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First Name: Terry

Last Name: Allen

Birthplace: Fort Douglas, UT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: de la Mesa

Date of Birth: 01 April 1888

Date of Death: 09 September 1969

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.
'Terrible Terry'

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.
Major General, U.S. Army

Terry de la Mesa Allen was born on 1 April 1888 in Fort Douglas, UT, to U.S. Army Colonel Samuel Allen and Consuelo "Conchita" Alvarez de la Mesa Allen. Terry's family had a long line of military tradition. 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. Allen grew up in various military bases because of his father's military career and, in 1907, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy.

Military Career

There were certain factors which affected Allen's performance at West Point and which would lead up to his eventual dismissal from the Academy. 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.

Following his dismissal, Allen enrolled and attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, 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 Meyer, VA. In 1913, he was reassigned to the 14th Cavalry at Eagle Pass, TX, and served there until 1917. During this time, he pursued and captured ammunition smugglers and served on border duty. He was promoted twice: on 1 July 1916 to First Lieutenant and to Captain on 15 May 1917.

World War I

On 7 June 1918, a year and two months after the U.S. 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. Without further ado, Allen was given the certificate and became a temporary Major.

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. 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 U.S.

Post-World War I

After Allen returned to the U.S., his temporary rank of Major was reverted to Captain until 1 July 1920, when he was promoted to the permanent rank of Major. He served in Camp Travis and, later, in Fort McIntosh; both located in TX. In 1922, Allen was assigned to the 61st Cavalry Division, in New York City.

He continued to take military related courses, among them: an advanced course in Cavalry School, Fort Riley, KS; a two year program at Fort Leavenworth's Command & General Staff School; a course in the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA; and an interim course in infantry command with other divisions. On 1 August 1935, Allen was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and became an instructor at the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, KS. He wrote and published "Reconnaissance by horse cavalry regiments and smaller units" in 1939. On 1 October 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.

Command Style

From all reports, 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 and close to the front line. However, unlike Patton, he did not bother greatly with his military appearance, frequently going without clean uniforms and haircuts. 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. However, despite a casual attitude toward his own personal appearance, Allen did not tolerate slovenliness or incompetence in the troops under his command. 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."

In preparing his Division for its first encounter with the enemy, Allen emphasized realistic training exercises, weapons practice, and physical conditioning in the field, instead of drill and military ceremony. He felt that the more time his men spent in training realistically, the better prepared they would be for combat with the German army. 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.

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. Major 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 associate under his command was Chief of Staff Norman Cota, who would later play an important military role in The Invasion of Normandy.

The Big Red One and Operation Torch

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

In spite of Allen's successes, General Omar N. Bradley was highly critical of both Allen and Roosevelt's wartime leadership style. "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." 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." Despite this, Bradley admitted that "none excelled the unpredictable Terry Allen in the leadership of troops."

Campaign in Sicily

Bradley's resentment of Allen stands in marked contrast to that of General George 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." 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. 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!" Patton got his way.

With the Commander of the U.S. 7th Army [Patton] 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. 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. Even worse, in Bradley's mind, was that "the whole division had assumed Allen's cavalier attitude."

On 7 August 1943, Allen was relieved of his command by Major General Clarence R. Huebner.

104th Infantry Division

Allen, who was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on 9 August 1943, 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." At the same time, Allen gave orders that he would not tolerate unshaven or slovenly troops - what he termed "Mauldins" in the Timberwolf Division.

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 machinegun fire.

Some 34,000 men served with the Division under Allen, fighting for 195 consecutive days after landing in France on 7 September 1944. The Division's first action came in October 1944 during the taking of Achtmaal and Zundert in Holland. It then participated in the Battle of the Bulge, 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 U.S. at the end of the war.

Major General Allen retired from the Army on 31 August 1946.

Medals and Awards

Army Distinguished Service Medal (2 Awards)
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart (2 Awards)
Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Honorary Companion of the Order of the Bath - United Kingdom
Legion of Honor - France
French Croix de Guerre with Palm - France
St. Mihiel Medal- France
Order of Suvorov Class II (Gold) - USSR


The U.S. Military Academy presents the "General Terry de la Mesa Allen Award" to the student with the highest rating in Military Science.

In Retirement

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.


In 1928, he married Mary Frances Robinson of El Paso, TX, with whom in 1929 he had a son, Terry de la Mesa Allen, Jr.

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.

Death and Burial

Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr., died of natural causes on 12 September 1969, in El Paso, TX, at the age of 81. He is buried, alongside his son, in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, TX

Honoree ID: 2058   Created by: MHOH




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