246.
10. Fifty-Seventh Annual Report, 162-163.
11. Times-Picayune, March 4,1926.
12. Biographical Register, 723.
13. Yazoo City Herald, September 26, 1919.
14. Yazoo Tri- Weekly Sentinal, March 3, 1926
15. Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 2,1926.
16. Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 4,1926.
17. Newspaper clipping in family scrapbook, source unknown.
Yazoo City, Miss.
Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. Supplement, Volume V, 1900-1910. Saginaw, Michigan: Seeman & Peters, Printers.
Fifty-Seventh Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the USNU at West Point, New York. Saginaw, Michigan: Seeman & Peters, Printers & Binders, 1926.
Marshall, George C. Memoirs of My Services in the World War 1917-1918. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 2, 1926.
Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 4, 1926.
Newspaper clipping in family scrapbook, source unknown.
Oliver, Raymond. Why is the Colonel called "Kernal"? The origin of ranks and insignia used by the United States Armed Forces. McClellan Aviation Museum, McClellan Air Force Base, California, 1983.
Quekemeyer, John G., Personal Diary.
Times-Picayune, March 4,1926.
Yazoo City Herald, September 26, 1919.
Yazoo City newspaper clipping in family scrapbook with photo.
Yazoo Tri-Weekly Sentinel, March 3, 1926.