Nov 17

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 6)

I continue with the letters my dad wrote home during his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. It was late in the summer of 1944 and at that time he was in Company A, 12th Battalion, 8th Regiment.

Herb Miller, U.S. Army.

Postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 20 Aug 1944, 11:30 p.m., to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio:

20 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

Just a few lines to let you know I’m OK. I have about 1/2 hr. before church to write this letter. I’ve found out not to plan anything in the Army. So I decided to write now, then I’m sure I have time.

I’m planning on going into town this afternoon and eve with some of the cadre men (non-commissioned officers) and they will get me out of any detail for today.

I received a letter from Bernice some time ago and finally answered today. This morning for chow we had cooked raisins, eggs, toast, and breakfast cereal. This noon is when we have the good meal. I slept until 8:00 o’clock this morning and I really slept good. Guess I’d better close.


Herb Miller, Fort McClellan, Alabama, 1944.

Postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 24 Aug 1944, 11:30 a.m., to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio:

23 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

I finally found time to write youins a few lines. I imagine Ruth and Bob are home now. I wanted to write to them but decided to wait until they went back, maybe by that time I will have more time to write.

We had a pretty easy day today. Two hrs. of swim, 1 hr. of rifle study, 1 hr. show on the bazooka, 1 hr. of military discipline, 1 hr. of P.T., and 2 hrs. of map reading. We really had a good meal tonight. They had one kind of salad I really liked. It was made out of grated cheese and pears.

I received a letter from Howards today.

I imagine youins got the foundation built for the hen house. I won’t even know the place when I come home. New well and new hen house.

Boy these Brooklyn guys are really jokers. They are always getting on detail for something or other and it really tickles me, especially Harry Goldman. He is about 35 yrs. old and doesn’t give a darn what does happen.

There were two guys who deserted the Army last Sunday night. Today I saw some of the guys carrying their equipment and clothes out. So I imagine they found them and are taking them to the stockade. They have a lot of American prisoners here at camp and also a lot of German prisoners. The American prisoners are A.W.O.L.s and deserters and get fed bread and water and are always under guard. The German prisoners get good meals and they don’t always have guards and have very little work.

A sergeant was telling us that they had a truck load of German prisoners out gathering up scrap paper from the cans [?]. They drove off and left one and he got madder than the devil because he had to walk instead of ride back to his barracks. German prisoners don’t cause very much trouble.

Paris fell the other day. The French underground went in and took over the city from the Germans. I imagine you hear more of the news than I do.

We have a new platoon sergeant who just came back from action on the Solomons and other islands. He really is a nice sergeant. Guess I’d better close.


Herbert Miller

Postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 26 Aug 1944, 8:30 a.m., to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio:

25 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

Received your letter today and decided to answer it while I had & have a few minutes time. Tomorrow is Saturday and have K.P. tomorrow and table waiting Sunday. Table waiting isn’t very hard work, only a couple of hours. We had to scrub out our huts tonight. It took about half an hour. Today we practiced on antiaircraft targets and moving targets with the rifle, also the bazooka and the automatic rifle. The automatic rifle just squeeze the trigger and 20 shots go off just that quick. It weighs 20 lbs. and looks like a rifle. Before long will be shooting the machine guns and mortars. Only six more weeks of training and then will have bivouacs or maneuvers the rest of the seventeen weeks.

Say do you suppose you could get my little camera I sold to Murlin. Maybe Maggie would sell it back. If you can get it and it won’t cause too much bother I would like to have it. But I can’t get film here. Helen can see if she can get some first at Berne. It takes a different size than the box camera. If the film can’t be gotten you don’t need to bother with the camera.

By the sound of your letter they must really be putting the hen house up.

That was really too bad about Don Dellinger. I got a letter today from Lanora McClain/McClair [?] and she was telling me a little about it.

Yes I read Red’s letter in the Celina Standard. I don’t remember much about it, it was awhile back.

Guess I’d better close and get some sleep. Have to get up about 3:30 to report to the kitchen on time.


The Miller farm, where Herb grew up.

The next letter is postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 27 Aug 1944, 11:30 p.m., to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio:

27 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

Well here is another letter. Have a little time today because it is Sunday. I am table waiter today. It isn’t hard and don’t take much time. Also will get all I want to eat.

