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Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.
File:Terry de la Mesa Allen.jpg
Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.
Nickname Terrible Terry
Born (1888-04-01)April 1, 1888
Died September 12, 1969(1969-09-12) (aged 81)
Place of birth Fort Douglas, Utah
Place of death El Paso, Texas
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1912–1946
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held 104th Infantry Division 104th Infantry Division
US 1st Infantry Division 1st Infantry Division

World War I

World War II

Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Croix de Guerre
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart (2)

Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr. (April 1, 1888 – September 12, 1969) was a division-level United States Army officer during World War II. Allen was a decorated World War I veteran who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily during 1942–43. He was later selected to lead the 104th Infantry Division as divisional commander, a post he held until the end of the war.

Early years

Allen was born in Fort Douglas, Utah, to Col. Samuel Allen and Consuelo "Conchita" Alvarez de la Mesa. Allen's family had a long line of military tradition.[1] Besides his father, Allen's maternal grandfather was Colonel Carlos Alvarez de la Mesa, a Spanish national who fought at Gettysburg for the Union Army in the Spanish Company of the "Garibaldi Guard" of the 39th New York State Volunteers, during the American Civil War.[2] Allen grew up in various military bases because of his father's military career and in 1907, received an appointment to the United States Military Academy (West Point) in New York.[3]

Command style

From all reports, General Allen was not only respected but was warmly regarded by his 1st Division troops, particularly the enlisted soldiers. Like Patton, he generally placed his headquarters as far forward as possible to the front line. However, unlike the latter he did not bother greatly with his military appearance, frequently going without clean uniforms and haircuts.[4] He was also reportedly the only American general in the European and North African theaters who preferred to sleep on the ground, rather than on a cot or in a bed.[4] However, despite a casual attitude toward his own personal appearance, Allen did not tolerate slovenliness or incompetence in the troops under his command.[5] Allen expected his soldiers to keep their weapons and equipment in perfect working order. He trained them constantly to keep them combat ready. As war correspondent Ernie Pyle would later write, "Major General Terry Allen was one of my favorite people. Partly because he didn't give a damn for hell or high water; partly because he was more colorful than most; and partly because he was the only general outside the Air Forces I could call by his first name. If there was one thing in the world Allen lived and breathed for, it was to fight. He had been all shot up in the last war, and he seemed not the least averse to getting shot up again. This was no intellectual war with him. He hated Germans and Italians like vermin."[6]

In preparing his division for its first encounter with the enemy, Allen emphasized realistic training exercises, weapons practice, and physical conditioning in the field in place of drill and military ceremony.[7] He felt that the more time his men spent in training realistically, the better prepared they would be for combat with the German army.[7] Allen had a distinct preference for night assaults, which he believed caused fewer casualties, and much time and effort was devoted to company- and battalion-size night movements.[7]

Military career

There were certain factors which affected Allen's performance at West Point and which would lead up to his dismissal. One of them was that he began to stutter and soon fell behind in his classes. Another was that he was held back a grade in his second year because he failed mathematics. Finally, he failed an ordnance and gunnery course.[3] Allen enrolled and attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912. He joined the Army once more and after passing the competitive Army officers exam, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and assigned to Fort Myer in Virginia. In 1913, he was reassigned to the 14th Cavalry at Eagle Pass, Texas, and served there until 1917. During this time, he pursued and captured ammunition smugglers and served on border duty. He was promoted twice: on July 1, 1916, to First Lieutenant and on May 15, 1917, to Captain.[3]

World War I

On June 7, 1918, a year and two months after the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I, Allen was sent to France and assigned to the 315th Ammunition Train. Allen showed up at a school for infantry officers the day before a class graduation. When the commandant of the school began to hand out certificates to the graduates, Allen lined up with them. When confronted with him, the commandant said, "I don't remember you in this class." "I'm Allen. Why don't you?" was his reply.[3] Without further ado, Allen was given the certificate and became a temporary major.[8]

Allen was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division which he led into battle at St. Mihiel and Aincreville. During one battle Allen received a bullet through his jaw and mouth and as a result of the wound never stuttered again. He was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his actions. Allen remained with the American Expeditionary Forces in France until the Armistice with Germany (Compiègne). He then served with the Army of Occupation in Germany until 1920 when he returned to the United States.[3]

