John George Quekemeyer
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
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
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
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
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
9. Biographical Register, 1246.
10. Fifty-Seventh Annual Report,
11. Times-Picayune, March 4,1926.
12. Biographical Register, 723.
13. Yazoo City Herald, September 26, 1919.
14. Yazoo Tri- Weekly Sentinal, March 3,
15. Memphis Commercial Appeal, March
16. Memphis Commercial Appeal, March
17. Newspaper clipping in family scrapbook,
Yazoo City, Miss.
Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S.
Military Academy. Supplement, Volume V, 1900-1910. Saginaw, Michigan: Seeman &
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.