Roderick Random Allen, an army officer who served in three wars, the son of Jefferson Buffington and Emma (Albers) Allen, was born on January 29, 1894, in Marshall, Texas, and spent his youth in Palestine, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M in 1915 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture. In 1946 A&M granted him an honorary LL.D. degree. On April 25, 1917, he married Maydelle Campbell; the couple reared Nancy Campbell Allen and Gail Random Allen. Allen was commissioned a second lieutenant, Sixteenth Cavalry, Regular Army, on November 29, 1916, and subsequently a first lieutenant. He was stationed at Mercedes, Texas, on the Mexican border. He was transferred to the Third Cavalry in June 1917, was promoted to captain on October 17, and served with the regiment in France in the American Expeditionary Force. His troop and squadron were on remount duty at six locations. From November 1917 to January 1918 Allen was an aerial observer, First Observation Squadron, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, in World War I. During the spring of 1919 he attended the University of Toulouse in France. In July 1919 he returned with the Third Cavalry to Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont. In 1919–21 and 1923 he rode 300-mile endurance tests in the United States Mounted Service. In 1920 Allen was an instructor, Texas National Guard, Dallas. In February 1921 he transferred to the Sixteenth Cavalry, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, and in October he moved to the Fourth United States Cavalry. He was a member of the Cavalry Engineer Rifle Team from 1921 to 1923. Beginning in the 1920s Allen graduated from several advanced military schools. He attended the Cavalry School and was assigned (1923) to command Company A, Seventh Cavalry, Fort Bliss, and served as regimental adjutant. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School (1928), was promoted to major on June 20, and was ordered to the Personnel Section (of which he became chief in 1930), Office of Chief of Cavalry, in Washington, D.C. In 1929 he was captain of the Cavalry Rifle and Pistol Team. He was an instructor at the Command and General Staff School (1932–34). He graduated from the Chemical Warfare School (1934), the Army War College (1935), and the Naval War College (1936). Allen was a staff officer, Plans and Training Division, War Department, from 1936 to 1940. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on August 1, 1938.
During World War II he commanded various armored units. In July 1940 he was operations officer, First Armored Regiment, Fort Knox, Kentucky. In April he was transferred to the Third Armored Division, Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. He was promoted to colonel, Army of the United States, on October 14, 1941, and took command of the Thirty-second Armored Regiment. Allen became chief of staff, Sixth Armored Division, in January 1942 and was promoted to brigadier general, Army of the United States, on May 23. He commanded Combat Command A, Fourth Armored, and participated in maneuvers in Tennessee (1942) and California (1942–43). From October 1943 to September 1944 he commanded the Twentieth Armored Division at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. He was promoted to major general, Army of the United States, on February 23, 1944. He commanded the Twelfth Armored Division in Europe from September 1944 to August 1945. The division was attached to the United States Seventh Army (in France), detached to the First French Army, then to the Third Army to spearhead the Twentieth Corps drive from Trier to the Rhine. His division accompanied the Twenty-first Corps into Austria. From August 1945 to February 1946 he commanded the First Armored in Germany, then was director of operations, plans, and training at European Theater headquarters. He was promoted to colonel, regular army, on November 1, 1945, and to brigadier general on January 24, 1948.
In the United States he served from October 1947 to April 1948 as director of intelligence, Army Ground Forces, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was promoted to major general on May 27, 1949. He commanded the Third Armored, Fort Knox, from 1948 to 1950. In July 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, he reported to Douglas MacArthur's headquarters, Far East Command, Tokyo, Japan. He was designated deputy chief of staff, Far East Command, deputy chief of staff, United Nations Command, and chief of staff, Korean Operations. From April 1951 to February 1952 Allen commanded the Sixteenth Corps, headquartered at Sendai, Japan. After being reassigned to the states, he commanded the Ninth Infantry Division, Fort Dix, from February to July 1952. At Dix, Allen briefly made national news when a House subcommittee on appropriations criticized his expenditures for kennels and dog runs for his fancy dogs (Samoyeds). His last assignment was as commanding general, New England Sub-area, Boston Army Base, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He retired from the army on May 31, 1954, and resided in Washington, D.C., until his death, on February 1, 1970. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Allen received the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Army Command Ribbon, Distinguished Marksman award, Officer Legion of Honor award, Croix de Guerre with Palm (French), Order of the White Lion and Victory, and War Cross (Czechoslovakia).