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The Archives of Michigan has opened the Glenn Allen Papers for research. They document the remarkable life of one Michigan man. Glenn Allen served as mayor of Kalamazoo, Michigan’s State Budget Director, a legal advisor to Governor William Milliken and a Michigan Court of Appeals judge.
Then, there’s his World War II service. Allen’s personal papers include many letters from this exciting time.
“…Once One Becomes Accustomed to the Mud…”
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Allen was an attorney and newly-elected Kalamazoo city commissioner. In 1942, he was drafted.
In his letters home, he relates his new experiences as a soldier. In a November 24, 1942 missive, for example, he tells his parents about Army training in Camp Phillips, Kansas:
Tonight, we heard a message from General Malony. He told us that we were living under combat conditions, i.e. – that we would live in mud, that the barracks were made so as not to be comfortable or neat or tidy. He further said that we would be cold, that we would be hungry (but that will only be occasionally) and that we would be wet. But he said that we all would be that way and that we had better learn to be that way now, because we were a combat division and the whole training program was designed to make us tougher. He said it wasn’t pleasant, wasn’t comfortable, wasn’t like home but to always remember that we were all – officers and men – going through the same thing. I guess we are, and frankly, I don’t think that it is so bad – once one becomes accustomed to the mud.
“…How Total is Germany’s Destruction…”
Allen attended Judge Advocate General’s School at the University of Michigan. He graduated in November 1943. Following a short assignment at Camp McCain, Mississippi, he was shipped to the European Theatre of Operations. There, Allen served as an assistant Judge Advocate of the Third Army’s 94th Division and as a legal advisor to General George S. Patton.
Allen’s letters provide great insight into wartime Europe. On September 15, 1944, for example, Allen writes the following:
Motoring through France brings one close to the destruction left by our armies and likewise brings one close to the enthusiasm and emotional gayety [sic] of the French nation. Some towns could be collected on a big dustpan and swept into the sea; others further inland are untouched.
On May 5, 1945, Allen notes even greater devastation in a nearly-vanquished Germany (The country formally surrendered three days later.):
People at home will never understand how total is Germany’s destruction. It is more than physical, though that is at present the most striking! City after city, block after block, building after building atomized, burned, rubble or the shells of a wall….When the warm winds come, there will be the stink of decomposing bodies still half-buried in the ruin.
These short excerpts don’t reveal the depth of Allen’s letters. In his May 5, 1945 letter, for example, Allen also reflects on how the Nazis came to power and describes a mass grave of Nazi political prisoners. Click on the images at the end of this article to read the full letter.
Allen often commented on his surroundings. Sometimes, he mused on the war’s progress and possible outcome, and discussed his duties and recreational activities. He also married during the war, and the collection includes love letters from his sweetheart, Virginia Verdier.
In 1945, Allen ran for a Kalamazoo city commission seat. He was still serving for Europe when he began his campaign (His letters document campaign activities.). He was elected vice commissioner. He then served as Kalamazoo’s mayor from 1951 to 1959.
Allen continued to lead an active life. He was a delegate to the Michigan constitutional convention of 1961-1962. Governor George Romney appointed him State Controller and then State Budget Director. Governor William Milliken appointed him as a legal advisor in his administration and then to the Court of Appeals. Allen was reelected to the Court in 1974 and 1980 and retired from the bench in 1987. In retirement, he continued to practice law and remained active in several organizations.
Glenn Allen passed away on November 6, 2001. His papers, residing in the Archives of Michigan, represent one of his lasting legacies to the state that he loved.