Yesterday was on K.P. and in the afternoon went out on the range and shot the rifle grenade so I wouldn’t have to make the time up. Those rifle grenades kick like a mule.

Tomorrow we go on a fourteen mile hike and to top it all it will be hill most of the way. If it is up to Baines Gap it will be one of those forced marches.

You remember me telling you about those two guys Wagner and Moore who went over the Hill. Well they have them in the stockade now. It will really be tough on them. I washed out my clothes or fatigues today. There were a lot of guys down there and all the washers were taken. So I got a five gallon bucket that I found down in the shower room, filled it half full of soapy water and washed out my clothes by putting them in the bucket and kept stomping them with my foot. It worked pretty good and didn’t take near as long as scrubbing them out.

I think there was a guy who went over the hill last night. His wife was here all week and the sarge only let him out a couple nights. He was on K.P. today and he didn’t show up and nobody has seen him.

Well I guess I’d better close. Can’t think of any more to write. Am fine and hope you all are the same.


Helen and Herb Miller, brother and sister, 1944.

Postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 31 Aug 1944, 11:30 a.m., to Miss Helen Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio [Helen was Herb’s sister]:

30 Aug 1944
Dear Helen,

I received your letter today and sure was glad to hear from you. My pen just ran out of ink and had to fill it with a different color.

Well the end of this week will be the end of the seventh week. Only ten more wks to go. They are rushing us pretty fast. A lot of the things we are taking up now the rest of the co.s [companies] took up in their tenth week. Some of the guys think we will only have twelve weeks here and then take jungle training, either here in the U.S. or on an island like Hawaii. If we go to another place beside the U.S. [we] won’t get a furlough. But that’s only a latrine rumor and you can’t go on that. Tomorrow night we have a night problem and will be out most of the night, so I won’t get any letters written then.

I read in the Standard about “Red” and “Vincet.” It seems like most of the guys that were wounded or killed were hit by artillery or mortar shells.

I sent home a Doughboy book [?] or rather we had to. We couldn’t send them to anyone except immediate members of the family.

I imagine the hen house is pretty will completed. I would have liked to go to the S.S. [Sunday School] Picnic. Guess I’d better close for now.


Today’s last letter is postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 2 Sep 1944, 11:30 a.m., to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1 Willshire, Ohio:

1 Sep 1944
Dear Mom & All,

I had another letter started tonight but the sergeant came in with this stationery so decided to write on this. What do you think of it?

Tonight was pay day. I received $24.75 this time. Those bonds are going to count up pretty fast. Just think I have about $11 in war bonds now.

The darndest thing happened today. You see tomorrow night we have a parade in front of three generals. It will last for one hour. Our equipment will be suntans, helmet liners, cartridge belts, and rifles. They all have to be in tip-top condition. Well out of the whole Battalion they picked forty men out of company A to be “Guards of Honor.” There are about two hundred men to a company and four companies to a Battalion. And I happen to be one of the forty men. We have been having rehearsals for the “Guard of Honor.”

The company has been restricted to the area for two weeks because of the condition of the huts. We cleaned them up good and the Major examined them and said they were in the best condition of the Regiment. So they raised the restriction and it will be possible to get a weekend pass.

They are really rushing us now. We fire the bazookas tomorrow. We have been dry firing the carbine and the automatic rifle. So will fire them on the range in the near future. Those carbines are the real guns. The barrel is only about sixteen inches long. The whole length is about twenty-six inches long. It weighs 5¼ lbs and holds a magazine of fifteen rounds. It is gas operated and will fire all fifteen shots as fast as you can pull the trigger. The automatic rifle weighs 22 lbs and fires twenty rounds by just pulling the trigger once.

You asked if I was hearing from Dorothy. Well I haven’t heard from her in the last week and a half. Don’t know what the trouble is. I stopped writing when I didn’t hear from her.

Guess I’d better close for now.


P.S. Received the box today. Everything was in A-1 shape and really tastes good.

I found it very interesting to read that he was selected to be part of the Guard of Honor. He was a hard worker and I am sure he deserved it and was proud of it. It is also interesting to see how much he looked forward to receiving letters and boxes from home. Those letters from family and neighbors sure meant a lot to him.














