The Last Cavalryman
The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.
By Harvey Ferguson, 423 pp. University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. $29.95.
ONCE DESCRIBED BY two British historians as “a first-class professional soldier” who was “as unflamboyant a leader as has appeared in the history of the U.S. Army since Ulysses S. Grant,” General Lucian K. Truscott was all that, and more.
Despite his leadership as one of the army’s outstanding World War II combat commanders, Truscott has long been neglected by historians—in no small part because he fought in the Mediterranean rather than the European Theater. Superbly researched by author Harvey Ferguson, who draws on new material including never before seen family papers, The Last Cavalryman is an illuminating portrait of a remarkable soldier.
Truscott’s rise from humble roots in Texas and Oklahoma is a great American success story. At 16 he became a schoolteacher, then a horse cavalryman on the Arizona frontier, finally vaulting himself to command a multinational army in Italy during World War II.
Fierce on the polo and battlefield, Truscott earned a reputation as a superb trainer of troops. Truscott was the Ranger force’s principal architect in England in 1942 and Eisenhower’s point man in Tunisia before earning a promotion to division commander for Sicily’s invasion in July 1943.
Truscott turned the 3rd Infantry Division in Sicily into one of the finest and best led in Patton’s Seventh Army. In February 1944 at Anzio, he took command of VI Corps and masterminded both the saving of the beachhead and the successful breakout from what might otherwise have been a deathtrap for the Allies.
Although he made the cover of Life magazine in 1944, as Ferguson notes, Truscott was “more at ease at the battlefront than in front of a group of reporters, and more at home riding in a jeep across a just-built, untried wartime bridge than riding in a jeep through the cheering crowd of a just-liberated city.”
The Last Cavalryman not only ably recounts the fascinating story of Truscott’s life and career but also provides fresh details about his little-known service as a coordination director with the CIA after World War II—an enlightening look at this often-forgotten general.
Carlo D’Este is an award-winning military historian and biographer. Originally published in the July/August 2015 issue of World War II magazine.