Gen. John J. Pershing (1860-1948) was the consummate professional soldier – utterly dedicated to duty. He didn’t marry until his forty-fifth year, to Helen “Frankie” Warren (1880-1915), the only daughter of the wealthy and prominent Sen. Francis Warren of Wyoming. The Pershings had four children in the space of six years, all while Pershing’s career took the family to Japan and the Philippines. Back in the U.S. they settled at The Presidio of San Francisco. Pershing was sent off to temporary duty at the Mexican border, leaving the family at The Presidio, where Helen and their three daughters died in a fire at their residence. Surviving was six year old Francis Warren Pershing (1909-1980).
Later, while still in Texas, Brig. Gen. Pershing was introduced to Anne “Nita” Patton, the younger sister of 1st Lieut. George S. Patton, and the two were briefly engaged but she called it off when Pershing went overseas.
Shortly after arriving in Paris in June of 1917 the French government arranged for him to sit for a large portrait. They hired a 23 year old Romanian-born artist named Michiline Resco (1894-1968). Pershing and Resco quickly developed a close personal relationship, although they were very unlike: she was young, petite, shy , imaginative and had poor English, while he was old, tall, domineering, methodical and had poor French. Nevertheless, the two were together nearly every day until Pershing relocated to the new headquarters at Chaumont and Resco frequently minded young Warren, often taking him on excursions. It is said that as a boy Warren called her “Auntie Mike”
Their relationship continued every time Pershing was back in Paris and they exchanged affectionate letters in the meantime. Here is an example:
August 29, 1917
Since I haven’t had the pleasure to see you today, I’m worried about you’re suffering, which weighs on me regularly. Please accept, mademoiselle, my respectful compliments and all the best wishes toward your swift recovery.
On another occasion Resco wrote this to Pershing, in French:
In a beautiful basket of lilacs that I was sent, I found this lilac with six petals. It’s a sign of good luck – I’m sending it to you with a long kiss.
After Pershing’s return to the U.S. in 1919, the correspondence continued, much of it by cable or telegram. They developed a set of code words to use so that the true intent of the message wasn’t evident to the transmitters and transcribers. Pershing’ code name was ‘Beatrice’ and Resco’s ‘Cheliner’.
In the 1920’s and 30’s, as the Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Pershing made regular trips to France and Resco made a few trips the U.S. as well, working for a time in New York. She also corresponded with Warren, who updated her nick name to “Aunt Michiline”.
After the fall of Paris in 1940 Pershing used his prestige to get the State Department to admit Resco to the U.S. She took up residence in a Washington hotel, but due to ill health Pershing was confined to a suite at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 1942, where he would remain until his death.
On September 2nd, 1946 Pershing and Resco were married at Walter Reed in a private Catholic ceremony. One of the witnesses was Mrs. Madeleine Resco.
This is the text of Pershing’s last letter to Michiline, dictated to an aide:
My Dear Michelle:
What a beautiful love has been ours! How perfect the confidences and the communion! How happy have been the days the days we have spent together! At the twilight of my life God sent you to be near me. In my hours of sadness you have been my strength. In my moments of triumph you have been there to share these with me. Ever since we first met you have been in my thoughts by day and my dreams by night. Your beauty, your greatness of soul, your brilliance of mind, have been the inspiration of the sincerest admiration and the purest love. I fain would think your presence, unseen perhaps, has always filled my heart. As my dear companion in life you’ll be with me through eternity. I cannot but believe, Cherie, that together we shall pluck the flowers that grow in some fairer land. So, do not weep, be brave. Say not goodbye but good night, and in some brighter clime bid me good morning. In all the future the lingering fragrance of your kisses shall be fresh on my lips. You shall hold me in your dear arms and I shall br your own.
As always = Much love
After Pershing’s death Michiline returned to Paris. As the years passed Warren Pershing increasingly supported her.