Dogface Soldier: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Dogface Soldier: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

by Wilson A. Heefner

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On July 11, 1943, General Lucian Truscott received the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, for valor in action in Sicily. During his career he also received the Army Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. Truscott was one of the most significant


On July 11, 1943, General Lucian Truscott received the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, for valor in action in Sicily. During his career he also received the Army Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. Truscott was one of the most significant of all U.S. Army generals in World War II, pioneering new combat training methods—including the famous “Truscott Trot”— and excelling as a combat commander, turning the Third Infantry Division into one of the finest divisions in the U.S. Army. He was instrumental in winning many of the most important battles of the war, participating in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, and southern France. Truscott was not only respected by his peers and “dogfaces”—common soldiers—alike but also ranked by President Eisenhower as second only to Patton, whose command he took over on October 8, 1945, and led until April 1946.             Yet no definitive history of his life has been compiled. Wilson Heefner corrects that with the first authoritative biography of this distinguished American military leader. Heefner has undertaken impressive research in primary sources—as well as interviews with family members and former associates—to shed new light on this overlooked hero. He presents Truscott as a soldier who was shaped by his upbringing, civilian and military education, family life, friendships, and evolving experiences as a commander both in and out of combat. Heefner’s brisk narrative explores Truscott’s career through his three decades in the Army and defines his roles in key operations. It also examines Truscott’s postwar role as military governor of Bavaria, particularly in improving living conditions for Jewish displaced persons, removing Nazis from civil government, and assisting in the trials of German war criminals. And it offers the first comprehensive examination of his subsequent career in the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served as senior CIA representative in West Germany during the early days of the Cold War, and later as CIA Director Allen Dulles’s deputy director for coordination in Washington. Dogface Soldier is a portrait of a man who earned a reputation for being honest, forthright, fearless, and aggressive, both as a military officer and in his personal life—a man who, at the dedication ceremony for the Anzio-Nettuno American cemetery in 1945, turned away from the crowd and to the thousands of crosses stretching before him to address those buried there. Heefner has written a definitive biography of a great soldier and patriot.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lucian K. Truscott Jr. (1895-1965) was one of America's finest WWII combat commanders, building a reputation second only to George Patton as an inspiring and gifted leader. Today he is remembered only by specialists. Hefner, a retired army colonel and physician turned historian (Patton's Bulldog: The Life and Service of General Walton H. Walter), corrects that by combining extensive archival and printed sources with perceptive analysis. Truscott served in secondary theaters: the Mediterranean and southern France. But from Sicily and Anzio to the 1944 drive up the Rhône valley and the successful concluding of the Italian campaign as 5th Army's commander, Truscott showed comprehensive skills in defense and attack, in amphibious landings and mobile operations. Hefner's Truscott is not a genius, but rather the master of a craft painstakingly studied between the world wars and applied no less painstakingly in combat. He shared the hardships of his men; he drank like a Texan, and a gentleman; he never hesitated to question orders he thought would cost unnecessary casualties. To call him “a faithful and consummate soldier”—as Hefner does in this model general-officer biography—does Truscott no more than justice. 15 illus.; 23 maps. (May)
From the Publisher
“Heefner sheds much new light in this fine work of original scholarship. Dogface Soldier may well be the most important military biography since Carlo D’Este’s well- received portrait of Eisenhower.”—John C. McManus, author of The 7th Infantry Regiment: Combat in an Age of Terror

“Lucian Truscott has long been thought of as one of the U.S. Army’s most competent commanders, yet, until now, he has fallen into relative obscurity. Wilson Heefner brings Truscott back to life with a first-rate biography that is richly researched and very engaging. Well done!”—Mitchell A. Yockelson, author of Borrowed Soldiers: Americans Under British Command, 1918

