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Terrible Terry Allen: Combat General of World War II - The Life of an American Soldier Paperback – June 29, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

An American divisional commander in World War II, Terry de la Mesa Allen was a darling of the press in 1942-43 but has been an obscure figure since then, known only to military historians. Astor could not have timed his revival of Allen better. Interest will have grown because of Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn [BKL Ag 02], which prominently features Allen. Astor is a sympathetic biographer, perhaps necessary compensation for the criticism Allen received in Omar Bradley's memoirs, but he does present the brass' gripes about Allen: lack of discipline of his First Division troops and, possibly, a personal drinking habit. Whatever the truth, Eisenhower heeded the complaints and had Allen fired in the middle of the battles for Sicily. Normally this would have been a career-ending setback, but Allen returned to command a new division. Readers will be impressed by Astor's care in researching Allen's upbringing, wounding in World War I, and the qualities that made him an effective leader who was popular with his soldiers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (June 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891418342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891418344
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Terence J. Daly on August 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It should not be surprising that a book written by someone who is trained neither as a soldier nor a historian, about a consummate warrior like Major General Terry Allen, disappoints. It is most unfortunate, however, as Allen was one of the real characters among the US Army leadership in World War II and his life must have been a fascinating one.
This book reads like a first draft --one that cries out for a firm, knowledgeable editor who will cut the extraneous material and force the author to answer all the questions that could make this a great book. As only one example, before World War I Allen was sent as a new 2nd Lieutenant to the 14th Cavalry Regiment on the Mexican border. What was a cavalry regiment in 1914? How was it organized, trained,equipped and led? What was life in the 14th like? Where did the 14th Cavalry go and what did it do in the years Allen was with it? There is plenty of secondary material out there to answer these questions but scarcely a word in this book.
Allen claimed he participated in the last mounted charge with sabers by the US cavalry. This is a STORY. What happened? When? Where? Why? How? The author makes a silly try at connecting Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa's attack on US troops in Columbus, New Mexico, with inflated body-counts in Vietnam but the writer passes up another STORY and one relevant to Allen's development as a combat leader. Was Allen at Columbus? What happened there? What did Allen do?
Throughout we get page after tiresome page of Allen's letters to his wife, but little context. Why? What is the point?
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Canellis on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Biographies of such prominent World War II generals as Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton Jr. continue to surface regularly. Rarely do corps and division commanders who wore two stars on their collars receive the honor of the historian's pen. Gerald Astor may perhaps be paving the way for a trickle-down effect with his most recent effort. Astor's subject is not an obscure name in the annals of World War II combat. Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen is perhaps best remembered for commanding the infamous 1st Infantry Division-The Big Red One-during the North African and Sicilian Campaigns. He, along with his deputy commander Brig. Gen Theodore Roosevelt Jr. were perhaps responsible for the belief among its troops that the U.S. Army was made up of the 1st Division and a few million replacements. Just as the Big Red One was at its zenith in Sicily, both commanders were relieved and reassigned; Roosevelt would land on D-Day with his 4th Division, Allen would command the 104th Division during the drive into Germany. This controversial decision between Patton and then II Corps commander Omar Bradley to relieve Allen could become the subject of a book in itself. But Astor gives his readers much more. Allen was an Army brat. His father graduated from West Point and led a relatively uneventful Army career and never saw combat. Allen would flunk out of West Point and gain his commission in the reserves. Allen's son, Terry Jr. would also attend the Academy and die serving in his father's old division in Vietnam. This legacy of professional military officership is a promising theme that does not quite come to full fruition in Astor's' book. It appears Astor could have done more with this concept than a few pages he devoted to the first and third generations of Allens.Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By radarb62 on August 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Greatest Soldier of World War Two" - This is one of the many accolades said of Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen by other Generals who knew him. He has also been credited with being the best U.S. combat commander of WWII. There are quite a few similarities between General George S. Patton and Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen in that they both:
· trained at West Point (Allen did not graduate, but finished his education at the Catholic University),
· served in the U.S. Cavalry during World War I as officers,
· became generals during World War II,
· were aggressive in their campaigns and always attacked,
· lost commands for "political" reasons,
· and both were very controversial.
There were also definite differences between the two:
Whereas Patton loved the limelight, and never missed an opportunity to distinguish himself, Allen was very low key, shied from publicity, and who liked his liquor.
Patton graduated from West Point, Allen flunked out twice.
Known as aggressive fighters, Patton was not terribly concerned with casualties but Allen was continually looking to keep the casualty rate as low as possible.
While Patton and Allen were both outspoken, Patton tried to play the "Army" game...Allen did not play the game, which irritated his superiors.

Allen was loved and respected by the average "G.I." in both Army Divisions. He was considered the enlisted man's General. Terry Allen was the only American WWII general to train and lead into combat two Army Divisions:
The 1st Division (a.k.a. the famous "Big Red One"), and the 104th Infantry Division ("The Timberwolves"). Under his command, the 1st Division helped conquer Sicily.
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