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[Book Review] Terrible Terry Allen by Gerald Astor

HOA_KSOP

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Terrible Terry Allen; Combat General of World War 2 - The life of an American Soldier by Gerald Astor tells us the story of General Terry de le Mesa Allen. Son of a West Point graduate, Allen grew up on military posts across the country, but mainly in Texas. An adventurous, independent sort, he gets accepted into West Point but does not graduate. He is a cavalryman but fights with the infantry during the First World War. He impresses George Marshall and eventually is given command of the 1st Infantry Division, which he leads during the North African and Sicily campaigns. He and his division assistant commander, Teddy Roosevelt Jr. are relieved from command after Sicily. Apparently, Ike, Bradley, and Patton felt Allen was a poor disciplinarian and ran an undisciplined outfit, so they saw him off after the Sicily Campaign. Oddly, Bradley wanted Ike to fire Allen at the close of the North African Campaign, but Patton demanded Allen be retained to lead the 1st ID on Sicily. Back to that in a moment.

The author leans heavily on Allen's personal correspondence to his wife, son, and various associates. We learn that Allen had financial issues, was concerned with his son's academic and polo performance, and in dealing with a much younger wife who was worried about him, for lack of a better word, straying. Allen was unconventional for the times in that he really cared for the welfare of his men and reasoned that harsh discipline of men in the combat zone was counterproductive to morale, but this attitude seems to have been counter to his superior's views and he paid for it.

Allen strongly believed that lives could be saved by fighting at night. He honed the 1st ID's night combat skills, as well as the 104 ID later in the war, his next command after he had been "rested". Considering the discipline it takes to conduct a military operation at night, it leaves you scratching your head about Ike's and Bradley's perceptions of the man.

Allen liked a good stiff drink and was not shy about using profanity and could keep up with Patton in that department. There is at least one anecdote in the book describing a loud "behind closed doors" argument between Patton and Allen in which apparently they called each other every name in the book and then some. Seeing as how Bradley was a teetotaler and saw profanity as a character weakness, it was probably pre-destined that Allen would get sacked. But given a second chance, the 104th was a model unit and Bradley had to admit that the Timberwolves were "the only" division in the US Army in Europe that could fight at night. And they were successful, even to the point where Axis Sally was calling the Timberwolves night fighting "unfair".

In my opinion, the author spends a little too much time reviewing the man's correspondence. Once you see an example from a letter detailing the man working on paying off debt, seeing a couple more similar passages from other letters gets tedious.

The most fascinating aspect to me was the author detailing the hypocrisy displayed by Bradley in his two autobiographies regarding Allen's performance and sacking. The circumstances regarding Allen are portrayed differently in A Soldier's Story than in A General's Life. Given that in the Lavioe book The Personal Life of Omar Bradley he states that Bradley's second wife told that author that Bradley burned all his personal papers, all you have is Bradley's word in his autobiographys as to the circumstances of Allen's performance. Plus in the book, you learn that Allen was very sure Bradley lobbied for Allen not to get a corps command.

Allen was a complex man but a very good soldier. This book sheds light on the career of one of the US's best fighting division commanders.
 

julianj

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That's interesting. I always find it slightly sad that the careerism of officers regularly comes above fighting the Nazis for quite a few allies in WW2, even an excellent General like Bradley.
 

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That's interesting. I always find it slightly sad that the careerism of officers regularly comes above fighting the Nazis for quite a few allies in WW2, even an excellent General like Bradley.
I wouldn't call Bradley "an excellent" general, I'd call him a capable general. If he had listened to Patton and pressed the issue with Ike, the Falaise pocket could have been closed and the German Army would have suffered an unrecoverable defeat in the West and the war would have been over before winter of '44. In fairness to Bradley, Ike could have exercised his supreme commander prerogatives and told Montgomery Patton was going to close Falaise whether Monty could get it done or not.

Second, Bradley got 4 US infantry divisions chewed up in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest. He was stubborn and it got a lot of men killed. That battle was Bradley's Market Garden.

Third, The Battle of the Bulge also was in Bradley's sector. He got caught with his ass hanging out. To make matters worse he was so damn worried about getting all his army's back into 12 Army group that he micromanaged Patton to the point of committing Patton to a battle of attrition for Patton to link up with Hodges so he could get his army back from 21st Army. He showed no finesse. After the link-up at Bastogne Patton and 3rd Army planned an attack to cross the Sauer and push to Bitburg and then onto Prum in conjunction with a push by Hodges/Monty in charge at the time in order to again trap and destroy the bulk of the German forces in the west but Bradley would have none of that proposal and ordered Patton to attack toward Houffalize to expedite getting Hodges army back into "his fold".

Here's what I have observed, Ike and Bradley were infantry generals and were all about gaining and holding ground. Patton was all about maneuvering to destroy his enemy. BIG difference in outlook and execution.
 

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I take your points! It's a long time since I read about Bradley's career in detail. Capable is a better word.
 

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Incidentally, I just read James Holland's Normandy '44, which is very good on the Normandy campaign. I think that Ike was brilliant at the managerial and diplomatic skills - a CEO if you will - but not thrusting enough as a commander. I think few people excel at both: Napoleon comes to mind, but can't think of others off the top of my head.

The book suggests that Monty was on the high-functioning autistic spectrum. Apparently that is a recent idea - but it makes sense to me. His focus and lack of interest in material things, coupled with terrible interpersonal skills does seem to fit with my own (small) personal experience of people like that. Often outstanding but can be a total pain to work with.
 

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Incidentally, I just read James Holland's Normandy '44, which is very good on the Normandy campaign. I think that Ike was brilliant at the managerial and diplomatic skills - a CEO if you will - but not thrusting enough as a commander. I think few people excel at both: Napoleon comes to mind, but can't think of others off the top of my head.

The book suggests that Monty was on the high-functioning autistic spectrum. Apparently that is a recent idea - but it makes sense to me. His focus and lack of interest in material things, coupled with terrible interpersonal skills does seem to fit with my own (small) personal experience of people like that. Often outstanding but can be a total pain to work with.
@julianj, thanks for the tip on the Holland book about Normandy, I will put that on my reading list. That's an interesting theory about Monty, I had never even considered that, but given how I understand how high functioning autism works, he might be onto something.

A great book if you have not read it is John Buckley's book Monty's Men: The British Army and the Liberation of Europe. Gives a great explanation for why Monty and his army fought the way they did. An excellent book, gave me a whole different perspective on the method to Monty's "madness".
 

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Monty's Men sounds interesting: I'll put it on my reading list, thx.:) The Holland book seems to be along the same lines: that the British used artillery etc to save casualties among their "civilians in uniform" and managed a steep learning curve in Normandy - with mistakes.
 
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