Captain Allen was born in Atlanta, Georgia, 17 April 1891. He enlisted in the US Navy on 29 September 1908, at the age of seventeen and attended Navy Electrical School, New York, graduating as Electrician Second Class. He then served in USS Patuxent, USS New Hampshire, USS Alabama, and at the Naval Radio Station, Beaufort, North Carolina. In 1912 he was rated Chief Electrician and served from June 1913 until October 1916 in North Greenland as a member of the Crocker Land Arctic Expedition led by Donald B. McMillan. During that period, due to the failure of the relief ship to pick up the expedition they sledged across Melville Bay and a thousand miles down Greenland Coast to a Danish Government ship at Egedesminde and returned to the United States via Denmark.
In 1917, Captain Allen was appointed Radio Gunner; later that year he was appointed Ensign, and he subsequently advanced in rank as follows: during World War I held the temporary rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) and Lieutenant, and was commissioned in those ranks 29 October 1918 and 3 August 1920 respectively. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, 4 June 1931; Commander, 23 June 1938 and Captain, 10 Mary 1943. On 1 January 1947 he was placed on the Retired List of the Navy.
Captain Allen had brief duty in charge of Radio Research work at the Bureau of Standards for the Radio Section of the Bureau of Steam Engineering (later combined with Bureau of Construction and Repair and designated Bureau of Ships) Navy Department, Washington, DC. From February 1918 until January 1919 he was in charge of radio for US Naval Forces in European Waters being assigned to Naval Headquarters, London, England, on the staff of Admiral William S. Sims, USN. He then served as a member of the mission to Ukraine from the American Commission to negotiate peace in 1919; was Communication Officer at the Peace Conference, Paris, France, and European Communication Officer until September 1920. From October 1920 until May 1923, Captain Allen served in the Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department, with duty in charge of the Design Section, Radio Division, Radiotelegraphy. In June 1923 he joined USS California and serve as her radio officer until May 1924. The following month he reported for duty under instruction in radio engineering at the Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland, continuing that instruction at various naval activities and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Captain Allen was radio officer of USS New Mexico from October 1926 until October 1929. The following month he reported for duty as Assistant Disburse Communications Officer, Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California, serving until September 1931. He then served as Aide on the staff of the Commander, Battleship Division One, Battle Force with additional duty as Division Radio Officer of USS New York and USS Texas. From August 1932 until October 1932 he was Division Radio Officer on the Staff of the Commander, Battleship Division One, Battle Force, USS Texas flagship, and then served until June 1933 as Radio Officer on the Staff of the Commander, Battleships, Battle Force with communication duty in USS West Virginia, USS Maryland, and USS Pennsylvania.
From June 1934 until May 1935, Captain Allen commanded USS McFarland. He was Aide to Admiral Thomas J. Senn, USN, while that officer served as Naval Representative at the San Diego Exposition 1935-36. In June 1936 he reported for duty under instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, completing the course in May 1937. In July of that year he reported for duty at the Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippine Islands, and the following month assumed duty as Captain of the Yard at that station, serving until January 1938. The following six months he served as executive officer of USS Black Hawk and from July 1938 until November 1939 he commanded USS Sacramento. While serving in that command in China, he brought that ship from Shanghai via Suez Canal to Michigan City, Indiana, and also was in command while the Sacramento was station ship during the Squalus Salvage operations. For his services during that period he received Letters of Commendation from the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and the Commander, Squalus Salvage Unit.
Captain Allen was District Communication Officer from January 1940 until October 1941, first in the Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, California, and later in the Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California. From October 1941 to June 1942 he was in command of Destroyer Division 82, USS Gilmer, flagship. He then had temporary duty as Communication Officer (Inspection and Organization) and General Assistant to the Commander, Alaskan Sector, Naval Operating Base, Kodiak, Alaska, from June to September 1942 and from that time until June 1943 he served as Communication Officer on the Staff of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier.
From June 1943 to October 1944, Captain Allen was Senior Instructor in Communications at the Army-Navy Staff College, War Department, Building, Washington, DC, and for his services in that assignment he received a Letter of Commendation from the Army with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon. He was also awarded a Letter of Commendation with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon from the Secretary of the Navy for his services during a train wreck on 16 December 1943. The citation follows:
Letter of Commendation - Secretary of the Navy
"For efficient and heroic services on the occasion of a train wreck near Rennert, North Carolina, on December 16, 1943. Alert to the probability of further disaster when the last three cars of the train on which he was a passenger had been derailed and had slewed dangerously close to the adjacent track. Captain Allen quickly gathered fragments of shattered ties, ignited them for a warning fire and, with the aid of a torch improvised from crumpled magazines, signaled and stopped a southbound train. Although unaware that a north bound through express was due to pass the scene of the wreck within a short time, Captain Allen hurried to the southern end of the wreck and almost immediately saw the headlights of a train bearing down on the derailed cars. In spite of the signal torch hastily constructed from boxes and swung from side to side, he was unable to stop the onrushing train in time to prevent a crash. Captain Allen's cool presence of mind during a grave emergency and his subsequent gallant efforts toward releasing and aiding victims of the accident were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
After brief duty under instruction with Training Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, Coronado, California, Captain Allen had temporary duty from November 1944 to January 1945 with Transport Division 32 and from January to October 1945 he served first as Commander, Transport Division 12, and later as Commander, Transport Division 51. In January 1946 he reported for duty as Communication Officer, Naval Operating Base, Okinawa, and from February to May of that year he served as Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander of that Base. In May 1946 he assumed duty as Commandant, Naval Operating Base, Okinawa, serving until August 1946. Returning to the United States he served at the Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California, and on 1 January 1947 his name was placed on the Retired List of the Navy and he was relieved of all active duty.
In addition to the Commendation Ribbon from the Navy and the Commendation Ribbon from the Army, Captain Allen has the Victory Medal, Overseas Clasp (for service in England and France), the China Service Medal (USS Black Hawk), and is entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp (Destroyer Division 82 USS Gilmer), the American Area Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal; the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.