Wilson Heefner has produced a well crafted, deeply researched account of the military career of Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., a World War II division, corps, and army commander, and arguably the U.S. Army's most proficient combat commander in that conflict. That Truscott was a noted horseman, an accomplished writer, and briefly a senior manager with the Central Intelligence Agency during the early Cold War makes Heefner's biography all the more interesting reading."—Timothy K. Nenninger, author of The Leavenworth Schools and the Old Army: Education, Professionalism, and the Officer Corps of the United States Army, 1881-1918

"At last, a biography and a subject worthy of each other! Heefner’s exhaustive archival research reveals the life of one of the most important but least known generals of World War Two, General Lucian Truscott. Critically, the author does not finish his account of the general’s life with the end of public glory in 1945. Great events were stirring, and Truscott continued to be part of them. He served as the senior CIA officer in postwar Germany at the height of the Cold War, and Heefner has been able to uncover many new details of this period in the general’s life. The author integrates these key roles of Truscott’s career into a seamless whole—the story of a life devoted to service.”—Caroline Cox, University of the Pacific, author of A Proper Sense of Honor: Service and Sacrifice in George Washington’s Army 

“Instead of churning out another biography on Eisenhower or Patton, Heefner once again has written a masterful biography on a lesser known—but nonetheless important—American commander in World War II. Dogface Soldier stands alongside his biographies of Edwin D. Patrick and Walton H. Walker, men who may not be household names but contributed significantly to Allied victory. Truscott earned the respect of such figures as Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall, and now Heefner explains what made Truscott worthy of that trust. Historians and military professionals are in debt to Heefner.”—Kevin C. Holzimmer, author of General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific War

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University of Missouri Press
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American Military Experience , #1
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Dogface Soldier



Copyright © 2010 The Curators of the University of Missouri
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8262-1882-7

Chapter One

The Early Years

Both the paternal and the maternal forebears of Lucian King Truscott, Jr., came to the United States from the British Isles. His paternal great-grandfather, Thomas Truscott, was born in Cornwall, England, in 1796, and immigrated to America in 1821, settling near Springfield, Illinois, where he began farming. Thomas fathered two sons, James Joseph and George. James, born in 1832, became an attorney and married Margarit Jane Kirkland. Together they raised five children, the youngest of whom was Lucian King, who was born in Kane, Illinois, on October 5, 1864. Some years later the family moved to Arkansas, and then to Texas, ultimately settling in China Lake, north of Abilene, where he was elected county judge. In 1886 the citizens of China Lake honored Judge Truscott by changing the name of the town to Truscott.

At about the age of thirteen or fourteen Lucian began working as a farm- and ranch hand, and then as a cowboy, participating in several cattle drives up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. He later enrolled in Missouri Medical College in St. Louis, graduating in 1891. Following his graduation, Doctor Truscott returned to Texas, where he established a practice in Benjamin, the county seat of Knox County.

On April 2, 1891, in Paducah, Kentucky, Doctor Truscott married Maria Temple Tully, who was born in Illinois in 1866 and was a descendant of Irish immigrants. Tully's father, John Cavan Tully, a prominent businessman in Paducah and an ordained pastor, performed the ceremony. The newlyweds moved to Chatfield, Texas, near Corsicana, where Doctor Truscott opened a practice and where they began raising their family.

Chatfield lies approximately fifty miles southeast of Dallas and in 1891 had a population of approximately five hundred. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., was born there on January 9, 1895. Two sisters, Loretta and Patsy, were also born in Chat- field, in 1893 and 1896, respectively; a third sister, Dixie, was born in 1904, after the family had relocated to the Oklahoma Territory. As the only physician in town, Truscott soon became a prominent and active member of the community, and his wife began teaching music at the Elizabeth Institute, a private preparatory school. Much of Doctor Truscott's practice consisted of house calls, made in a horse-drawn buggy driven by Will Coleman, a young black man who lived with the Truscotts and worked as a handyman for them. He became a close friend of young Lucian, who would often accompany Will in the buggy as he ran errands for the family.

