Unknown Valor by Martha MacCallum

A Story of  Family, Courage, and Sacrifice from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima

With Ronald J. Drez

The Book

MacCallumMartha

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of one of the most critical battles of World War II, the popular primetime Fox News anchor of The Story with Martha MacCallum pays tribute to the heroic men who sacrificed everything at Iwo Jima to defeat the Armed Forces of Emperor Hirohito—among them, a member of her own family, Harry Gray.

Admiral Chester Nimitz spoke of the “uncommon valor” of the men who fought on Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of World War II. In thirty-six grueling days, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed and 22,000 were wounded.

Martha MacCallum takes us from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima through the lives of these men of valor, among them Harry Gray, a member of her own family.

In Unknown Valor, she weaves their stories—from Boston, Massachusetts, to Gulfport, Mississippi, as told through letters and recollections—into the larger history of what American military leaders rightly saw as an eventual showdown in the Pacific with Japan. In a relentless push through the jungles of Guadalcanal, over the coral reefs of Tarawa, past the bloody ridge of Peleliu, against the banzai charges of Guam, and to the cliffs of Saipan, these men were on a path that ultimately led to the black sands of Iwo Jima, the doorstep of the Japanese Empire.

Meticulously researched, heart-wrenching, and illuminating, Unknown Valor reveals the sacrifices of ordinary Marines who saved the world from tyranny and left indelible marks on those back home who loved them.

The Author

MacCallumwith Judy (2)
Martha MacCallum and my cousin Judy Neal Johannesen, who got me an autographed copy of the book, and also gave Martha a copy of my Leora’s Letters, also a family story of loss during the war.

Martha MacCallum is anchor and executive editor of The Story with Martha MacCallum, seen Monday through Friday on Fox News. She is also co-anchor of Fox News Election coverage, moderating town halls and debates with the presidential candidates, alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. Prior to becoming anchor of The Story, MacCallum anchored, “The First 100 Days,” reporting nightly on the first months of the Trump administration and interviewing the President on his 100th Day. She has covered presidential and mid-term elections for Fox News since 2004, as well as extensive reporting from the field on the primary races across the country. MacCallum has reported from Normandy, France during the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, and from Iwo Jima’s “Reunion of Honor.” Prior to Fox News, MacCallum was an award winning reporter for CNBC, covering homeland security and the US economy, and a reporter/producer for Wall Street Journal Television.

My Thoughts

Mainly a history of World War II, battle after battle, from Africa to Europe and especially the Pacific. These sections were written by historian Ron Drez, a Marine captain and a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam–who, with a team at Ambrose Military History Tours, takes veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam back to the battlefields where they fought.

The book opens with an examination of the history and mindset of the Japanese leadership, from earlier centuries, as the war wouldn’t end until the Americans had to endure their savagery, based on their “code of bushido,” on island after island in the Pacific, leading to the loss of thousands on both sides.

After being introduced to Harry Gray, a member of MacCallum’s own family, and a few other men who would end up with Gray in the brutal battle to take Iwo Jima. Recently Martha was able to visit with a man who was there when Gray and another man were killed, and he was wounded at the same time. He still carries shrapnel in his chest, and cried when he related what had happened to young Harry Gray.

Especially compelling is the scene where a delivery boy brings the telegram to the house, where Gray’s grandmother is the first to learn of his death.

I was especially taken by the Epilogue, which includes fascinating backstory, and the Acknowledgments, where we learn about Martha’s trip to Iwo Jima to see where her relative had fought and died. There are also extensive notes.

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