Pre World War II

After Allen returned to the United States, his temporary rank of Major was reverted to Captain until July 1, 1920, when he was fully promoted to Major. He served in Camp Travis and later in Fort McIntosh, both located in Texas. In 1922, Allen was assigned to the 61st Cavalry Division, at New York City.[1]

He continued to take military related courses, among them: an advanced course in Cavalry School, Fort Riley, Kansas; a two-year program at Fort Leavenworth's Command & General Staff School; a course in the Infantry School at Fort Benning and an interim course in infantry command with other divisions. In 1928, he married Mary Frances Robinson of El Paso, Texas with whom in 1929 he had a son, Terry de la Mesa Allen, Jr.[8] On August 1, 1935, Allen was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and became an instructor at the Cavalry School at Fort Riley in Kansas. He wrote and published "Reconnaissance by horse cavalry regiments and smaller units" in 1939.[9] On October 1, 1940, General George Marshall promoted him to Brigadier General (without ever holding the rank of Colonel) and in 1942, he was promoted to Major General and given command of the 1st Infantry Division.[3][8]

World War II

In 1942, the 1st Infantry Division was sent to Britain where they underwent further combat training, which included training in amphibious warfare. General Allen and his second in command, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (son of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt) distinguished themselves as combat leaders. Allen's brash and informal leadership style won him much respect and loyalty from the men in his division, who wholeheartedly adopted his emphasis on aggressiveness and combat effectiveness rather than military appearances. Another notable officer under his command, was his chief of staff, Colonel (later general) Norman Cota, who would later be remembered for his inspiring leadership on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The Big Red One and Operation Torch

The division participated in the invasion of North Africa. The division landed in Oran, Algeria on November 8, 1942, as part of Center Task Force of Operation Torch under the command of Major General Lloyd Fredendall. Elements of the division then took part in combat at Maktar, Medjez el Bab, Kasserine Pass, Gafsa, El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur, from January 21, 1943, to May 9, 1943, helping secure Tunisia. In July, 1943, the division supported other units in the invasion of Sicily and took part in Operation Husky.[3] In a 3 March 1943 letter to George C. Marshall, Eisenhower expressed his confidence in the 1st Infantry Division's two leaders: "Terry Allen seems to be doing a satisfactory job; so is Roosevelt."[10]

In spite of Allen's successes, General Omar Bradley was highly critical of both Allen and Roosevelt's wartime leadership style.[11] "While the Allies were parading decorously through Tunis," Bradley wrote, "Allen's brawling 1st Infantry Division was celebrating the Tunisian victory in a manner all its own. In towns from Tunisia all the way to Arzew, the division had left a trail of looted wine shops and outraged mayors. But it was in Oran...that the division really ran amuck. The trouble began when SOS (Services of Supply) troops, long stationed in Oran, closed their clubs and installations to our combat troops from the front. Irritated by this exclusion, the 1st Division swarmed into town to 'liberate' it a second time."[12][13] Bradley continued: "Despite their [prodigious] talents as combat leaders, neither Terry Allen nor Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, the assistant division commander, possessed the instincts of a good disciplinarian. They looked upon discipline as an unwelcome crutch to be used by less able and personable commanders."[14] Despite this, Bradley admitted that "none excelled the unpredictable Terry Allen in the leadership of troops."[15]

