Tag Archives: Servicemen

Letter from an American Hero (Part 2 of 2)

I asked Glynn McCalman, Clyde Vernon McCalman’s brother, to write a paragraph or so describing Clyde as he was before he entered the U. S. Army, and Glynn was kind enough to provide the following:

“Clyde Vernon McCalman was born June 13, 1923, to Odell and Gertrude McCalman at their farm home on the old Shreveport Road south of Walnut Hill.  He and his brothers, Marvin, Byrd and Glynn, attended school at Bradley, where Clyde excelled academically and socially.

Clyde continued to excel as a student at Ouachita College during the early years of World War II.  He was exempted from service in the war because of his status as an ordained minister, but he was uncomfortable with that exemption.  After the death of a close cousin, neighbor and friend, Harland Bird, in a bombing raid over Germany, he felt compelled to offer himself in the conflict.

He volunteered for service in the Army on March 17, 1944, and was killed on the same day one year later, March 17, 1945, in the final weeks of the war in Europe.  The letter (in the previous post) was written in the month preceding the month of his death.”

Thanks to Glynn McCalman for providing the above information.  For any reader of this site who may not already be aware of it, Glynn is a Bradley area historian and the author of two books on local history:  Bradley Connections and Walnut Hill And Somewhere Else.

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Clyde’s letter touches on several aspects of an infantryman’s life during active combat, such as the simple pleasure of sleeping inside a building.  Perhaps it may be useful to add a clarifying comment to some passages from the letter.

There is a reference in the first paragraph to someone named Hogue.  I have no idea who this was, other than someone who was obviously a mutual acquaintance of Clyde and my father.

The third paragraph of the letter refers to the “big German counterattack” and the awful winter weather.  This is a reference to what we now call the Battle of the Bulge, which began shortly before Christmas in 1944.  It was Hitler’s last serious attempt to break out of the encirclement into which the Allied advances had forced him.

The fourth paragraph of the letter states that “It was my division which cut off the Cherbourg Penninsula and took 1/4 of all prisoners taken on Cherbourg.”  This refers to combat operations shortly after D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy in France.  Cherbourg, with its fine port facilities which the Allies coveted and which the Germans were determined to defend long enough to destroy, was taken on June 30, 1944. 

Clyde states in the letter that he has “five months of combat behind me,” so it is doubtful that he was personally engaged in active combat during the Cherbourg operations.  Indeed, that would have occurred only a little more than three months after his enlistment in the U. S. Army.  It does, however, provide an idea of how long his unit had been actively engaged with the Germans.  Another indication of constant attack operations by the U. S. Army can be found in the comment in the next-to-last paragraph that “We have not been farther back than our own artillery since early October.”

It is ironic that Clyde’s letter states that he had “a comparitively soft job – mil clerk and administrative assistant to the 1st Sgt,” yet he was killed in action a little more than one month later.  This is perhaps an indication of the ferocity of the fighting, the urgency to maintain the attack, and the need for every soldier, including the ones with a “comparatively soft job,” to actively participate in the fighting.

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Pfc. Clyde Vernon McCalman’s remains were temporarily interred at Henri-Chapelle in Belgium and were later moved to the Walnut Hill Cemetery.  Below is an image of the foot marker on his grave:

Letter From An American Hero (Part 1 of 2)

Clyde Vernon McCalman was the son of Mr. R. Odell McCalman and Mrs. Gertrude McCalman.  He was born on June 13, 1923.  In February of 1945, he was serving as a Private First Class with the United States Army on its final push into Nazi Germany.  On February 6, 1945, he wrote the following letter to Frank M. Cochran, Jr., who was serving with the United States Army in the Pacific theater.  A verbatim transcription of the letter follows the images.

                                          “Germany

                                           February 6, 1945

Dear Frank M;

     Recieved your letter of Dec. 27 today and was very glad to hear from you again.  Had a brief letter from Hogue recently saying you had moved but didn’t know you were in Air Corps.

     To be sure things are pretty rough over here but so far as I am personally concerned I can not complain — naturally, with five months of combat behind me, as an infantryman I have had some close calls — God has been good to me.

     I find it amazing how much a fellow can take when the chips are down —the big German counterattack was bad enough without the 20 degrees below weather and snow about 3 or 4 ft. deep usually.  For the past few days our Ninth Div has been making the headlines — as it did in Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, and now Germany — It was my division which cut off the Cherbourg Penninsula and took 1/4 of all prisoners taken on Cherbourg.

     We got quite a bit of “loot” off of prisoners — I sent a good German compass home yesterday for which I was offered $10.  Could easily have sold it for twice that much.

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     Also, I have a fine 120 bass accordian which one of my buddies captured and made me a present of — as good or better than my own for which I paid $325.

     It is quite a source of pleasure to us when we get our occassional rest.  I drag it out and we have a song fest even though the Jerries may be only a couple of miles away— (We have not been farther back than our own artillery since early October.)  I can play the accordian quite well now — even more tunes than I can on the piano.

     I “lasted long enough” to rate a comparitively soft job — mil clerk and administrative assistant to the 1st Sgt.  My candle is about burned out so I had better hit the hay — Am sleeping in a building tonight for a change.  That is the good part about being in Germany —

                                             Sincerely

                                             Clyde Mc.”

 

     On March 17, 1945, exactly one year after he enlisted in the U. S. Army, and exactly 39 days after he wrote this letter, Pfc. Clyde Vernon McCalman was killed in action in Germany.  He was 21 years old.