Nov 14

Tombstone Tuesday–Barbara (Kuehm) Pfeifer

Barbara Pfeifer, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2011 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Barbara Pfeifer, located in row 7 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Barbara Pfeifer

Barbara Kuehm was born in Schillersdorf, Alsace-Lorraine, on 27 February 1870, the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth (Miller) Kuehm, sometimes spelled Kuhm. Barbara’s parents were also born in Alsace-Lorraine [1] [2] and the family immigrated about 1873. [3] The Kuehms attended church at Zion Chatt and Barbara was confirmed there on 6 April 1884. Barbara was the sixth of seven known children born to Michael and Elizabeth.

In 1880 Barbara lived with her parents and 5 siblings in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana, where her father Michael farmed. In their household: Michael and Elisabeth, both 53 years old; Michael (Jr), 19; Jacob, 17; Mary, 15; Lena, 12; Barbara, 10; and George, 8. All were born in Alsace. [4]

Barbara Kuehm married George Pfeifer on 25 May 1899, married by Lutheran pastor A.F. Klopfer. They were not married at Zion Chatt and, although they obtained their marriage license in Adams County, Indiana, their marriage record indicates they were married in Erastus, Mercer County, Ohio. George Pfeifer was 31 years of age, born in Ohio, the son of Christopher and Fredericke (Miller) Pfeifer. He was a farmer and resided in Knox County, Indiana, at the time of their marriage. Barbara was 30 years of age, born in Germany, and resided in Chattanooga, Ohio. Their marriage record indicates that she was the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth (Miller) Kuehm. Her nationality was listed as “for”, which I assume means foreign. This was the first marriage for both of them and Nicholas Pfeifer and Elizabeth Schott were witnesses to their marriage. [5] [6]

I have not been able to locate Barbara and George in the 1900 census.

Barbara’s father Michael Kuehm died in 1909 and in 1910 Barbara and two children lived with her widowed mother Elisabeth Kuehm. Their household in 1910: Elizabeth, 83, head; Barbara “Phizer”, 40 daughter; Hilda [Pfeifer], 8, granddaughter; and Carl [Pfeifer], 6, grandson. The census indicates that Barbara was married but her husband George was not enumerated with them. [7] Barbara’s mother Elizabeth (Miller) Kuehm died two years later, in 1912. Barbara’s parents Michael and Elizabeth Kuehm are also buried in Zion Chatt’s cemetery.

Barbara and George Pfeifer moved to Van Wert, Ohio, about 1915, where they lived on Cherry Street. In 1920 they lived at 412 Cherry Street and their household consisted of: George, 50; Barbara, 49; children Hilda, 17, and Carl, 16; and Barbara’s widowed sister Katharine [Kuehm] Hoehamer, 62. George Pfeifer worked at a common laborer. This record indicates that Barbara immigrated in 1873. [8]

Barbara (Kuehm) Pfeifer died of cardiovascular renal disease on 25 June 1928 in Van Wert at the age of 58 years, 2 months, and 28 days, after suffering with the illness for three years. Barbara was a housewife and had resided in Van Wert for 13 years. Her address was 414 N. Cherry Street. Her husband George was the informant for the information on her death certificate. Barbara was buried on 27th. [1] Barbara’s death information was not recorded in Zion Chatt’s records.

Barbara’s husband George Peifer died in 1945 and is buried a coupe rows from Barbara.

Barbara and George had two children and they were both baptized at Zion Chatt:
Hilda Margaretha Magdalena Pfeiffer (1902-1967), married Kenneth Guinn
Karl Heinrich Michael Pfeiffer (1903-1954), probably never married and was a WWII veteran


[1] “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images,, Barbara E Pfeifer, 25 Jun 1928; Van Wert, Van Wert, Ohio; FHL microfilm 1991301.

[2] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images,, Barbara E. Pfeifer, 25 Jun 1928; Van Wert, Pleasant Township, Van Wert, Ohio; FHL microfilm 1952878.

[3] 1900 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams County, Indiana, ED 4, p. 11B, dwelling 203, family 203, Michael Kuehm; digital image by subscription,; from FHL microfilm 1240357, from NARA microfilm T623, roll 357.