Campaign in Sicily

Bradley's resentment of Allen stands in marked contrast to that of General George S. Patton. Although Patton and Allen frequently argued and even insulted each other, particularly when discussing tactics and leadership styles, the former recognized Allen's competence in building a fighting division. When Patton heard General Eisenhower deliver a lecture on the 'poor discipline' of Allen's 1st Division, he contradicted Eisenhower: "I told him he was mistaken and that anyhow no one whips a dog before putting him into a fight."[16] Nor did personalities dissuade Patton from fighting to get the 1st Infantry Division to carry out the Gela landings, which Patton had correctly surmised would be the most difficult of the Allied assault landings in Sicily.[16] When Patton learned that the 36th (National Guard) Division was to be used instead at Gela, Patton protested to Eisenhower that "I want those [1st Infantry Division] sons of bitches. I won't go without them!"[17] Patton got his way.[16] With the commander of the U.S. 7th Army occupied with the German evacuation from Messina and responding to official inquiries concerning his slapping of an enlisted soldier, Bradley used the opportunity to ask General Dwight D. Eisenhower permission to relieve both Allen and Roosevelt of their commands. Bradley ostensibly justified his request by stating that a change of senior command was needed in the 1st Division after the failure of the initial assault on Troina by the 1st Infantry Division. In reality, the first assault on Troina had been carried out by the 39th Infantry Regiment, a 9th Infantry Division regiment that had been temporarily attached to Allen's 1st Infantry Division a few days prior to the attack.[18][19] However, it served as a convenient pretext to relieve Allen, whose cocky and independent command style, while demonstrably effective, clashed with Bradley's idea of a commander.[20] Even worse, in Bradley's mind, was that "the whole division had assumed Allen's cavalier attitude."[21] On August 7, 1943, Allen was succeeded as 1st Infantry Division commander by Major General Clarence R. Huebner[22]

104th Infantry Division

Allen, who was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on August 9, 1943,[3] was reassigned to command the 104th Infantry Division, known as the Timberwolf Division. Despite being relieved of command of the 1st Infantry Division, Allen continued his own style of leadership. Former 104th Infantry Division veterans remembered him as being "Confident, stubborn, determined, and aggressive."[23] At the same time, Allen gave orders that he would not tolerate unshaven or slovenly troops - what he termed "Mauldins" in the Timberwolf Division.[24] While training the 104th in Arizona and Colorado, Allen stressed his own principles for combat success: "find 'em, fix 'em, fight 'em"..."take the high ground"..."inflict maximum damage to the enemy with minimum casualties to ourselves, night attack, night attack, night attack." The division extensively practiced night offensive operations to achieve maximum surprise and disruption of the enemy while reducing casualties from enemy artillery and machine gun fire. Some 34,000 men served with the division under Allen, fighting for 195 consecutive days after landing in France on September 7, 1944. The division's first action came in October 1944 during the taking of Achtmaal and Zundert in the Netherlands. It then advanced through the Siegfried line to the Rhine River, crossing the Inde river into Cologne. Throughout his command of the division, Allen continued to display his independence and a hearty contempt for 'chickenshit' regulations that interfered with combat readiness, a trait which no longer seemed to infuriate his superior officers. After the Division had secured its new lines, General Bradley arrived in Cologne to meet with Allen, stating "Terry, I'm pleasantly surprised to see these young Timberwolves of yours already ranked along with the First and the Ninth as the finest assault divisions in the ETO." Allen responded: "Brad, the First and the Ninth are in damned fast company." The division later assisted in the encirclement of the Ruhr pocket. Finally, it made a 350-mile sweep to the Mulde River in the heart of Germany. During the fighting in France and Germany, the 104th Infantry Division displayed its night fighting prowess in several successful operations.

In June 1946, the 104th Infantry Division was deactivated upon its return to the United States at the end of the war.[25]

Later years

Allen retired from the Army on August 31, 1946. For a number of years he served as a representative for various insurance companies in El Paso and was active in civic affairs and in veteran organizations.[1] In October 1967, Allen's son, Lieutenant Colonel Terry de la Mesa Allen, Jr., was killed in the Vietnam War, while commanding the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 1st Infantry Division, which his father had commanded in World War II.

Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr., died of natural causes on September 12, 1969, in El Paso, Texas, at the age of 81. He was buried, alongside his son, in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery with full military honors.[8][26] The United States Military Academy presents the "General Terry de la Mesa Allen Award" to the student with the highest rating in Military Science.[27]

Military awards and recognitions

Among Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.'s military awards and recognitions are the following:

Foreign Decorations

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 University of Texas Library
  2. Arlington National Cemetery
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Time Magazine: Terry Allen and His Men
  4. 4.0 4.1 Whitlock, Flint, The Fighting First: The Untold Story Of The Big Red One On D-day, Westview Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-8133-4218-X, 9780813342184 (2004), p. 16
  5. Astor, Gerald, Terrible Terry Allen: Combat General of World War II - The Life of an American Soldier, New York: Presidio Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-89141-760-5, ISBN 978-0-89141-760-6 (2003), p. 237
  6. Whitlock, Flint, The Fighting First: The Untold Story Of The Big Red One On D-day, Westview Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-8133-4218-X, 9780813342184 (2004), p. 17
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Whitlock, Flint, The Fighting First: The Untold Story Of The Big Red One On D-day, Westview Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-8133-4218-X, 9780813342184 (2004), pp. 16, 21
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Terry Allen
  9. Reconnaissance by horse cavalry regiments and smaller units; by Terry de la Mesa Allen; Publisher: The Military service publishing company (1939); ASIN: B0006AOR0S
  10. Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Gen.), Marshall, George C. (Gen.), and Hobbs, Joseph P., Dear General: Eisenhower's Wartime Letters to Marshall, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-6219-1, p. 104
  11. D'Este, Carlo, Patton, p. 467-468
  12. Bradley, A Soldier's Story
  13. Whitlock, Flint, The fighting first: the untold story of the Big Red One on D-Day, Westview Press, ISBN 978-0-8133-4218-4, ISBN 978-0-8133-4218-4 (1st ed. 2004), pp. 19-20
  14. Whitlock, Flint, The fighting first: the untold story of the Big Red One on D-Day, pp. 19-20
  15. Ellis, Robert B., See Naples and Die: A Ski Trooper's World War II, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., ISBN 0-7864-0190-7 (1996), p.228
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 D'Este, Carlo, Patton: A Genius For War, p.506
  17. Whitlock, Flint, The Fighting First: The Untold Story Of The Big Red One On D-day, Westview Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-8133-4218-X, 9780813342184 (2004), p. 22
  18. Bradley, Omar, A Soldier's Story, New York: Henry Holt (1951), pp. 156
  19. Atkinson, Rick, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, New York: Henry Holt & Co. (2007), p. 153: Allen had planned to surround Troina with two full infantry regiments under cover of a heavy bombardment with nine battalions of 105-mm howitzers, six battalions of 155-mm howitzers, and one battalion of 155-mm "Long Tom" guns, but faulty intelligence reports and the quick withdrawal of enemy forces at Cerami caused him to pare back the assault to a single regiment.
  20. Bradley, Omar, A Soldier's Story, New York: Henry Holt (1951), pp. 348-349: Bradley stated that he wanted commanders who were "judicious, reasonable and likable" like himself.
  21. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 156
  22. "1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment "Black Lions"". 2006-07-17. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  23. Timberwolves: The Story of the 104th Infantry Division, Paris: Stars and Stripes, G.I. Stories, Information and Education Division, ETOUSA (1945)
  24. Astor, Gerald, Terrible Terry Allen: Combat General of World War II - The Life of an American Soldier, New York: Presidio Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-89141-760-5, ISBN 978-0-89141-760-6 (2003), p. 237: This was a reference to the slovenly appearance of the 'Willy and Joe' characters in Sgt. Bill Mauldin's cartoons, regularly featured in the Army's Stars and Stripes newspaper.
  25. "104th Infantry Division". Order of Battle of the United States Army, World War II: European Theater of Operations. United States Army Center of Military History. December 1945. 
  26. Find a Grave
  27. The United States Military Academy


  • Anderson, Christopher J., The Big Red One (G.I. Series), Greenhill Books, 1st ed., ISBN 978-1-85367-528-7, ISBN 978-1-85367-528-7 (2006)
  • Astor, Gerald, Terrible Terry Allen: Combat General of World War II - The Life of an American Soldier, New York: Presidio Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-89141-760-5, ISBN 978-0-89141-760-6 (2003)
  • Atkinson, Rick, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, New York: Henry Holt & Co. (2007)
  • Bradley, Omar, A Soldier's Story, New York: Henry Holt (1951)
  • D'Este, Carlo, Patton: A Genius For War, New York: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-016455-7 (1995)
  • Whitlock, Flint, The Fighting First: The Untold Story Of The Big Red One On D-day, Westview Press, 1st ed., ISBN 0-8133-4218-X, 9780813342184 (2004)

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