Feb 23

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 17)

My dad, Herbert Miller, was trained as a replacement troop during the fall of 1944 and by the end of that same year he was in Belgium fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He had been assigned to Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters.

US Army, 84th Division, 333rd Company, Infantry. WWII, Battle of the Bulge.

I continue with the letters he sent home during that time, letters that his family lovingly saved all these years. And I am so grateful that they did.

The soldiers were not allowed to write about any information that would give their position or battle plans. Their letters were read, censored, and approved by and army examiner. As a result, the letters say pretty much the same things again and again. He wanted to know about the farming back home and was very appreciative of the packages with food items. It is no surprise that the home baked goods he received were so tasty because my aunts were all very good bakers.

Many of the letters from early-mid 1945 were the small V-Mail letters. My dad mentions his siblings Em, Vernie, and Ann, as well as Em’s husband Norval. The letters below were all written in Germany

Envelope postmarked 11 April 1945, from Pfc Herbert Miller, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1 Willshire, Ohio. Inspected and passed by an Army examiner.

1 April 1945
Germany
Dear Mom & All,

The mail just came in so I decided to answer a few letters.

Today is Easter Sunday. Went to church this morning. The chaplain really had a good sermon.

The other day I received two boxes of candy bars from Em and Norval and today received another box from them, cookies, cake, popcorn, candy and nuts. They sure were good.

I imagine school is almost out by now. Say, Kenny is doing pretty good in school, so are Ann and Vernie

Tell Vernie and Kenny that if they work real hard I’ll try and bring them a present or send them one.

I never did get to send the flag or knife home. I’ll send them as soon as I can.

Well, it won’t be long until chow. I’m getting pretty hungry. We had creamed chicken for dinner and fried eggs, sunny side up, for breakfast.

The Red Cross comes around every once in a while. I sure am glad to see them come. They have donuts and coffee and the Red Cross girls are the only American girls I’ve seen over here.

Has the preacher’s house been started yet? That sure was a tough break for them.

Can’t think of any more to write so I’d better close for now. Am feeling fine and hope you are the same.

Love,
Herbie

Note by kmb: This letter contains some information and gives a time period concerning the parsonage at Zion Chatt. The parsonage was a frame structure that apparently burned in the spring of 1945. A brick structure was rebuilt and is the same house occupied by our minister at Zion Chatt today. From this letter we learn that it was probably rebuilt in 1945 or 1946.

V-Mail, envelope postmarked 3 May 1945, from Pfc Herbert Miller, to Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, Rockford,  Ohio. Inspected and passed by an Army examiner.

20 April 1945
Germany
Dear Em & Jack,

I’m sorry I haven’t answered your letters sooner. I have been pretty busy.

I imagine you have the spring work well started and on the way. How does Norval like his John Deere tractor? I never had a John Deere. Maybe he can show me how to drive one of them when I get home.

I’ve been receiving packages and letters regular. But the newspapers aren’t coming through. But I can’t expect to get all of my mail just now.

I sent mom a double bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. I didn’t get to send her any for Easter. I sent Dorothy some for Easter and that was all I could get then.

Must close, will try and write more later.

Love,
Herbie

Note by kmb: Below is a photo of the bouquet my dad sent to his mother for Mother’s Day 1945.

Flowers from Herb in Germany, May 1945.

 

V-Mail, envelope postmarked 6 May 1945, from Pfc Herbert Miller, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1 Willshire, Ohio. Inspected and passed by an Army examiner.

26 April 1945
Germany
Dear Mom & All,

I just came in from the holes [?] and they said we could write letters, so I’ll try and write a couple tonight.

The weather is getting pretty nice again. It was pretty rainy here for a while.

I received the box youins sent and the one that long fruit cake waas in. Boy, that was really good. The best I ever tasted. Could you send another just like it. All the guys in the squad thought it was delicious. Those crackers and dried beef and cheese were good. The K-rations have crackers in them but very seldom do you get any salted crackers. I’m going to put in another package. I don’t know why, but everybody over here likes fruit cakes. I used to crave ice cream but I don’t even care for it any more.

Must close for now. Am feeling fine and hope that you are the same.

Love,
Herbie

P.S. Please send a package.

Note by kmb: My dad eventually got his taste for ice cream back. As long as I can remember he absolutely loved ice cream. We always had some in the house and he and I enjoyed experimenting with creative toppings.  