[4] 1880 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams County, Indiana, ED 133, p. 6B, dwelling 50, family 50, Michael Kuhm; digital image by subscription,; from NARA microfilm T9, roll 263.

[5] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images,, Geo Pfeifer and Barbara Kuehm, 25 May 1899; Adams County Marriages, Vol. I, p.77; FHL microfilm 2321357.

[6] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images,, George J Pfeifer and Barbara Kuehm, 25 May 1899; Adams County Marriages, Vol. G, p.495; FHL microfilm 2,321,629.

[7] 1910 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams County, Indiana, ED 4, p. 2B, visited 37, family 37, Elizabeth Kuhm;; from FHL microfilm 1374351, from NARA microfilm T624, roll 338. [Barbara was enumerated as Barbara Phizer.]

[8] 1920 U.S. Census, Van Wert, Van Wert County, Ohio, ED 130, p.9A, dwelling 214, visited 223, George R Pfiefer;; NARA microfilm T625, roll 1446.

Nov 10

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 5)

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a day when we officially recognize our veterans of all wars. Better yet, thank a veteran whenever you can, no matter what day it is, and tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifices and their service to our country. We are deeply indebted to our veterans and honor and remember them on Veterans Day.

My dad’s two younger brothers also served in the U.S. Army and we thank them for their service:

Carl LaVerne Miller, Army Anti Aircraft Artillery

Kenneth Miller, 278 Regimental Combat Team 1953-55

Today I have the next installment of the letters my dad wrote home during his WWII service and during his training time leading up to the war.

Below are five more of the letters he wrote from Fort McClellan, Alabama, where he took his basic training from July-November 1944:

Postmarked Fort McClellan, AL, 5 Aug 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:
4 Aug 1944
Dear Folks,

I’ve been pretty busy this week and haven’t written any letters yet and here it is Friday night and only twenty minutes to go till lights are out.

I threw some real hand grenades Wednesday. I was sort of worried about them at first but I guess they are safe if you duck. Tomorrow we get up at 4 o’clock to go out on a hill and dig fox holes. After we dig them we get down in them and a tank runs over the hole to see if it is dug deep enough.

About that Battle on the Island Saipan. Has Helen heard from Red? You don’t need to tell her this but for the first fifteen days there we averaged 600 men killed each day. The island is 75 sq miles. I know a quite a few more figures on the causalities of the island but I guess I’d better not tell them. With that island we can bomb and start on Japan, the Philippines, and help China.

Say if the war ends in Germany within a month you can expect me home on a furlough in five to seven weeks. You see I would only have or take 8 weeks of training then be sent to Germany as a guard.

I received the box of cookies and etc. They sure ware good. They were a little smashed thought. I haven’t had time to write Howards yet. They sent me a dollar. Johnnie and Clara also sent a dollar. Also received the money from youins OK and thanks a lot. Also received the clothes hangers. Am getting the Herald and Standard regular now. The pictures you sent are really good.

Guess I’d better close for now, will write more later.


P.S. I’ve been hearing from Dorothy. The mail got laid aside. Did you read in the paper about Vincit [?] Golly?

Herb Miller, U.S. Army veteran, WWII.

The next letter is postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 7 Aug 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl F. Miller:
6 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

It’s about 10:30 and am enjoying a nice quiet Sunday morning. As I said before we get Sundays off here. I haven’t gone to a show for a couple of months now. You don’t need to send any more money. I got enough to last for quite a while. I’m not going to spend any more than I have to. I don’t smoke very much now, only about three of four cigarettes a day and I smoke my pipe in the evenings. We have a lot of P.T. (physical training) and cigarettes make me short winded so I am smoking the pipe most of the time. It don’t affect me any. We will have an extra good dinner today—always do on Sundays. Lot of the guys went into town today. I don’t have any desire to. It takes money to get there and after I get there what would I do but spend some more. We have pretty nice classes here at camp. They guys usually play the guitar and sing. We have a radio and a pool table in the day-room. I’m going down to the Main Post Exchange and get me another overseas hat [?]. They have three or four theaters here at camp so if I decide to go to a show it only about ¾ of a mile to walk. That isn’t very far. We average about 10 miles a day now with full equipment.

