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McCollum served as paratrooper, fought at Normandy

MADISON – Richard G. ‘Mac’ McCollum was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1943.

When McCollum was drafted, a sergeant asked recruits if anyone wanted to be a paratrooper. McCollum immediately agreed, after learning that paratrooper’s pay was $50 per month more. “An enormous sum of money,” he said.

McCollum completed basic training near Little Rock, Ark. and transferred to Fort Benning, Ga. for jump training.

For his first jump, McCollum approached the aircraft’s door with trepidation. “It’s a long way down there,” he thought. However, a hard smack on his backside sent him airborne.

After intensive training and five jumps, McCollum earned his ‘wings.’ He served with the 101st Airborne and embarked into World War II.

McCollum served in Ireland; Scotland; and Newbury, England. He spent most of his time in France and joined the fight at Normandy. McCollum participated in the Battle of the Bulge and jumped into Bastogne, Belgium.

One night, Mac’s unit approached a farm with a barn and farmhouse. His unit decided to sleep in the barn’s hay. The next morning, Mac woke up next to a dead bull, frozen solid from bitter cold.

A couple of soldiers shot a rabbit and gave it to the large family in the farmhouse. “The family displayed their joy and prepared a large rabbit stew with vegetables and fed their American allies for the day,” McCollum said.

During one of numerous jumps, McCollum and two comrades were captured by the Germans. As a German officer escorted them to a POW camp, the Americans overtook and neutralized the officer.

McCollum had studied German at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Dressed in the German’s uniform, McCollum posed as an officer to pass a German checkpoint and return safely to allied controlled territory.

McCollum’s awards include Paratrooper Jump Wings, Good Conduct Medal, European Theater Medal and WWII Victory Medal. Released from active duty in 1945 as a Technical Sergeant, he returned to Chattanooga and completed his college degree.

He married his sweetheart, Kay, a school teacher. Mack worked for Mills and Lupton Supply, a hardware company, which transferred him to Huntsville. The McCollums decided to live permanently in Huntsville.

Mac and Kay were married for 57 years until her death in 2005. Their sons are Rick of Madison; Randy of Florida; and Ronnie, who unfortunately was killed in an automobile accident. Mac has one granddaughter, Suzann of Madison.

McCollum holds membership with the Forever Young Senior Veterans of Alabama; American Legion, Post 229; Masons; Shriners; and Mastin Lake Church of Christ.

He’s well known for his keen since of humor and good disposition.

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