 

Feb 20

Tombstone Tuesday–John Martin and Emma (Bollenbacher) Bollenbacher

John Martin and Emma (Bollenbacher) Bollenbacher, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2011 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of John Martin and Emma (Bollenbacher) Bollenbacher, located in row 9 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

BOLLENBACHER
Emma 1878-1934
John M. 1879-1958

John Martin Bollenbacher was born 27 July 1879 in Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio, the son of Jacob (Jr) and Helena “Lena” (Breichisen) Bollenbacher.

John’s mother Helena died on 5 November 1879, just a few months after John’s birth. She was only 19 years old when she died and is buried in the St. Paul Lutheran, Liberty Township cemetery. [1]

In 1880 John, less than a year old, and his widowed father Jacob Bollenbacher (Jr) lived with John and Margaret Brehm in Liberty Township. Margaret was Jacob’s mother and her husband John Brehm was Jacob’s step-father. Their household in 1880: John Brehm, 55; Margaret, 47, wife; Peter, 21, son; Valentine, 18, son; Henry, 14, son; Mary, 8, daughter; Elizabeth, 5, daughter; Jacob Bollenbacher, 23, step-son, widow; John Bollenbacher, 9 months, grandson. John’s father Jacob (Jr) was born in Bavaria and he worked on the Brehm farm. [2] [3]

Jacob Bollenbacher (Jr) married Louisa Deiner on 24 Feb 1880 in Mercer County [4] and John Martin Bollenbacher now had a step-mother. The Jacob Bollenbacher (Jr) household in 1900: Jacob, 72; Louisa, 38; John [Martin], 20; Fred, 17; Lena, 15; Andy, 15; and Lizzie, 6. [5]

John Martin Bollenbacher married Emma Bollenbacher on 9 August 1900 in Mercer County, Ohio. They were married by Rev. Samuel Egger, minister at the Evangelical Church at Chattanooga. [6]  

Emma Bollenbacher was born 1 April 1878, the daughter of Jacob and Caroline (Schaadt) Bollenbacher. [7]

Interesting, and somewhat confusing, that John Martin and Emma both had fathers named Jacob Bollenbacher. John Martin’s father was referred to as Jacob Bollenbacher Jr.

The Jacob Bollenbacher household (Emma’s family) in 1900: Jacob, 62; Magdalena, 43, wife; Emma, 22; Elizabeth, 17; John D, 15; William G, 15; Daniel F, 12; Jacob D, 10; Molly, 8; Amelia, 5; Hulda, 2. Magdalena had given birth to 8 children and all were living. Jacob Bollenbacher was born in Germany and immigrated to America in 1852. His wife Magdalena was born in Ohio. [8] [9]

In 1910 John Martin Bollenbacher and his wife Emma and their family lived in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana: John, 30; Emma, 31; Victor, 6; Helen, 4; Lucille, 2; Esther, 0; and Hulda Berron, 16, adopted daughter. John was a farmer and this enumeration reports that his wife Emma had given birth to 5 children but only 4 of them were living. [10] [11]

The John Bollenbacher household in 1920: John, 40; Emma, 41; Victor, 16; Helen, 13; Lucille, 11; Esther, 9; and Ralph, 7. [12]

Their household in 1930: John M, 50; Emma, 51; Lucille, 21; and Ralph, 18. John and Emma had been married 22 years and John was a farmer. [13]

Emma Bollenbacher died after surgery for cancer at the Adams County Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Indiana, on 11 August 1934 at the age of 56 years, 5 months, and 10 days. She was survived by husband, 3 daughters, 2 sons, 6 grandchildren, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, 3 half-sisters, and 4 half-brothers, according to Zion Chatt’s records. She was buried on the 14th. Ketcham was in charge of the arrangements. [7]

Widower John Martin Bollenbacher married Martha Gertrude “Minnie” Slusser (1896-1963) in 1938 in Mercer County. She was the daughter of Mahlon Commodore and Mary Elizabeth (Gordon) Slusser. [14]

In 1940 John Martin Bollenbacher lived in the same house in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana, as he did in 1935, where he farmed. His household in 1940: John, 60; Minnie, 43; Lucile Bollenbacher, 32, daughter; and Thorton Murphy, 21, laborer. [15] John was a farmer all his life and according to Zion Chatt’s records he was a Jefferson Township trustee for 8 years.

