Memoirs Index      NEXT

Daniel O. Magnussen, Ph.D.
Capt., 3AD Hq, G-3 Operations Section
Published in 3AD Association Newsletter - December, 1988


Shortly after we had crossed the River Seine, and were in the vicinity of Soisson and Braine, I was suddenly ordered to report to the Division Chief of Staff, Colonel John A. (Long John) Smith. My first thought was "What have I done wrong now?" Having received a classic "dressing down" as the British call it, or a "chewing out," as we call it, from General Rose just a couple of days before, I was quite queasily apprehensive when I reported to Colonel Smith. I even suspected it might be a continuation of the Rose episode, which had not been my fault in my view, but I hadn't been given the opportunity to speak. That experience had left me with visions of barred windows and thinking of how warm it was in Leavenworth in August.

To my incredible surprise and gastrointestinal relief, Colonel Smith informed me that I was now assigned to his section, that I had been selected to be a "liaison officer," and that I would be working out of Division Headquarters, primarily through the G-3 Section. I was delighted, although I had no idea what a "liaison officer's" duties were or what this really meant. Colonel Smith would turn out to be one of the finest persons I have ever known, an absolute prince of a man to work for. He was always very kind to me and I would like to believe that I did a good job for him, as well as for "The Spearhead Division," which I proudly represented in my liaison role. A thought that sobered me, when I discovered it, was that of the three liaison officers working out of the Chief of Staff's Section, two were killed. A total of five officers would eventually fill these positions, with a casualty rate, therefore, of 40%.

I was sent, usually, to the division on our right, there to represent the Third Armored Division. This meant keeping this other division aware of our operational plans and unit locations, both present and future. It also meant many messages sent and received, plus daily trips back and forth carrying maps, overlays, and messages between the two division commanders and their staffs. Also involved were briefings of the generals, their chiefs of staff, and the G-2 and G-3 Sections upon request. It was sometimes difficult with these other divisions, but also could be most pleasant, depending upon the unit. It often required great tact on my part, a trait I was never certain that I possessed to the required degree. From my point of view, the best unit to work with was the 9th Infantry Division, while the worst, or most difficult, was the 4th.

The 9th Division, a veteran unit of the North African and Sicilian Campaigns, gave me an absolutely free hand into every phase of their operations. I don't know how other liaison officers were treated, although I didn't hear any others complaining, but I couldn't have asked for any more cooperation than I received. Major General Manton S. Eddy, and later Major General Louis Craig, were very easy men to deal with and most cordial and appreciative at all times. Like most of the infantry generals, they were unfamiliar with armor operations, but they were very willing to learn.

Being a liaison officer brought me into direct contact with quite a number of well known personalities of World War II. These include Lt. Gen. Joe Collins, of our own VII Corps, Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway of XVIII Airborne Corps, Maj. Gen. James (Jumpin' Jim) Gavin of the 82nd Airborne Div., Maj. Gen. Raymond 0. Barton and Col. William Westmoreland of the 4th Inf. Div., Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota of the 28th Inf. Div., Maj. Gen. Ray E. Porter of the 75th Inf. Div. (I was his Opns. Sgt. in G-3, V Corps, at Beauregard), Maj. Gen. Robert C. Macon of the 83rd Inf. Div., and last, but not least, Maj. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen, of the 104th Inf. Div. The incident of which I am writing concerns General Allen.

As many of you are aware, our Gen. Rose had two very close personal friends, also generals. They were Maj. Gen. Elwood R. (Pete) Quesada of the 9th Tactical Air Force, and Terry Allen. Allen had commanded the 1st Inf. Div. through North Africa and Sicily, but he had been relieved of command of "The Big Red One" at the end of the Sicilian Campaign by Gen. Omar Bradley, then commanding II Corps. Allen had allowed the 1st Div. to get out of hand with regard to discipline and general attitude. Allen had been returned to the U.S. without prejudice and had been given command of the 104th Inf. Div. He would impart his battle experience to his new command, and as you well know, made the "Timber Wolves" into an excellent division, with particular emphasis on night fighting.

I was sent to the 104th Div. as liaison from "The Spearhead" shortly after the Battle of the Bulge. I had been recalled after Cologne (Köln) had been taken and went back with the 104th after the crossing of the Rhine at Remagen. I liked the 104th and its personnel. It was a very well-trained, confident unit. I knew about the relationship between Gen. Rose and Gen. Allen, although I never suspected how involved I would become in this relationship.

