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“Of the Marines on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Bryan McCallum was born in Center, Texas on May 16th, 1921 to William Jennings Bryan McCallum, Sr. (1897 – 1970) and Beatrice (Miss. Bea) Martin McCallum (1901 – 1983). The 1930 census shows his father was born in Texas and mother in Vermont. He had an older sister, Gladys Beatrice McCallum (1919 – 1994) and a younger brother William (Billy) Martin McCallum (1929 – 1999). He graduated with the Center High School Class of 1940. Growing up Bryan and Sergeant Woods’ uncle, Julius Blain “Buck” Woods were best friends.
The newspaper obituary from 1945 stated “he was a fine horseman and after leaving high school rode in many world championship rodeos. At the age of fourteen at Tyler, Texas he was judged by Ray Whitley, the movie actor as the champion boy rider of the southwest. While in high school he played on the Roughrider football team.
Bryan joined the US Marine Corps on October 14th, 1942. He became a Marine paratrooper sometime after that and probably trained at New River, North Carolina. This was a new program for the Corps that began in May 1942 and there was no shortage of volunteers for the parachute program as enlisted men received and additional $50.00 per month. Doubts rose that the program was something the Marines needed or could afford so on December 30th, 1943 the Marine Corps Commandant ordered the disbandment of the program.
He fought in the Battle of Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands against the Japanese in 1943 while still a Marine paratrooper and participated in the Bougainville Campaign in the North Solomon Islands. I believe he joined the 26th Marine Regiment of the 5th Marine Division sometime after its activation on January 21st, 1944 and was with them when the fifth assaulted the island of Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945.
Wikia.com, History of the 5th Marine Division described it like this “Exposed to the full fury of the enemy's defenses, Marines clawed their way forward a yard at a time. Across Motoyama Airfield #1, up Mount Suribachi, and then into the badlands of the Motoyama Plateau, the Fifth fought and died but, it never stopped. Foot by foot, day by day, Marines pushed forward until the last Japanese pocket was crushed on 25 March 1945. On 27 March 1945, the last Marines of the division sailed from Iwo Jima. They had earned their nickname–"The Spearhead."
Before they left, the survivors of the Fifth Division went to their cemetery to attend memorial services for their fallen comrades. PFC Bryan McCallum, Jr. was killed on Iwo Jima on March 1st, 1945 just two months shy of his 24th birthday and less than a week after the US Flag was raised on Mount Suribachi. One of the speakers at the memorial services that day, a Jewish Chaplain from New York City, Lieutenant Roland B. Gittelsohn said “Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because the men who lie here beneath us had the courage and the strength to give their lives, for ours. To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy. Of them too it can be said with utter truth: The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It can never forget what they did here.” (Extract from Uncommon Valor, 1946, Infantry Journal).
Total Iwo Jima US Marine Corps casualties February 19 – March 26th, 1945 were: killed in action 4,554, died of wounds 1,331, missing in action 46 and wounded in action 17,272.
The 26th Marine Regiment of the 5th Division to which Private McCallum was assigned began with 3,256 Marines on its muster rolls. 34 days later when the 26th accomplished its final mission, there were 1,468 Marines left standing. This was only 45% of the regiment’s beginning strength.
"In the final analysis battles are won not by machines but by men trained to fight, wanting to live, but unafraid to die. Iwo Jima has come to symbolize the courage and offensive spirit that brought victory to the Armed Forces of the United States in World War II."…………. Lt. Colonel Whitman Barkley.
Bryan is buried in the Fairview Cemetery, Center, Texas with his parents and other family members