This School Teacher Became One of the Greatest Generals of World War II

In January of 1944, Truscott’s 3rd Infantry Division assaulted Anzio as part of the U.S. VI Corps. The operation was the brainchild of Winston Churchill and was meant to outflank the Germans and force them to withdraw from their Winter Line defenses. However, Major General John P. Lucas, the commander of the VI Corps refused to push inland as planned which forced Truscott’s division to engage in a bitter battle with the Germans and suffer heavy losses.

General Lucian Truscott after he took command of VI Corps.

With leaders concerned over the situation, Truscott was given Lucas’ command on February 17, 1944 with the hopes that the reliable and trusted general could turn things around. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, would write in his memoirs that he put Truscott in command of the VI Corps because he was the most outstanding division commander available in the Anzio bridgehead. “A quiet, competent, and courageous officer with great battle experience through North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, he inspired confidence in all with whom he came in contact.”

Truscott proved to be a good choice as he led his men up the Italian boot and helping in the final Battle of Monte Cassino and the capture of Rome. It was after this capture that his command was withdrawn in order to prepare for Operation Dragoon, the amphibious assault at the south of France. The landing took place on August 15, 1944 and faced little opposition as German Nineteenth Army retreated.

On September 2, 1944, Truscott earned his third star and the following month he was made commander of the Fifteenth Army. This command was largely an administrative and training one, and it did not last long as Truscott was given yet another promotion in December when he was made commander of the U.S. Fifth Army. He was able to lead his men through the rough winter of 1944-1945 and then push them through the Spring 1945 offensive. It was that spring offensive that led to the final destruction of German forces in Italy.

General Truscott after his promotion to three star general.

On Memorial Day, 1945 he was asked to give a speech at the American cemetery in Sicily-Rome. In an act that showed his true character he turned away from those gathered at the ceremony and instead faced the graves of the men. He apologized to the men and said that he knew as their leader he was partially to blame for their deaths. He said he hoped those who had died by any mistake of his own would forgive him but admitted he was asking a lot. He did not speak about the glorious dead because he saw little glory in dying so young.

He took over command of the Third Army from Patton on October 8, 1945 and held the command until April of 1946. He left the army after the war and began work on his book Command Missions which was published in 1954. He also wrote The Twilight of the U.S. Cavalry which was published after his death. After his retirement, he was awarded a fourth star due to his actions during the war.

It was only long after his death that it became known that he worked for the CIA from 1951 until 1958. None of his papers nor his books mention his CIA activities but the declassification of a secret memorandum brought Truscott’s service to light in 1994. He was assigned as senior CIA representative in Germany and in charge of the cloak-and-dagger operations in the country.

Truscott died on September 12, 1965 at the age of 70. He is remembered as one of the most skilled, intelligent, and dedicated generals of World War II.