John Lucas was born in West Virginia on 14th January, 1890. He attended the West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1911 (55/82) and was commissioned in the cavalry before transferring to the field artillery. Lucas served with the 33rd Infantry Division on the Western Front during the First World War.
He remained in the US Army and by the outbreak of the Second World War he had reached the rank of major general. In September 1941 he was appointed as commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division. In 1943 Lucas succeeded Harold R. Bull as deputy to General Dwight Eisenhower in Tunisia and Sicily. Later that year he was placed in charge of the 6th Corps.
In January 1944 General Harold Alexander, Supreme Allied Commander in Italy, ordered an amphibious operation at Anzio, a small port on the west coast of Italy. This was to be combined with a new offensive on Monte Cassino. The main objective of the operation was to cut the communication lines of the German 10th Army and force withdrawal from the Gustav Line. Lucas was given responsibility for planning the Anzio landings.
Attacks on Monte Cassino on 17th January resulted in the Germans reserves moving to the Gustav Line and on 22nd January the 6th Corps landed at Anzio. Lucas decided not to push straight away to the Alban Hills. This enabled General Heinrich Vietinghoff to order the 14th Army to return to the area and contain the 6th Corps on the Anzio bridgehead. General Mackensen counterattacked on 15th February 1944 but this was halted by the American troops.
Winston Churchill was furious with Lucas and commented "I had hoped that we were hurling a wildcat onto the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale." General George Marshall accepted the criticism and Lucas was replaced by General Lucian Truscott.
Lucas was sent home and spent the rest of the war as commanding general of the 4th Army at San Antonio, Texas. He also served as chief of the Army Advisory Group in Nanking, China (1946-48). His final post was as commanding general of the 5th Army in Chicago.
John Porter Lucas died at Great Lakes, Illinois, on 24th December, 1949.