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Interpreting the Evidence

Death Certificate for Joseph Jack

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Death Certificate for Joseph Jack, World War I, c. 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Death certificate of Joseph Jack, World War I, c. 1918.

Historical Context
John J. Pershing is one of America’s most famous Army officers.  He was born in Missouri on September 13, 1860.  Pershing graduated from West Point in 1886 and served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection, and the Mexican Expedition, before becoming the overall American Commander in Europe during World War I.
In May 1917, General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing was designated the supreme commander of the American army in France, and the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) were created. Although the first American troops arrived in Europe in June 1917, the AEF did not fully participate at the front until October, when the First Division, one of the best-trained divisions of the AEF, entered the trenches at Nancy, France. Pershing wanted an American force that could operate independently of the other Allies, but his vision could not be realized until adequately trained troops with sufficient supplies reached Europe. Training schools in America sent their best men to the front, and Pershing also established facilities in France to train new arrivals for combat.  Pershing whipped an ill-prepared American military into an effective, disciplined, 2-million member fighting force in World War I and then led it to victory as its field commander.
By the time Germany signed the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces had evolved into a modern, combat-tested army recognized as one of the best in the world. 
 In this document, Pershing is recognizing Bugler Joseph Jack for his sacrifice for the cause of his country.  Buglers played a key role in many wars including World War I.  The bugle has been used by the military during wartime and peacetime.
American military forces in Europe during World War I (1914-1918) were impressed by British and French drum and bugle corps. Inspired by the European corps, the American Legion was formed in 1919 for war veterans and soon after began forming drum and bugle corps in the United States. 
Originally, veterans formed impromptu drum corps after World War I as a way to celebrate patriotism. Over the course of many years, these groups developed into competitive units. Many were formed with the support of American Legion and/or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. 

Essential Question
How are soldiers honored for their service?

Check for Understanding
How did Joseph Jack's commander view him?