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Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

18 Mar

General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr. was born in in 1895 in tiny Chatfield, Navarro County, Texas. His father, Lucian King Truscott, Sr., was a doctor who had just bought a medical practice of Dr. William Pannill who had desired to relocate to nearby Corsicana, the county seat. His mother, the former Maria Temple Tully, taught piano there in Chatfield. However, the family did not reside very long in Texas before again relocating, this time to the Oklahoma Territory in 1901.

The story is widely related that Gen. Truscott who was described as having a “gravelly” voice came by it when as a toddler, he accidentally swallowed a small amount of carbolic acid. Carbolic acid, or phenol as it is also known, was a product that had many uses including the cleaning and dressing of wounds. It also had other household uses. Fortunately young Truscott’s cries were heard and he was treated promptly.

The future general spent much of his youth and early adulthood in Oklahoma, going to school there and acquiring a teaching certificate. He then taught at schools in Stella (southeast of Oklahoma City) and Onapa (on the eastern side of the state, roughly midway between McAlester and Muskogee), having moved to these locations with his family. About this time, he enlisted in the United States Army Reserves. His biographical sketches also include that an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point was also available, but that Truscott had to decline, perhaps to remain and help support his family.

Around the time that the United States became involved in World War I, Truscott enlisted in the regular army and is said to have been the youngest person to enlist from McIntosh County, a sparsely populated county in eastern Oklahoma. By the time the war ended, Truscott had not left the United States but had been serving at the rank of lieutenant, near the Mexican border at Douglas, Arizona. In 1919, he was married in April to Sarah Nicholas Randolph.

Truscott remained in the service after the close of World War I and was promoted to First Lieutenant. His outfit was transferred to Hawaii with the 17th Cavalry, then still the horse cavalry. There, he took up the sport of polo, eventually becoming captain of the United States Army polo team.

When some were released in the post war reduction in force, Truscott was promoted to captain. His next assignments were to California from Hawaii, from California back to the border in Arizona. In 1925, he attended Troop Officers’ School in Kansas. In 1925, Captain Truscott was ordered to attend the Troop Officers’ Course at the Cavalry School in Fort Riley, Kansas where he later served as an instructor. Following this, he served at Fort Myer, Virginia with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment where he became acquainted with George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower, both ranked as Majors at the time.

From Virginia, Truscott was chosen to attend the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which seems to have been a particularly significant career assignment. There he was well received, promoted to Major and became an instructor at the school until the fall of 1940. His path again crossed with Eisenhower several times as the Army developed and trained its armored force in response to the war which had broken out in Europe and Asia. He had been promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Truscott was stationed in Texas at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to colonel and in due course, was ordered to Washington for a meeting with General Mark Clark who invited Truscott to became a commando attached to British forces as part of a plan in which the Army gained wartime experience for its likely entry with Britain into the war. Truscott accepted and became a senior ranking officer observing the British in its commando headquarters.

By the spring of 1942, Truscott had been promoted to brigadier general. The United States had entered the war and Truscott and his staff began to transition to a lead role in the commando program formerly led by British Admiral Lord Mountbatten. His role included the observation of commando exercises and training and he was invited to the planning efforts for the invasion of Europe from Britain.

An early assignment included the planning for a raid on the occupied French coast at Dieppe, formerly a resort area. A combined Allied force struck the French coast on August 19, 1942 in an area that extended some 16 kilometers. Truscott had been made commander of the newly organized 1st Ranger Battalion. After several months of planning, the attack took place with forces including fifty of Truscott’s troops, although Truscott personally opposed the plan. German forces repelled the attack with air support. Though strategically it was viewed as a defeat, United States newspapers acknowledged the loss but presented it as having given the Allies a look at the German coastal response to such an attack. The invasion force has been estimated at 6,100 troops just under 5,000 of whom were Canadian. The cost was high, with roughly 3,400 of the Allied forces killed or captured. This attack marked the first official United States casualties in the European theater.