In the winter of 1900–1901, the Truscott family moved to Remus, Oklahoma Territory, southeast of Oklahoma City, where Doctor Truscott set up his practice and purchased an eighty-acre farm. Young Lucian began his formal education in a one-room school in Remus, where his mother taught grades one through four in the rear of the room, grades five through eight meeting in the front of the room. While in Remus, Doctor Truscott "dabbled in race horses, and farms, disastrously ... so in the fall of 1903 the family moved to Maud," just a few miles east of Remus, then to Konawa, twelve miles to the south, then back to Maud, and finally back to Remus and the Orchard Farm. In 1908 the Truscott family moved once again, to Stella Township in the northeast corner of Cleveland County, where Lucian completed grade school and one year of high school. In the summer of 1911, at the age of sixteen, Lucian dropped out of high school and enrolled with his mother in the Summer Normal School in Norman to earn certification as a schoolteacher. At summer's end Lucian had in hand his certification as a teacher, and, "only 16 at the time, he stretched his age to 18, applied for and 'got' a country school, six miles from Stella, and during the eight month term walked to [and] from school daily."

In the fall of 1912 Doctor Truscott relocated his practice to Edna, roughly sixty miles east of Oklahoma City, and the next year to Eufaula, about thirty-five miles south of Muskogee. Lucian and his mother dutifully followed Doctor Truscott to the two towns, where in successive summers they completed Summer Normals. When in the fall of 1914 his father decided to move once again, this time to Onapa, young Lucian decided to remain in Eufaula, where he accepted the position of principal at Mountain View School in nearby Mellette, a position he held until he enlisted in the Army in 1917. While living in Eufaula young Lucian was instrumental in constructing the First Christian Church sanctuary and "introduced the idea of leaving the church doors open to the public through out [sic] the week, because the church belonged to the people, and he believed religion should be an all week practice rather than a Sunday gesture."

During his teaching years Lucian was "a normal healthy specimen of American youth ... [who] did not drink, smoke, or swear." He "took part in the annual track meets, minstrel shows, and everything the teachers' organizations and schools participated in, or administered." He was an "omnivorous" reader, particularly enjoying history. The family home had a "fairly good library," and long before finishing grade school, he had read the "standard 'classics.'" However, he also enjoyed such books as Sherlock Holmes detective stories, which were forbidden in the house, forcing him to hide them in the woodpile. Lucian's one ambition was to become an Army officer, and he was soon to realize that ambition.

In the classroom and as a principal young Truscott was honing his skills as a teacher, administrator, and leader, skills that he would later employ so effectively during his Army career as a troop leader and commander and as an instructor at the Cavalry School and at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School. His early addiction to reading would become a lifelong obsession in an effort to compensate for his lack of the formal education that most of his Army peers possessed.

Growing up in rural Texas and Oklahoma in a tightly knit family with a proud pioneering history gave young Truscott the opportunity to develop other traits that would serve him in good stead during his military career: initiative, self-reliance, competitiveness, loyalty to family and friends, love of country, and an adventuresome spirit, inspired no doubt in part by his great-grandfather, who left his home and family in Cornwall to come to America, and by his father, who spent his early years as a ranch hand and as a cowboy on the Chisholm Trail. Under the tutelage of his father, Lucian also became an expert horseman, which played an important role in his developing into an outstanding cavalryman and one of the Army's best polo players and equestrians.

Particularly important was the emphasis his family placed on education. Truscott's father and his maternal grandfather were respected physicians, his mother a gifted schoolteacher. A paternal uncle, Thomas I. Truscott, was a college graduate who became a teacher and school principal. His paternal grandfather was a lawyer, county judge, and a cofounder of Texas A&M College. Following in their footsteps, Truscott would avail himself of every formal and informal educational opportunity that presented itself during his Army career.

As Truscott was nearing the end of the school year in the spring of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress the evening of April 2 to deliver the most important speech of his political career. The speech lasted just thirty-two minutes, but set in motion events that would take the United States into the war then raging in Europe. Wilson's call to arms spread rapidly throughout the nation, and soon a young elementary school principal in Eufaula, Oklahoma, heard it and prepared to answer the president's call.