John Martin Bollenbacher died of cancer on 21 July 1958 at the Adams County Memorial Hospital, Decatur, Adams County, Indiana. He was 78 years, 11 months, and 24 days old and, according to Zion Chatt’s records, was survived by his wife Minnie, 5 children, 14 grandchildren, 1 step-grandchild, 11 great-grandchildren, 2 half-sisters, Mrs. Lana (Lewis) Wendel and Mrs. Elizabeth (Ed) Paul; 2 brothers and 1 infant son are deceased. He was buried on the 23rd and Hardy of Geneva was in charge of the arrangements. His daughter, Esther Heare was the informant for the information on his death certificate. [16]

John Martin and Emma (Bollenbacher) Bollenbacher had the following children:
Martin J (1901-1901)
Victor (1903-1985), married Chloe Douglas
Helen (1906-1990), married Roscoe Kuhn
Lucille C (1908-1990), married Ralph Eckrote
Esther (1910-1995), married Chester H Heare
Ralph H “Stubby” (1912-1995), married Catharine Maxwell

Their adopted daughter Hulda Berron, (c1893-1979), married George Jacob Becher

 

[1] Find a Grave.com, Hellina (Brechisen) Bollenbacher, memorial #76770092.

[2] 1880 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, ED 188, p.479A, dwelling 136, family 144, John Brahm; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T9, roll 1048.

[3] Jacob Bollenbacher Jr (1858-1941), father of John Martin Bollenbacher, immigrated with his mother (Margaret) in 1869. [source: Find a Grave.com, Jacob Bollenbacher Jr, memorial #27972398]. Jacob Jr’s father likely had died in Germany before they immigrated and one would think his given name was Jacob. John Brehm married Margaret Bollenbacher on 2 Dec 1869 in Montgomery County, Ohio. [source: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch.org, John Brehm & Margaret Bollenberger, 2 Dec 1869; Montgomery County Marriages, Vol. 1, p.438; FHL microfilm 1030838.]

[4] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch.org, Jacob Bollenbaugh & Louisa Deiner, 24 Feb 1881; Mercer County Marriages, Vol. 5, p.52; FHL microfilm 914956.

[5] 1900 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, ED 85, p.11, dwelling 218, family 224, Jacob Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T623.

[6] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch.org, J.M. Bollenbacher and Emma Bollenbacher, 9 Aug 1900; Mercer County Marriages, Vol. 8, p.162; FHL microfilm 914957.

[7] Indiana, Death Certificates,1899-2011, database on-line, Ancestry.com, Emma Bollenbacher; Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Death Certificates, 1934, roll 9.

[8] 1900 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, ED 85, p.6, dwelling 111, family 116, Jacob Bollenbancher; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T623.

[9] This Jacob Bollenbacher (1837-1915) had three wives: Louisa Friedericka Becker (1848-1864); Caroline Schaadt (1843-1880); and Magdalena Distler (1856-1923).

[10] 1910 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.2B, dwelling & family 35, John Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1374351, NARA microfilm T624, roll 338.

[11] Hulda Berron was the daughter of Fredrick Berron (1862-1915) and Louisa (Bollenbacher) (1870-1911). Louisa (Bollenbacher) Berron was the daughter of Jacob Bollenbacher (1837-1915) and his second wife Caroline Schaadt (1843-1880). She and Emma Bollenbacher would have been sisters and Hulda was Emma’s niece.

[12] 1920 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.7B, dwelling 141, family 51, John M. Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T625, roll 420.

[13] 1930 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.4A, dwelling & family 72, John M Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 2340309, NARA microfilm T626, roll 574.

[14] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearh.org, John M Bollenbacher and Minnie M Slusser, 12 May 1938; Mercer County Marriages, Vol. 15, p.119; FHL microfilm 2366956.

[15] 1940 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 1-4, p.4B, line 58, John Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T627, roll 1024.

[16] Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011, database on-line, Ancestry.com, John Martin Bollenbacher; Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Death Certificates, 1958, roll 9.

 

 

Feb 16

A Wounded Soldier and the 23rd Psalm

During WWII my dad, Herbert Miller, was assigned to the 333rd Infantry Regiment of the 84th Division. The 84th was known as the Railsplitters. You can see the Railsplitter pins on his lapels in the photo below.

Pfc Herbert M. Miller

My dad was proud to be a Railsplitter and over the years purchased many books about the Railsplitters and their role in World War II, in particular about their role in Battle of the Bulge. He subscribed to the Railsplitter magazine as well and that is where he read the letter I am posting below. The incident described in this letter really made an impression on my dad and he talked about it many times. He even cut the letter out of the magazine and tucked it away in one of his Railsplitter books. That is where I found it.

