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.
The son of a West Pointer and the grandson of a Spanish officer, Terry de la Mesa Allen (1888-1969) was admitted to the school only through the intervention of President Teddy Roosevelt. He later flunked out, but eventually managed to get a commission as a reserve officer after graduating from Catholic University. His first active duty was with the cavalry on the Mexican border before World War I. Astor (The Might Eighth) offers a careful resume of the course of WWI up to U. S. entry in 1917, followed by Allen's transfer from cavalry to artillery, where he saw action on various fronts, and was later awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroism. The 20 years of Allen's career between the wars--his marriage; his polo play for the 1920 Olympic team; his different service posts, his troubles with debt, his relations with George Patton and George Marshall--is covered in only one chapter. The latter later promoted Allen to general in 1940; Allen commanded the 1st Division during the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Thereafter, Astor follows an effective chapter formula: background on the military situation, combat operations, quotes from Allen's letters about the fighting, his relations with other generals and others, as well as some recollections by veterans. Following his relief from command of the 1st Division (criticism of the division by other generals is included), Allen returned to the U.S., but eventually headed up another infantry division, the 104th. In late October 1944, the 104th battled its way through German defenses guarding the Reich, and joined in the invasion of Germany during March and April 1945, capturing Nordhausen concentration camp and reaching the Elbe River, where Soviet forces were met in late April 1945. Astor follows Allen's ups and downs with respectful candor, making this book a treat for WWII buffs in particular.