My first direct contact with Gen. Allen was a most peculiar meeting. Like most divisions, the 104th set up a special arrangement for liaison officers so that they would not be infesting the G-2 and G-3 Sections in their pursuit of up-to-date combat information. The Liaison Section was headed by the Division Chemical Warfare Officer and his staff inasmuch as the nature of World War II had not given this service branch much to do. Most units, except the 4th, 28th, and XVIII Airborne Corps, didn't object to a liaison officer or two coming into their G-2 or G-3 Sections to get the latest information just prior to making a run to their own unit. The Liaison Section usually did its best to provide current information, but often their maps just weren't up-to-date. The 104th's Liaison Section was very good and the CWO and his staff were a pleasure to work with.

Shortly after arriving at the 104th, I was in their Liaison Section making an overlay from their situation map. This requires some concentration and I happened to be on my knees making tracings and jotting down coordinates. I suddenly felt the knuckles on the back of someone's hand rap me on my biceps. A deep voice said, "Got a cigarette, buddy?" Without looking around, I automatically reached into my shirt pocket and extended my pack up. I felt a cigarette extracted. While replacing the pack, the knuckles rapped again and the same voice rasped, "Got a match?" With a snarl on my lips, I turned and glared upwards. The sight of two large silver stars on this person's collar caused my lips to unsnarl rather quickly!

I leaped to my feet, shook the proffered hard hand, and introduced myself. I then realized, too late, that the proffered hand had expected to have a match put into it! I produced a light as quickly as I could, a move which would have put Houdini to shame. I noted the shock of unruly black hair, the dark swarthy skin, the cold steady eyes, and knew that this was Terry de la Mesa Allen, West Point class of 1911. The hard eyes traveled over me and lingered on my Third Armored shoulder patch. the eyes bored into mine through the cigarette haze, and he grunted, "Spearhead, huh?" I snapped out, "Yes, sir! Best in the West, Sir!" Why I added the latter, I still do not know. The flinty eyes softened a bit, Gen. Allen gave a crooked grin, and said, "Now that's good to hear -- pride in one's unit. What do you think of your division commander?" I don't know what he expected me to say, but carefully threading my way through this verbal minefield, I muttered, "None better, sir." He then said, "I have known Maurice Rose for many years. We've been friends since he was a lieutenant." I replied, "Yes sir, I knew about your friendship." He shot back, "How'd you know about that?" I told him that "Someone in our G-3 Section told me - he thought I should know." I then volunteered to deliver anything between them. This I did on a number of occasions, notes, letters, and small packages, although I never knew their contents.

Before our informal conversation went further, an officer stuck his head in the door and announced that the 18th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division was passing through town. General Allen raced out to the curb and stood silently watching the 18th's vehicles roll by. Suddenly there was a yell - "Lookit, there's General Allen. Hey, Terry!" The cry was taken up by the other vehicles. Allen stood there taking all greetings and waving back at the soldiers of his first love, "The Big red One." This was a rare, genuine affection displayed by both parties, the men and their former commander. It made me reflect on what the reaction would have been had a truckload of soldiers from our 36th Infantry passed Gen. Rose and yelled, "Hi, Maurice!"

The two friends also talked on the phone. I once heard Gen. Allen trying to tell Gen. Rose about the 104th's plans on the approaches to Cologne. Allen didn't want to compromise security, but Rose couldn't seem to understand what he was hinting at with pointed remarks about the "big ditch" before them. Allen finally lost his cool and roared, "God dammit, Maurice, we're going to cross the Erft Canal at first light!!" That Rose understood!

On 30 March 1945, as "The Spearhead" was approaching Paderborn, the 104th Division was far to the south, with its headquarters somewhere north of Marburg. That night, I had crawled into my sleeping bag somewhat earlier than usual and had been pounding my ear for an hour or so when I was awakened and informed that Gen. Allen wanted to see me at once. It was fortunate that I had slept at least that much because there wouldn't be any more on that night.

I reported to Gen. Allen. By the look on his weathered face, I knew that something unusual had happened. Gen. Allen immediately asked, "Are you in radio contact with your headquarters?" I said, "No, sir, I haven't been able to reach them since around three o'clock." He then asked, "Do you know where your headquarters is located?" I again replied in the negative. At that particular time I didn't have the foggiest idea where Forward Echelon was located, although I did know that "The Spearhead" had been driving north towards Paderborn. This I gave to Gen. Allen.

