Terry de la Mesa
Allen’s mother was the daughter of a Spanish officer, and his father was a
career U.S. Army officer. Despite this impressive martial heritage, success in
the military seemed unlikely for Allen as he failed out of West
Point—twice—ultimately gaining his commission through Catholic University’s
R.O.T.C. program. In World War I, the young officer commanded an infantry
battalion and distinguished himself as a fearless combat leader, personally
leading patrols into no-man’s-land.
In 1940, with
another world war looming, newly appointed army chief of staff Gen. George C.
Marshall reached down through the ranks and, ahead of almost a thousand more
senior colonels, promoted Patton, Eisenhower, Allen, and other younger officers
to brigadier general.
For Operation Torch,
the invasion of North Africa, Allen, now a two-star general, commanded the Big
Red One, the First Infantry Division, spearheading the American attack against
the Nazis. Despite a stellar combat record, however, Major General Allen found
himself in hot water with the big brass. Allen and his troops had become
notorious for their lack of discipline off the battlefield. When Seventh Army
commander George Patton was pressed by his deputy Omar Bradley to replace
“Terrible Terry” before the invasion of Sicily, he demurred, favoring Allen’s
success in combat. At the end of the Sicily campaign, with Allen’s protector
Patton out of the way (relieved for slapping a soldier), Omar Bradley fired
Allen and sent him packing back to the States, seemingly in terminal disgrace.
Once again, however,
George Marshall reached down and in October 1944, Terrible Terry was given
command of another infantry division, the 104th Timberwolves and took it into
heavy combat in Belgium. Hard fighting continued as Allen’s division
spearheaded the U.S. First Army’s advance across Germany. On 26 April 1945,
Terrible Terry Allen’s hard-charging Timberwolves became the first American
outfit to link up with the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
Terrible Terry Allen
was one of the most remarkable American soldiers of World War II or any war.
Hard bitten, profane, and combative, Allen disdained the “book,” but he knew
how to wage war. He was a master of strategy, tactics, weaponry, and, most
importantly, soldiers in combat.
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