Who's Who - Peyton March

Peyton March Peyton Conway March (1864-1955) served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the final year of the First World War and worked to transform its effectiveness in modern war.

Successfully passing out of West Point in 1888 March received a commission into the artillery.  Although his career chiefly blossomed following U.S. entry into World War One he did achieve a reputation for administrative ability while serving in the Philippines, where he was based periodically from 1898 until 1902, during which time he saw active service in the Philippine-U.S. War of 1900-02.

March spent four years from 1903 working on the General Staff, and was sent as an observer during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.  Following a promotion to Major he was given command of a field artillery regiment prior to his appointment to the Adjutant General's Office from 1911-16.  In 1916 he was promoted Colonel and assigned to command of the 8th Field Artillery on the Mexican border.

March's rise during World War One was meteoric, notwithstanding his earlier brilliant reputation.  He was initially promoted to Brigadier-General and placed in command of an AEF artillery brigade following U.S. entry into the war.  In August he was placed in command of the entire AEF artillery force and in September promoted again, this time to Major-General.

The following March he was recalled to Washington by Secretary of War Newton Baker and appointed Army Chief of Staff, receiving an acting promotion to full General.  He promptly set about significantly widening the scope (and importance) of his new role, and worked to increase the size of the army and to improve its efficiency.

March created a storm of controversy among traditionalists with his decision to abolish the distinctions between the Regular Army, National Guard and National Army while war lasted.  A forceful personality he brushed aside criticism and moved to create new Army technical branches, including the Air Corps, Chemical Warfare Service, Motor Transport Corps and the Tank Corps - dramatically modernising the outlook of the U.S. Army.

Despite (and perhaps given) his crucial role in transforming the technical effectiveness of the Army March's style of leadership brought him into conflict with other senior army figures, including AEF Commander-in-Chief John J. Pershing, with whom he often found himself in disagreement (perhaps unsurprisingly given March's determination to restrict Pershing's ability to conduct an independent command from France).

Having directed the demobilisation of U.S. forces from France back to the U.S. he retired in 1921 with a permanent rank of Major-General.  On the retired list he was subsequently promoted to full General in 1930.

He died in 1955.

"Beachy Bill" was the name given to one of the Turkish guns which regularly shelled Anzac Cove.

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