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Character Sketches

Character Sketches
Chapter 30: The War to End War, 1917 - 1918


George Creel (1876 - 1953)

Creel was the progressive journalist who became the energetic head of the American propaganda effort in World War I.

Creel quit high school after one year to become an ardent progressive journalist. He founded a newspaper, the Kansas City Independent, that crusaded against the Pendergast machine, prostitution, and child labor. Creel was a flamboyant figure who married a vaudeville actress and liked to associate with boxers and other athletes.

Besides war propaganda, Creel organized a massive effort to spread a wholesome view of the American way of life throughout the world via films, magazines, and books. Creel remained a liberal California journalist through the New Deal, but during and after World War II, he became an extreme right-winger who called for harsh vengeance against Germany and Japan.

Quote: [I decided that] the desired results could be obtained without paying the price that formal law would have demanded.Better to have the desired compulsions proceed from within than to apply them from without. (1920)

REFERENCE: Stephen L. Vaughn, Holding Fast the Inner Line: Democracy, Nationalism, and the Committee on Public Information (1980).


John J. Pershing (1860 - 1948)

Pershing was the commander of the Pershing expedition into Mexico and of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.

He attended a normal school before winning a competition to enter the U.S. Military Academy. His first service was among the Indians, and for a time he led a company of Sioux scouts. His nickname, Black Jack, came from his having commanded a black cavalry unit but was also a reference to his tough drillmaster methods.

In the Mexican campaign he applied new devices like radios, airplanes, and machine guns to military uses. His ability to stay within the strict political guidelines given him in Mexico won him Wilsons favor and command of forces in World War I. Pershing was a model soldiersquare-jawed, of rigid bearing, calm, forceful, discreet. Many of his junior officers later became the great American commanders in World War II.

Quote: The most important question that confronted us in the preparation of our forces of citizen soldiery for efficient service was training.Few people can realize what a stupendous undertaking it was to teach these vast numbers their various duties when most of them were ignorant of practically everything pertaining to the business of the soldier in war. (Memoirs, 1931)

REFERENCE: Gene Smith, Until the Last Trumpet Sounds: The Life of General of the Armies John J. Pershing (1998).


Henry Cabot Lodge (1850 - 1924)

Lodge was the aristocratic New England scholar and senator who successfully battled against Wilsons League of Nations.

A descendant of the ancient Lodge and Cabot lines of Massachusetts, Lodge married his cousin Ann Cabot Davis. He studied history under Henry Adams and wrote scholarly but strongly pro-Federalist biographies of Washington, Hamilton, Webster, and his grandfather George Cabot.

He was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt and was also a friend of Wilsons antagonist at Princeton, Dean West.

Although highly intelligent, Lodge was narrow in outlook and comfortable only with those of his own background and class. He was rigid and opinionated and, like Wilson, tended to turn political disagreements into personal animosities.

Quote: We have twice succeeded in creating a situation where Wilson either had to take the Treaty with strong reservationsor else was obliged to defeat it. He has twice taken the latter alternative. His personal selfishness goes beyond what I have seen in any human being. It is so extreme that it is entirely unenlightened and stupid. (Letter, 1920)

REFERENCE: William C. Widenor, Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy (1980).



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