Yesterday they put on a demonstration battle with tanks and everything except air planes and paratroopers. After that we dug fox holes and a tank went over us. It was raining pretty hard and when the tank went over the hole some of the dirt and stones came in on top of us. I was really covered with mud.

Next week we start out on dry firing and the next week we go on the firing range.

By the way we signed the pay roll last night so will get paid the last of the month.

It usually rains here every afternoon or evening. Sure wish it would rain back there like that. I imagine the corn and later crops need it.

I received a letter from Rev. Wolber yesterday. It was really a nice letter. He said Vernie did real good. He said Vernie was sort of bashful at first but after a while he got over it.

I didn’t go to church this morning, had to scrub up my mess equipment and my cartridge belt and pack. Didn’t get up until about 9:30. I’ve told you about Goldman (thy guy that likes to sleep) yesterday he got in his fox hole and it was cracked. When the tank went over his it caved in and they had to dig him out. We threw live hand grenades last week. Can’t think of much more to write so will close.


The following letter is postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 13 Aug 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl F. Miller:
Aug 12, 1944
Dear Mom & All,

Have been receiving a letter every day from youins, but haven’t been able to write any letter since Monday night. We have been drilling every day and Wed, Thur, and Fri night we had night problems. Fri. (yesterday) we got off at 1:00 o’clock and fell out at 6:20. In that time we had to eat chow, get our mail, clean our rifles and bayonets, and fill our canteens with water. It took us 55 minutes to walk out to that hill which was 3¼ miles from our co. street.  I’m so sleepy tonight I can hardly hold my eyes open.

Received the hymnals yesterday and was sure glad to get them. We sang some of the songs tonight. Monday we go on the rifle range and are on it for the whole week. We get up at 4:30. Tomorrow we get up at 7:00 and take swimming lessons until 9:00 o’clock. When I come home on a furlough I want to wear the good conduct and the sharpshooters medal, so am going to try and earn them.

We got paid tonight. I got $21.58. Am going to put $25 In the bank here. I got or rather they took out a $25 bond and you will receive I real soon.

So youins are going to build the new hen house pretty soon. Where will it be built?

I received a letter from Ruth and Bob and they said they were coming home. Sure would like to see them.

Guess I’d better close.


P.S. I should write Johnnie’s tonight but I think I will go to bed and write tomorrow. Thanks a lot for the books.

Herb Miller, basic training, Fort McClellan, AL, 1944.

The next letter is postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 16 Aug 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl F. Miller:
15 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

Well I finally got around to writing a few letters. Have been kept pretty busy lately. We have been out on the firing range for practice for the last two days. Some of the guys didn’t hang on to their rifles and they flopped around everywhere. Some even got black eyes and bruised cheeks. The rifle I have is pretty old and doesn’t shoot so accurate.

You say Red is a scout. There are two different kinds of scouts: resonance scouts and platoon scouts. The first isn’t very dangerous but the platoon scouts are human targets. They go ahead of the platoon and draw the enemy fire so the rest of the rifleman can pick them off.

I don’t know many more figures about the battle on Saipan. Some of the Lieutenants do and they talk about it in class. What do you think of the second front in France?

I received the two hymnals some time ago and received the third and stationary yesterday and also a box of cookies and things from Em, Norval, and Norval’s folks. Thanks a lot for the things you sent. I am taking swimming lessons now and I will know how to swim before long.

Well I guess I’d better close for now. I’m still well and hope you all are the same.


The last letter today is postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 20 Aug 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl F. Miller:
19 Aug 1944
Dear Mom & All,

I finally found time to write a few lines. We finished the week on rifle range. I qualified for Marksman. One part we had nine shots to load or rather one shot to load, get into position shoot it, load an eight round clip and shoot off the eight rounds all in 51 seconds. I usually got done in forty. That is what they call rapid fire and the targets look something like this. My one set of shots were [see sketch below] which gave me 37 out of a possible 45.

It takes 140 to qualify for Marksman, 165 for Sharpshooter, and 185 for Expert. I could have made Sharpshooter but my rifle wasn’t working right that day. We have been carrying a full field pack for quite awhile now. The pack weighs about 70 lbs. Once in a while we carry our gas masks, (abt. 6 lbs) and we carry our rifles all of the time. When we carry all three we have quite a load.