On April 6, 1917, the United States was woefully unprepared to go to war. Despite the authorization by Congress in the National Defense Act of 1916 to double the strength of the Regular Army to approximately 11,450 officers and 223,500 enlisted men over the following five years, on April 1, 1917, the Regular Army had a strength of only 5,791 officers and 121,797 enlisted men. It also "lacked the arms, equipment, and the organization to train [the Army] and the ships to transport [that Army] to the European battlefields." The Selective Service Act, which Wilson signed into law on May 18, 1917, would provide the enlisted men necessary to bring the Army to a wartime footing. However, those men would need a large number of officers to train them and lead them into combat. How was the Army to procure and train the vast number of officers needed for that mission?

In 1913 Grenville Clark, a New York attorney, convinced Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, a physician and chief of staff of the Army, to establish a military training camp at Plattsburg, New York. "There, largely at their own expense, Clark and other professionals and businessmen ... were trained to be reserve officers in a five-week course conducted by Regular Army personnel." The "Plattsburg Movement" soon expanded to other eastern cities, and by the time of America's entry into World War I some 16,000 men had received training at those camps and had formed the Military Training Camps Association.

In April 1917 the MTCA first suggested the idea of officer training camps to the War Department and offered to assist the Army in recruiting for the officer corps. The secretary of war eagerly accepted the offer and on April 17 published general orders authorizing the camps. Sixteen Officers' Training Camps (OTC) were established, each accommodating approximately 2,500 candidates. The first group of candidates began training in May, and consisted of 7,957 previously commissioned reserve officers and approximately 30,000 selected civilians. One candidate, a veteran of the Plattsburg camps of 1915 and 1916, described the candidates as "the same core of patriotic elites who had organized the Business Men's Camp, plus an additional influx of equally enthusiastic rookies of humbler background."

On April 29 Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., one of the "enthusiastic rookies of humbler background," presented himself to the Regular Army examining officer in Muskogee as an officer candidate. He carried with him a notarized affidavit stating that he was a 1911 graduate of Stella High School but that papers attesting that fact had been lost in a fire that destroyed his father's house in December 1916. He further certified that he had completed additional work in "Training classes" equivalent to the first year of college work. The examining officer found him to be five feet, nine and one-quarter inches in height and approximately 170 pounds in weight, and recommended that he be admitted to the Officers' Training Camp at Leon Springs, Texas, a short distance northwest of San Antonio and the site of present-day Camp Bullis. However, Truscott soon received other orders that directed him to report to Fort Logan H. Roots, three miles north of Little Rock, where he reported on May 17 to become a student in the first Officers' Training Camp conducted during World War I.

He was assigned to Troop No. 1, 12th Infantry Regiment, one of approximately 2,500 men assigned to the regiment. For the next three months the students received intensive instruction in basic military skills from Regular and reserve officers and some Allied instructors: "close order drill, School of the Soldier, weapons and marksmanship, route marches, scouting, patrolling, elementary tactics, and, in the artillery and cavalry units, horsemanship. Primarily, it hardened the men physically and inured them to regimentation." During those months the students were under extreme pressure, constantly being evaluated by the instructors. Although some of the students failed to measure up and were discharged, Truscott performed well, garnering ratings of "Satisfactory" in military bearing and deportment and the following proficiency ratings: Field Service Regulations, 88 percent; Drill Regulations, 100 percent; marksmanship, 71 percent; signaling, 100 percent; sketching, 80 percent; and spelling, 100 percent.

