On Veterans Day, 1941, there was a giant parade for the dedication of a new monument to honor the life of John J. Pershing, General of the Armies during World War I. The City of Omaha named a new roadway leading from Abbott Drive to River Drive after him, as well. This wasn’t the beginning of North Omaha’s love affair with this leader though. Here’s the story of North Omaha’s J. J. Pershing Drive and Monument.
In 1892, Pershing was a faculty at the University of Nebraska when he pulled together an Army company to compete at a national rifleship competition in Omaha. He was the local’s favorite, and he won big time. The citizens of Omaha presented Pershing’s company with a large silver cup, the “Omaha Cup.”
After that, citizens of Omaha followed their adopted Nebraskan general closely. They were especially enthralled when Pershing was pursuing General Pancho Villa in 1916, and after that when Pershing went to fight in World War I. The newspapers in Omaha took a particular life when he took control of the National Army and immediately routed German troops that the European military couldn’t defeat in years of fighting.
When Pershing became the nation’s first-ever living General of the Armies in recognition of his leadership in 1919, Omaha was ecstatic.
In January 1920, Pershing visited Omaha. There was a welcoming parade, flying demonstrations and AkSarBen field, and more.
In 1926, students in East Omaha voted to name their new building after Pershing.
During his long, distinguished career, Pershing maintained his spectacular rank. In World War II, he was recognized as the most supreme general of the United States.
The Omaha World-Herald reported, “The monument is of cut limestone built by the park department with a rose-colored granite plaque etched with a bust of Pershing and the inscription, ‘John J. Pershing, General of the Armies of the United States.’ It is backed with evergreens. A surrounding parking area will be closed to traffic and landscaped. The plaque was made and given by J. F. Bloom.”
It was shortly before the U.S.’s entry into WWII that the City of Omaha dedicated the new roadway and monument to Pershing. He was sick at the time, and his sister May Pershing attended on his behalf. The monument, which is near 8200 J. J. Pershing Drive, stands a bit desolate today. The wide open valley views are gone now, blocked out by thick riparian forests, and a bike path strolls leisurely past the site. But the monument is still there to appreciate.
Born in 1860, John J. Pershing died at age 88 in 1948.
Located between the Florence Water Works and the Missouri River, north of the OPPD plant and south of the Mormon Bridge, Pershing’s acknowledgment awaits your visit. The Pershing School is long gone now, but Sunday drives along his roadway are still popular.
Go visit sometime and send me a picture. For all the war and fighting he led and troops who died under his command, Pershing should be remembered.