The incident below took place in Germany in December, 1944, probably just before my dad entered the war.

The letter was written by Army chaplain Harold R. Weaver. I am not sure when the letter was written but the writer may be referring to the Railsplitter reunion in Springfield, Illinois, in 2007.

Dear Railsplitters,

I attended the reunion in Springfield, first time I had seen many of the fellows for 40 years. It was terrific! I was a bit afraid that no one would know me—and that I might not know them—so I made a badge which I wore: a picture of me taken 40 years ago, with my name and “84th Div., Artillery Chaplain” under the picture. It helped every once in a while. I was sharing an experience with some of the fellows and they encouraged me to write it down on paper and send it to the RAILSPLITTER. I have done so and this is it! If you find it useful perhaps you might print it.

It was in Geilenkirchen in December, before we went down to the Battle of the Bulge. It might have been a bit earlier, I’m not sure of the exact date. But I do remember a black night when I was asleep in the basement of a house on the edge of town. This was part of the Siegfried Line so we felt somewhat safe in the thick-walled basement. Around 1:00 a.m. someone yelled into our basement, “Is there a Protestant Chaplain here?” I of course yelled back, “Yeh, I’m one,” to which he replied, “you are wanted by the medics.” We skirted past a long crooked trench the Germans had dug., feeling our way carefully in the dark and got into the man’s Jeep. I’ve wondered a 1000 times how the drivers ever survived, driving in pitch black darkness, a feeling most men in combat have experienced. We took only a few minutes to get to the village school house which was being used—in the basement—as a medic center at that time.

We pulled the tarp back so no light would get out and walked into the large room. Why was I called? A man was lying on a table with a plasma bottle hanging from a stand and with a needle attached to tubing. He was unconscious. He had been hit along with a number of others just a mile or so from Geikenkirchen and had been brought back to this aid station. The M.D. told me the man was in severe shock, that his blood vessels were flabby and that they could not get plasma into his veins. He was soon to die and therefore he (the M.D.) had asked for a chaplain. I admitted, at least to myself, that I hardly knew what could be done of any value in such a situation. I did suggest that we might read the 23rd Psalm and I would follow it with prayer. The doctor nodded approval and two or three of the medics gathered around the table as we surrounded the infantryman with our concern.

An amazing thing happened. I came to the part of the Psalm where the words are “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me,” and I was interrupted by the physician: “Chaplain,” he said, “the man is speaking” and sure enough he was repeating the words of the Psalm along with me: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me…” The medic said to me, “Ask him his name.” Then, “What is his dog tag number?” And not until then did I know that his dog tag was missing and that he was an “unknown soldier.” I wanted to engage in some kind of talk with him so I said, “Are you a Baptist?” It was a gamble. I thought I could rely on a Baptist knowing the 23rd Psalm! (I happen to be a United Methodist). I did not expect the quick and vigorous response, “No. I’m a Lutheran!” In a way it was the best thing that could have happened because it meant some adrenaline was shot into his system in a hurry. There was considerable vigor in his response, and most important his flabby blood vessels became resilient and made it possible for the medics to get the needle into his blood vessels and thus get the plasma into his body. It saved his life!

Later, the next day, I talked with the medics and found that he had been shipped on to the next medic station to the rear, but that it seemed likely that he lost an arm from the 88 shell fragment that hit him. But the thing that intrigued me was that here was an infantryman whose life was saved because he was touched deep down in his unconscious mind as he heard the familiar words of the 23rd Psalm and he returned to consciousness, thus releasing vital factors so that he could survive.

My thought about it all: somewhere there may still be a Lutheran infantryman with one arm whose life was saved by an Artillery Chaplain’s words from the Scriptures. The words had value to the man because somewhere his boyhood days—perhaps at Confirmation time—he had learned the 23rd Psalm. And I am impressed with the possibility that this man may not know that knowing that Psalm was important to his being alive today, if indeed his is still alive.

Is there a one-armed infantryman, a Lutheran, who got wounded at Geilenkirchen and was taken to the school house there for treatment? If so I’d like to hear from him. Maybe others would, too, so let us know—if such a man reads this article.

Chaplain Harold R. Weaver
(Div Arty)
5627 N. Moraine Hills Dr.
West Bend, WI  53095

I think one of the reasons my dad liked this letter so much is that fact that the soldier was Lutheran and my dad was a Lutheran as well. Of course a Lutheran would know the 23rd Psalm! My dad took his faith seriously and was an active member of Zion Chatt all of his life. He also attended church services throughout his basic training and while he was in Europe during the war. I have some of the church bulletins that he saved from those services during the war.