I still didn't know what Gen. Allen wanted of me when he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I have a partly garbled message from VII Corps and I can't get any confirmation from any source on this. VII Corps reports that Gen. Rose has been killed. Do you know anything about this?" I assured Gen. Allen that I knew nothing of this and I mumbled something to the effect that I doubted the report. The reason I doubted the report was that my mind simply would not accept the idea -- it was preposterous!

Gen. Allen impaled me with those steely eyes and then came the question, "Would you go up there and find out for me? I am very concerned about my friend -- I hate to ask you to do this, but I must find out somehow. I may be asleep when you return, please wake me as soon as you get back!" Well, that was one vote that I was going to make it back. I then replied, no doubt weakly delivered, with a gulp, "Yes, sir." I was surprised that I answered at all -- who in their right mind would want to make a trip like this one figured to be? Gen. Louis Craig of the 9th Division had sent me out on a liaison trip similar to this back in France with a bunch of overlays because he was afraid their artillery might fire into 3rd Armored positions at first light. Driving down unfamiliar roads under blackout conditions and approaching roadblocks is not my idea of how to grow old gracefully. The upshot of all this is that I gallantly saluted Gen. Allen in my best imitation of Gary Cooper in "Beau Geste," and plunged out the door into a night as black as the inside of your hat. I located my driver, Private Henry Wazilewski, of Pe-Ell, Washington, and we reluctantly drove northward. Henry didn't want to go either.

I shall not dwell on that harrowing trip, other than to say that if any of you guys manning roadblocks that night remember some idiot in a jeep passing through your positions after proper exchange of password and countersign - that was Henry and me! Some of these people, including an infantry major of the 104th Division, thought I was insane. - I could only agree with them!

By checking road signs at each intersection with a hooded flashlight and following the way "Omaha Forward" pointed, I was able to track down Forward Echelon. As I strode into the building being used as a headquarters, the first person I saw through a doorway was Col. Smith, slumped in a chair. By the sad, dour expression on his face and the exhausted position of his body, I knew that VII Corps' message to Gen. Allen had been correct. Col. Smith glanced up at me and hoarsely grated out, "Maggie, what are you doing here at this hour?" I informed him of the mission given me by Gen. Allen. Col. Smith then sat me down and told me the story of Gen. Rose's death as he knew it at that time. Col. Smith told me to get something to eat before returning to the 104th, but thinking about the worried man north of Marburg, I just wasn't hungry. Henry was smarter - he had found breakfast, such as it was.

Returning to the 104th's Headquarters was much simpler because daylight was upon us. Sure enough, Gen. Allen was asleep in a trailer that had been converted into sleeping quarters. I knocked on the door and identified myself. Gen. Allen immediately told me to enter. I found him in his shorts, just crawling out of his sleeping bag. As he stood erect, he motioned me to sit on one end of his bunk. He asked if that message had been true. I told him it was. His whole body paused, and then sagged down onto his bunk. He slowly pulled his knees up under his chin, clasped his hands over his knees, and rested his head on his hands. He stared at the wall of his trailer for about a minute and then large tears coursed down his tanned, swarthy cheeks as, oblivious to me, he mourned his long-time friend. About six or seven minutes passed while I silently sat with Gen. Allen, hardly breathing, and wondering what, if anything, I could do to ease his pain. Unable to think of anything, I continued to sit, feeling as out of place as a prostitute in church.

He then asked for details which I supplied to him. He finally moved, brushed the back of his hands over his cheeks, banged one fist on my knee, and thanked me for all I had done for him. He then asked me to send in his aide and asked me to wait outside. His aide emerged, disappeared for a few minutes, and then returned with the general's stenographer. I was then invited back into the trailer. Gen. Allen was now dressed. He again sat me down on his bunk and asked if I knew who was taking command of "The Spearhead." I told him that Brig. Gen. Doyle O. Hickey of Combat Command A was senior in command as far as I knew.

Gen. Allen then said, "I am going to dictate a letter to your Gen. Hickey. If you think anything should be added, restated, or deleted, don't hesitate to say so. I'm in somewhat of a daze over all this." I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but I said I would. Gen. Allen then preceded to dictate a letter addressed to Gen. Hickey which described the long relationship between himself and Gen. Rose, his deep personal regrets over "The Spearhead's" loss, the marvelous spirit of cooperation between the two divisions, and assured Gen. Hickey of continued support by the 104th Division in the future. It was most complete, there was nothing more to be said.

Gen. Allen then shook my hand, thanked me again, and told me to get some sleep. I now knew why Terry de la Mesa Allen was so loved by "The Big Red One" and by the "Timber Wolves." I would later deliver the letter.

Return to Top

Memoirs Index      NEXT