I received a letter from Ruth and she sent me $1. I was going to answer her letter but decided to wait until after she had been home. Wee it won’t be long until the new hen house will have a good start.

Well I guess I’d better sign off for now. Will write tomorrow.


Sketch of Herb’s rifle target practice, 1944.

I have read through most of my dad’s WWII letters and it appears that he and some others thought that the war in Europe would be over fairly soon after the Americans entered the war on D-Day. Unfortunately that did not happen.

More letter next week.


Nov 07

Tombstone Tuesday–Larry Lee Bollenbacher

Larry Lee Bollenbacher, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2011 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Larry Lee Bollenbacher, located in row 8 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Larry Lee
Dec 1938-Mary 1939

Larry Lee Bollenbacher was born 22 December 1938 in Berne, Indiana, the son of Ralph Henry (1912-1995) and Catharine Pearl (Maxwell) Bollenbacher (1918-2005). [1] Larry’s father Ralph was from Geneva, Indiana, the son of John M. and Emma Bollenbacher. Larry’s mother was born in Van Wert County, Ohio, the daughter of Joseph P. and Anna S. (Gribler) Maxwell. [2]

Larry Bollenbacher was baptized at Zion Chatt on 19 February 1939 with Luther Egger and Kathryn (Graham) Egger serving as his sponsors.

Larry Bollenbacher died of lobar pneumonia on 25 March 1939 in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana, and was buried on the 27th. He was only 3 months and 3 days old. S.S. Egger was in charge of the arrangements. [3]

Larry Lee Bollenbacher was Ralph and Catharine’s first child but they later had three other children:
Nancy Louise, married Warren Yoder
Gary Dean (1954-2003), married Karen Sue Fruchte


[1] Indiana, Birth Certificates, 1907-1940, Larry Lee Bollenbacher 22 Dec 1938;; Indiana State Board of Health, Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Indiana.

[2] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images,, Ralph H. Bollenbacher and Catherine P. Maxwell, 1 May 1938; Fulton County Marriages Vol. 15, p.441; FHL microfilm 1426360.

[3] Indiana, Death Certificates, 1939, Roll 3, Larry Lee Bollenbacher, 25 Mar 1939;; Indiana State Board of Health, Death Certificates, 1900-2011, Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Nov 03

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 4)

This is the next installment of the letters my dad wrote home during his WWII service and during his training time leading up to the war.

My dad, Herbert Miller, was 18 years old in 1944 when he volunteered for the draft.

Herb Miller, Fort McClellan, Alabama, 1944.

He arrived at Fort McClennan, Alabama, about 10 July 1944 for his Army basic training. His letters continue from there, from where I left off last week:

Postmarked 23 Jul 1944, Ft McClellan, AL, to Miss Helen Miller, RR#1, Willshire:

10:30 Thurs. evening
Dear Helen & all,
I don’t have very much time so will write Catherine, Helen, & all a letter together until I have time. I want to thank Helen for her $1 she gave me. I have it about half spent already. Got a hair cut tonight & cost $.55 so that isn’t so bad. Say that Celina Standard really gets read here. I read it first and then Robert Caywood, Snider and a couple of other guys. I’ve been saving them, they sure are good to read.

It will be a while until I get paid a month or two yet. Went through the obstacle course today. A couple of guys passed out from the heat. One person was going across a ditch on an outfit like a ladder over head and you just go by reaching for one rung then the next. What I was saying this person was sort of heavy and one of the rungs broke. He fell in the water and crawled to the shore, got on the ground and passed out.

I’ve found out there is only two times in the Army. Quick time and double time. Quick time is just ordinary marching and double time is twice as fast and w sure do a lot of double time. Boy those 17 weeks are really going fast. Only 15 more to go. I been in a little over a month and it don’t seem near that long.

We really get plenty of salt down here. Really need it because it sure is hot. I wrote Lisle Adams a letter the other day and got a card from him today.

Imagine the oats is about all thrashed by now. How is the corn coming along. You will have to excuse my writing. My left hand is pretty sore. Got a couple more shots.

Guess I’d better close for now. Have to be in bed before bed check.


Letter from Herb Miller, from Fort McClellan, Alabama, during basic training.

