Picture courtesy of Hans van Toer

Medals and Badges Pvt. McCollum won

Clarence E. McCollum was born on February 16, 1909 in Brown Station, a small town near Columbia, Missouri. His parents, William Arthur McCollum and Bertha Edith Cragio, had 10 children (4 girls and 6 boys). Clarence’s father, William Arthur McCollum, was a successful constructor in the Comlumbia area and built there a lot of houses.

Unless the success as a constructor William Arthur decided to become a preacher, with the result that he often wasn’t home for months. It was a heavy burden for Bertha Edith to raise the kids on her own. Clarence E. McCollum left school to work in a bakery at age 12. He really his work as a baker and even made promotion to manager of the bakery.

At age 20, Clarence E. McCollum, joined the service as a draftee. One of his brothers was also in the service and left the service after 30 years as a Lieutenant Colonel. Another brother, Andrew, was also in the service, but had to give it up after he accidently fell on his back. His other brother, Benjamin, didn’t had to go into the service.

Clarence first met his wife rollerscatecircuit on November 7, 1931. They married at Wilkens Boulevard Methodist Church in Columbia. Clarence was 21 years old at that time and his wife 16 years. In 1933 came out of their happy marriage a little girl named Marian Sue, in 1936 a boy named Jimmy Earl and in 1939 a girl named Joyce Ann.

Clarence McCollum's children next to their father's grave
(Picture courtesy of Hans van Toer)

Marian Sue remembers her father as reall funny and lovely person, which also liked to tease his wife and kids on funny way. She said that there was a lot of singing in her family and that Clarence was a deacon in their church. Clarence made sure that his wife and kids went faithfully to the church each Sunday. Marian Sue also remembers that they had a car and that her father liked sports and played as a shortstop in the team of the Fruit University Company.

He was also a good hunter and fisherman. Sometimes after a day of hard working he left the following morning the house very early with Joyce Ann for fishing. After that he took, as a baker, fresh donuts home for his other kids and wife. He also liked to work with his wife in their garden and also had a small piece of land were they grew their own food. Clarence’s wife also loved to make icecream which she kept at home during the summer for special occasions to share with their neighbors.

Clarence received his draftpapers on April 20, 1944. He recieved basic training at Camp Hood, Texas. At that moment Clarence was 33 years of age and had 21 years experience as a baker, and so hoped also to become a baker in the army. The army decided to make an infantrist of Clarence and sent him after 8 weeks basic training to Camp George G. Made in Maryland to wait for new orders.

(Picture courtesy of Hans van Toer)

Clarence McCollum served in the 84th Infantry Division, 334th Infantry Regiment, I Company. On Monday November 20, 1944 the 84th Infantry Division had to take part in capturing Geilenkirchen, Prummern and the high hills in the Beeck area.

That Monday morning it was quiet at the front already for two days. The German 12th Waffen-SS Corps was preparing their defensive positions to repulse American attacks. The Germans knew the Americans would attack soon and held the 176th and 183rd Infantry Division ready to hold the frontlines. Behind these German troops the 152nd Panzer Corps, commanded by General Heinrich von Luettwitz, was kept in reserve.

Days of heavy fighting in the Geilenkirchen area resulted in a lot of casualties at the German side. Only the 351st Grenadier Regiment at the left flank, commanded by Colonel Schudo, was able to hold position. November 18, 1944 was a quiet day at the front and was used to reorganise troops and positions on both sides.

At the left flank Britisch forces had to clear two other woods near Tripsrath (Wurm valley). In the center of the attack the 333rd Infantry Regiment had to capture Mullendorf and Wurm. At the right flank the 334th Infantry Regiment had to capture Prummern, Mahogany Hill and Beeck. On November 20, Colonel Roosma of the 334th IR asked for 3 more battalions to support the attack.

Clarence Mccollum’s unit couldn’t move out of Prummern, but had to because they also had to capture Mahogany Hill and Beeck. Meanwhile the German 9th Panzer Division tried to recapture Prummern, but failed thanks to stiff resistance of the 334th IR. At 09.20 Hours, Colonel Roosma reported to his HQ that the 334th IR was in line at Prummern without Germans trying to infiltrate their lines. So Clarence and his buddies held Prummern, despite excellent German positions at Mahogany Hill. Clarence Mccollum and the others, still in the streets of Prummern, couldn’t move without getting under German fire from the higher German positions at Mahogany Hill. Clarence and his unit took the entire day 2 German positions under fire at a crossroad.

When it started to get dark the men were reinforced with 2 Crocodile Flametrower tanks. Both tanks drove thru the town straight to the German positions. At about 75 meters they stopped and set the bunkers on fire. There were no survivors of the German bunkercrew and by evening that day Clarence and his buddies took the crossroad.

Crossroad Mahogany Hill and Prummern
(Picture courtesy of Hans van Toer)

The GI’s came a lot closer to the top of Mahogany Hill, but the Germans still were dug in perfectly and had clear view over the Allies at the lower grounds around the Hill. There was no time to rest for Clarence and his buddies as the Germans still held Mahogany Hill. Other elements of the 334th IR moved very slowly forward and it seemed impossible for the GI’s to capture that area with a lot of hills which provided the German infantry and heavy tanks excellent cover.

Clarence’s unit had to attack again and leave their dug in positions in the beetfields just outside of Prummern. During one of these manouvres Clarence Mccollum was hit deadly and died of his wounds. After Clarence was recovered by his buddies he was buried at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten (The Netherlands).

Beetfields in Prummern (Picture courtesy of Hans van Toer)

Pvt. Clarence E. McCollum's final resting place is, together with 8,301 brothers in arms, the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Plot G, Row 8, Grave 25.

For more stories of soldiers adopted by mr. Hans van Toer:
Sgt. Sivert J. Carlson
Pvt. Ernest W. Little

Hans van Toer