It was a requirement that a board of officers prepare an Efficiency Report for all students completing OTC to determine the fitness of those persons for appointment as officers. On August 1, Capt. Edwin A. Hickman of the 17th Cavalry, president of the board, completed the following Efficiency Report for Truscott: "He is a graduate of the Stella High School, Newalla, Oklahoma. This student, without any previous military training, has done excellent work in this camp. He possesses an excellent mind and seemingly is accurate and painstaking in all his work. He has taken examination in this camp for Provisional 2nd Lieutenant in U.S. Army, and is excellent material for an Army officer." The board ruled that he was eligible for a commission as second lieutenant of cavalry, Truscott's preferred branch, in the Officers' Reserve Corps (ORC) or as a provisional second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

On August 15 Truscott joined the other 1,531 "survivors" as they received their commissions, representing 61 percent of the approximately 2,500 who had begun the training. Truscott was appointed a provisional second lieutenant of cavalry and was ordered to report to the 17th Cavalry Regiment at Camp Harry J. Jones outside Douglas, Arizona. After taking his postgraduation leave, Truscott joined the regiment on August 29.

Reflecting many years later on his experiences at OTC, Truscott stated that "even after our training, our military background was sparse, to say the least. Most of us were completely ignorant of things military.... Military education at the training camp had been austere and elementary. It had been conducted for the most part by instructors who seemed to know little more than the candidates. But most of us were eager and looked forward with anticipation to joining Regular Army units where we would learn from professionals."

"Forward" with the 1 th Cavalry

On August 29 Second Lieutenant Truscott joined the 17th Cavalry at Camp Harry J. Jones, where the regiment had been deployed since May because of disturbances along the Mexican border, less than a mile to the south. At that time the 17th Cavalry had a strength of 46 officers and 1,482 enlisted men. Truscott later recalled that over the next few days the regimental adjutant, Lt. Daniel A. Connor, took him and his fellow second lieutenants on a series of horseback rides "to familiarize [them] with the area and to introduce [them] to the mounted service." After several "quiet, gentle rides" with Connor, the new officers met Lt. Edwin N. (Pink) Hardy, "one of the senior hard-bitten officers of the regiment," who began the officers' formal training in equitation, including many hours of riding at a slow trot without stirrups that "went a long way toward developing [their] cavalry seats!"

They also participated in drills and other formations with the troops to which they were assigned and, under the watchful eye of an experienced noncommissioned officer (NCO), acquired those essentials of command that they would apply in putting their platoons through mounted and dismounted drill formations by "voice command, signal, and whistle." Close friendships often developed between the officers and those noncommissioned officers who guided them in their early years, friendships that would last throughout their long careers.

The young officers also received instruction in their troop areas, where they were introduced to the complexities of morning reports, duty rosters, management of rations, property inventories, and inspections of the troop areas; practiced signaling using semaphore and "wig-wag" flags, the standard means of communication at that time; and were introduced to the organizing and management of a pack train, a skill that Truscott would use with great effectiveness a quarter of a century later in the mountains of Sicily and Italy. They also received extensive training in the use and employment of the traditional cavalry weapons, the pistol, saber, and rifle, as well as the newly introduced machine gun.

In March 1918 the 17th Cavalry joined the 1st and 15th Cavalry Regiments to form the 3d Brigade of the 15th Cavalry Division, which had been organized for overseas service. All outlying units of the regiment were recalled to Camp Jones, where they prepared for early movement to France. The 15th Cavalry Regiment soon left for France, and the 1st Cavalry received orders to deploy. However, the 17th remained at Camp Jones for the next eight months, and with the signing of the Armistice all hopes for service in France vanished; "the heart sick [sic] troops had nothing to do, but bear it philosophically." Truscott later wrote that the signing of the Armistice "deflated the hopes for service in France for many adventuresome souls," possibly expressing his personal disappointment at being denied an opportunity to serve in combat.


Excerpted from Dogface Soldier by WILSON A. HEEFNER Copyright © 2010 by The Curators of the University of Missouri. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

About the Author

Wilson A. Heefner, a retired physician, lives in Stockton, California. He retired from the U.S. Army in the grade of colonel after forty-one years of service as an enlisted man, infantry officer, and medical officer in the Regular Army, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve. He is the author of Twentieth Century Warrior: The Life and Service of Major General Edwin D. Patrick and Patton's Bulldog: The Life and Service of General Walton H. Walker.

The American Military Experience Series, edited by John C. McManus.

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