Below is the bulletin from the Protestant Worship service at Providence Church in Heidelberg on 6 and 7 April 1946:

Bulletin from 6 & 7 April 1946, Providence Church, Heidelberg, Germany.

Bulletin from 6 & 7 April 1946, Providence Church, Heidelberg, Germany.

More to come about my dad’s WWII experiences.

Feb 13

Tombstone Tuesday–Victor F. & I. Chloe (Douglas) Bollenbacher

Victor & Chloe Bollenbacher, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2011 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Victor and Chloe (Douglas) Bollenbacher, located in row 5 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

BOLLENBACHER

I Chloe
1905-1998

Victor F.
1903-1985

Victor F. Bollenbacher was born in Adams County, Indiana, on 8 September 1903, the son of John Martin and Emma (Bollenbacher) Bollenbacher.

In 1910 the John Martin Bollenbacher family lived in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana: John, 30; Emma, 31; Victor, 6; Helen, 4; Lucille, 2; Esther, 0; and Hulda Barron, 16, adopted daughter. Victor’s father John farmed. This enumeration reports that Emma had given birth to 5 children but only 4 of them were living. [1]

In the 1920 census Victor’s name is shown as Victor F.J. Bollenbacher. Victor was 16 years old and his father still farmed. The John Bollenbacher household in 1920: John, 40; Emma, 41; Victor, 16; Helen, 13; Lucile, 11; Esther, 9; and Ralph, 7. [2]

Victor Bollenbacher married Ina Chloe Douglas on 8 September 1926 at Zion Chatt.  Witnesses to their marriage were Audy Linn and Velma Linn.

Ina “Chloe” Douglas Bollenbacher was born 5 May 1905 in Adams County, Indiana, the daughter of Augustus “August” D. and Nettie E. (Sipe) Douglas. Zion’s records indicate that she was baptized on 24 June 1917 by Rev. Ezra Glenndening and her baptism record is listed with Zion’s confirmation records. I do not recognize the name Glenndining as being one of Zion’s ministers so she may have been baptized at another church. [3]

The August Douglas family in 1910, Blue Creek Township, Adams County: Augustus D, 37; Nettie, 34; Ethel, 9; Velma, 6; Chloe, 4; Beulah, 3; Herman, 1; and Elsie Thomas, 63, widowed mother. Chloe’s father August was also a farmer. [4]

The August Douglas family in 1920: August, 47; Nettie, 43; Ethel, 20; Velma, 16; Chloe, 14; Beulah, 12; Herman, 10; Thurman, 8; Russell, 5; and Martha, 2. [5]

Victor’s mother Emma died in 1934. His father John married Martha Gertrude “Minnie” Slusser (1896-1963) in 1936. [6] John died in 1958 and he and Emma are also buried in Zion Chatt’s cemetery.

I remember Victor and Chloe, such a nice couple who attended Zion Chatt. They were so pleasant and Chloe always had a smile on her face. I also remember going Christmas caroling at their home years ago. Once, in an effort to make it easier for the older members to come to church and take communion, we offered a special service one Saturday evening. Victor and Chloe were the only ones that attended besides the pastor, Joe, and I, but we still provided them with a complete worship service. I remember this because I played the organ for the service.

Victor Bollenbacher died of a heart attack in Adams County, Indiana, on 4 February 1985, at the age of 81. He was a retired farmer and trucker. Victor was buried on the 7th and Yager-Kirchhofer, Berne, was in charge of the funeral arrangements. [7]

Chloe (Douglas) Bollenbacher died of congestive heart failure at Chalet Village Health Care Center, Berne, on 29 June 1998, at the age of 93. She was buried on 2 July and Downing Funeral Home, Geneva, was in charge of the arrangements. [8]

Victor and Chloe had three children:
Roger Wayne (1929-1929)
Alethea Mae
Olen Eugene

 

[1] 1910 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.2B, dwelling & family 35, John Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1374351, NARA microfilm T624, roll 338.

[2] 1920 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.7B, dwelling 141, family 51, John M. Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T625, roll 420.

[3] Ezra James Glenndening was the pastor of the Ceylon church. The church burned down 1 April 1923 and was not rebuilt. He was the father of Phyllis Heller, Berne. [Thanks to Brian B for providing that information.]

[4] 1910 U.S. Census, Blue Creek, Adams, Indiana, ED 1, p.11A, dwelling & family 213, Augustus D Douglas; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1374351, NARA microfilm T624, roll 338.