The lack of success at Dieppe seems to have led the Allies to conclude that a large scale invasion required overwhelming force and long planning. The Allies began to create such a plan while realizing that the Axis forces would need to also be engaged elsewhere, including the southern coast of Europe and North Africa. North Africa was strongly in control of the Italian and German forces and the Allies planned an invasion of the area in 1942. The plan was called Operation Torch and Truscott was involved in the planning of it. Once that was completed, he briefly returned to the United States to take command of the 9th Infantry Division to invade French Morocco. The invasion took place in early November, 1942 and was a success, whereupon Truscott was promoted to major general. The following is a greatly condensed account of Truscott’s role in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Europe in World War II.

As the rest of the North African engagement unfolded, Truscott served for a while on the staff of General Eisenhower coordinating French, British and American forces as the Allies began to direct their efforts to take Tunis. Truscott was placed in command of X Corps in April of 1943 as part of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Once North Africa became secure, the Allies turned their efforts toward invading Sicily. There Truscott coordinated his units with those of General Patton as part of the Seventh Army and they planned to focus on taking its largest city, Palerno, which they subsequently did. Taking the rest of Sicily was then set as the goal. Though according to anecdotes, Patton and Truscott clashed from time to time, they always seemed to work together well as Sicily was secured by the early fall of 1943.

The next goal was to retake Italy and his division was placed under General Mark Clark’s VI Corps of the Fifth Army. By January 1944 operations had begun with a view toward taking Salerno, Cassino and Anzio. It was a difficult campaign but Truscott’s performance led him to be assigned to command VI Corps’ British and American troops. The fighting was fierce but successful and the focus became the retaking of Rome which was accomplished by early summer, 1944.

As the Allied invasion of northern France began, Truscott was assigned to take part in the invasion of southern France and ultimately into Germany. He briefly was allowed to return to the United States before being reassigned to serve again under General Clark as commander of the Fifth Army back in Italy where he served until the German Army began to surrender to the Allies. He was then reassigned to the Pacific theater for a short time until the surrender of Japan.

Truscott may have expected to be reassigned to the United States but was instead ordered to replace General Patton as commander of the Third Army occupation forces in Europe after the latter was removed. The two had a good relationship and Patton cooperated with the transition.

Truscott served in that capacity until he was led to retire in 1947 after suffering a heart attack. He had served thirty years in the Army. Prior to his ultimate retirement he served for a time as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. His final rank was four star general.

Image credit: findagrave.com

Truscott died in Alexandria, Virginia on September 12, 1965 at the age of 70 and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. One of the great general’s many honors include receiving a Texas historical marker in his birthplace of Chatfield in 2012. The Corsicana Daily Sun carried these two paragraphs in its Jan 1, 2012 edition.

“Spearheaded by people in Chatfield, Truscott will be honored on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, with the dedication of an official Texas Historical Marker in that community. The Texas Historical Commission and the Navarro County Historical Commission will dedicate the marker at 2 p.m. that day.

‘The citizens of Chatfield always have been proud of their native son,’ said Rob Jones, who did the historical research and prepared the marker application. ‘When I was young, all the old timers talked about General Truscott and his living at Chatfield as a boy,’ he added.”


Addendum:

General Truscott is related by marriage to the family of Thomas Jefferson, via his wife, the former Sara Randolph. We noted while writing about General Truscott that the Truscott names are sometimes referenced in discussions concerning the life of Thomas Jefferson. A Truscott grandson has asserted that because his famous ancestor Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, the Jefferson Memorial should be removed from the United States Capital. He further stated that he had cousins who are descended from former slave Sally Hemmings and alluded to the assumption that it was Thomas Jefferson himself who fathered a child or children by Ms. Hemmings.

The grandson’s statements concerning parentage and a liaison between a male from the Jefferson line and a female slave appear to be based on DNA testing from the 1990s. The results indicate that someone who is related to Thomas Jefferson had relations with slave Sally Hemmings. However, to the best of our knowledge, it is not possible to conclude that the individual was Thomas Jefferson. DNA testing and forensic DNA are not that precise, at least not at the present. There are accounts which say that there were other males (as many as seven) in the Jefferson family in the age range of individuals who could have been involved. The article referenced below seems to be a fair rebuttal to the claims and provides more historical context as to how they arose.

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Posted by on March 18, 2021 in biography, world war 1, world war 2

 

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