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Between April and August 1943, the U.S. Army’s II Corps saw two of its division commanders relieved of their commands. Each relief appeared tied to battlefield setbacks. MG Orlando Ward of the 1st Armored Division was relieved after his division failed to seize a narrow mountain pass near the town of Maknassy, in Tunisia. Ward’s superiors labeled him too cautious, unwilling or unable to motivate his soldiers to take their objective. Months later on the island of Sicily, MG Terry Allen was relieved of command of the 1st Infantry Division. His relief followed the failure to seize the Sicilian town of Troina. Allen’s superiors accused him of being too hesitant in committing his entire force to the attack. He was branded an insubordinate rebel who cared only for his own troops.
In both cases, a standard history of the events emerged. It was based on the official U.S. Army account and a narrow reading of primary sources. This version of events ascribed each relief to flaws in Ward and Allen’s leadership ability. The standard description of the reliefs continues to appear in recent scholarship. However, some accounts departed from the accepted portrayal, and point to alternate reasons behind the reliefs. When these alternative accounts are considered along with a comprehensive examination of primary source material, a new argument emerges. Ward and Allen were removed from command for political and military reasons of expediency. From a broader perspective, this investigation revealed how wartime leaders dealt with unprecedented circumstances to accomplish their goals. Understanding the reliefs of Generals Ward and Allen provides insight into organizational decision making and its effect on the U.S. Army in the early portion of World War II.