[5] 1920 U.S. Census, Blue Creek, Adams, Indiana, ED 1, p.1B, dwelling 19, family 20, Augustus Douglas; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T625, roll 420.

[6] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearh.org, John M Bollenbacher and Minnie M Slusser, 12 May 1938; Mercer County Marriages, Vol. 15, p.119; FHL microfilm 2366956.

[7] Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011, database on-line, Ancestry.com, Victor Bollenbacher; Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Death Certificates, 1985, roll 2.

[8] Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011, database on-line, Ancestry.com, Ina Chloe Bollenbacher 29 Jun 1998; Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Death Certificates, 1998, roll 9.

Feb 09

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 16)

My dad, Herbert Miller, was trained as a replacement troop during the fall of 1944 and by the end of that same year he was in Belgium fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He had been assigned to Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters.

Pfc Herbert M. Miller

My dad wrote quite a few letters home during the time he served our country in Europe during WWII and I am grateful that his family saved most of them. During the first two months of 1945 he did not write many letters home, very likely because he was an infantryman fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and in Germany after that. In March of 1945 he found the time to write a few letters home to his parents and a couple to his sister Em and her husband Norval “Jack.”

Today I post two V-Mail letters that my dad wrote to his sister Em. V-Mail letters were the soldiers’ letters copied onto microfilm in Europe. The film was sent to America where the letter was reprinted on paper at about half its original size and then delivered.

V-mail from Herbert Miller in Germany, 1945.

These letters are from Pfc. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY, to Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, RR1, Rockford, Ohio.

V-Mail letter with no envelope:

10 March 1945
Somewhere in Germany

Dear Sis, Jack & all,

How is everything coming along back Chattanooga way? I imagine the farm work is pretty well underway by now.

I received your box of Lady Wayne Chocolate today and I mean to tell you they were really delicious. The squad thought they were good, too. There are twelve men in the squad and they are all regular fellows. When we receive a box we share alike.

I’ve now gotten the Combat Infantryman’s badge. I get $10 more per month. Now with $4 more for P.F.C. and $10 for overseas. That makes my paycheck $74 before deductions.

Well Jack I’ve got myself a Luger now plus a German paratrooper’s knife. They will make nice souvenirs.

I received the Rockford newsletter today. It’s got quite a bit of news in it. Must close for now and thanks again for the candy. Tell Mom not to worry. I’ll write tomorrow and hoping to see you soon.

Love,
Herbie

The Railsplitters Emblem.

Another V-Mail letter to Em and Jack:

25 March 1925
Germany

Dear Em & Jack,

Well today is Palm Sunday. It is about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I slept till noon, ate dinner, then went to church.

I received a box yesterday from mom and a box the day before from Ruth. I sure was glad to get them.

I haven’t heard from Dorothy for quite a while now. I imagine she is busy or something.

I talked to Milton Schumm a couple of days ago. I still haven’t seen Rev. Arne’s [?] boy.

I imagine Norval is working in the ground now. The weather is just like summer over here now.

Guess I’d better close for now. Am feeling fine and hope that you are the same.

Love,
Herbie

[Note by kmb: Interesting that during the war he ran into someone he knew from the Willshire area! It was Milton Schumm, a relative from my mom’s side of the family. Perhaps they knew each other from Willshire School. He would not have known Milton from my mom because he was dating another woman during the war and had not met my mom yet.]

My dad collected quite a few books about the Battle of the Bulge and the Railsplitters over the years. He made notes in some of them and notes on some little pieces of paper that he used as bookmarks. Here are some notes he made in a book about the 84th, the Railsplitters:

[Note by kmb: I am not sure what town he was referring to below. It looks like Verdiene but that name does not appear to be a town. I wonder…]

Started 3:00 p.m., 12-24 by another battalion,
But Lost Verdiene [?] at about 9:30 P.
We started to fight for Verdiene.
At 1:00 A. we entered town.

In the book he made a note that he was in the town of Laroche.

My dad wrote on a photograph in the book, a photograph of a snow-plowed crossroad with the printed caption: “The capture of this innocent-looking crossroads was probably the turning point of the entire action. It deprived the enemy of the only two first-rate roads to the east, the Laroche Road and the Houffalize Road.” My dad wrote in his hand: Sgt. David Vhasha/Vherha [?], Lakewood, Ohio, my squad leader was killed about ¼ mile form this crossroad.

More WWII letters next week.

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