Terry de la Mesa Allen's mother was the daughter of a Spanish officer, and his father was a career US Army officer. Despite this impressive martial heritage, success in the military seemed unlikely for Allen as he failed West Point - twice - ultimately gaining his commission through Catholic University's ROTC programme. In World War I, the young officer commanded an infantry battalion and distinguished himself as a fearless combat leader, personally leading patrols into -man's-land. In 1940, with ather world war looming, newly appointed army chief of staff General 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, w a two-star general, commanded the 'Big Red One', the 1st Infantry Division, spearheading the American attack against the Nazis. But despite a stellar combat record, Major-General Allen and his troops had earned a reputation for lack of discipline off the battlefield. When 7th Army commander George Patton was pressed by his deputy Omar Bradley to replace 'Terrible Terry' before the invasion of Sicily, he demurred, favouring 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 ather infantry division, the 104th Timberwolves, and took it into heavy combat in Belgium. Hard fighting continued as Allen's division spearheaded the US 1st 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.
Gerald Astor is a critically acclaimed military historian and author of such books as The Mighty Eighth, A Blood Dimmed Tide, The Right to Fight, The Greatest War, and Bloody Forest. He lives near New York City.