Postmarked 24 July 1944, Ft. McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:

Sunday 23 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well it’s Sunday eve again. I just had a telephone call from Dorothy. She said Jiggs & that girl from St. Marys are engaged. Received a box of cookies & card from Clara. I forgot about the ants up here and shoved the box underneath my bunk. The next time I went to the box it was full of ants. So me and the other three guys started to shake and blow the ants off. After we got the cookies free from ants we put them all in a box and suspended it down from the ceiling by a soaped string. We decided if that didn’t keep the ants away we would take four of our canteen cups, fill them with water and set one of the beds in the water by setting one leg in each. You see we had an extra bed. But they didn’t get in the box suspended from the ceiling.

Didn’t I tell youins that I might go to night school and college. Chances are that I won’t but I might. Tomorrow we go on a seven mile hike with full field equipment.

At the end of the cycle we will go on a 24 mile hike to a certain hill and camp out there for three weeks and have maneuvers. We also have to do 34 pushups in a certain length of time and do pretty good on the firing range.

Say, before I forget it you can send me about seven or eight clothes hangers. And I also could use two or three dollars in a couple weeks. We won’t be paid for a month or two and I might use them. I have been going to a few shows and eating quite a lot of ice cream. I’m not out of money but I imagine I could use some.

While I was at Ft. Ben. Harrison the day I shipped out I telephoned Dorothy that I couldn’t come home. If I would have stayed there a few days longer or wouldn’t have shipped out that day, I would have come home. I went in Fri. night and signed up for a 24 hr. pass and could [have] gotten it.

I finally got Vernie’s and Kenny’s shirt ready to mail. They cost 75 cents apiece and also got Ann a present. It is a miniature gun, the same kind they issued to us. I got Dorothy a scarf about 4 ft square of grey silk and yellow tassels around the outside. It also has Ft. McClellan, Alabama, U.S. Army on it.

We really had a good dinner today. Chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolate milk, ice cream, cake, and potato salad.

You will have to excuse my spelling. I guess I can’t spell very good. Must close.


Postmarked 26 Jul 1944, Fort McClellan, Ala, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:

Tues, 25 Jul 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well it is Tuesday night and I have finally found time to write a few lines. I didn’t get to mail that box yet. The post offices are closed at night and we are busy in the daytime.

We went in the gas chambers today. Went in Chlorine and tear gas. We also had other gasses such as mustard and about five or six other kinds.

Some of the guys are playing the guitars and singing. They are really good at it. Some are from Ky, N.Y., Ohio, Ind, N.C., and all over. I sent you a book showing what our training is like. How are the crops coming along? Is Vernie helping Johnnie any? Are they having any trouble with my car?

The weather down here is still pretty hot. It gets so cold at night that you have to cover up. But in the daytime it is awful hot.

Did dad give “Hanks” [?] a picture of me? I sent Ruth one, also Dorthy and Em & Norval. It is pretty hard to write, there are so many things that we aren’t supposed to tell. We get all the new uncensored and different things.

They also are training for poison gas. They think they will start using it. All of the Infantry men wear gas masks now and have gas grenades on hand just in case.

I ought to write to Johnnies tonight but won’t have time. Will have to wait till tomorrow night. Well will have to close.


Postmarked 30 July, Fort McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:

30 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It is about 8:30 Sunday morning, ate chow about an hour ago. Church doesn’t start until 10:30 so will have time to write the letters. I am behind. I was going to write Bernice but can’t decide whether they are on the Geneva route or on the Berne route. Which one are they on? Ye, my mail is coming though now. Only I haven’t heard from Dorothy for about a week now. I’m not going to write until I hear from her.

I got a letter from Kenneth Ellenberger Saturday and have answered it this morning. Our chaplain is home on a furlough. So a minister from Anniston is coming up today. I got the two dollars yesterday. Sure glad to get it. Thanks a lot. Was going to a show last night but there were a couple hundred soldiers waiting to get in so I went over to the Service Man’s Club and got me a great big cherry sundae and a hamburger and went back to the hut. Some of the guys went into Anniston last night on a pass. I could have had one but didn’t want any.

Yesterday a guy turned his ankle. The Sergeant told everybody to fall in at attention at the end of the class. This guy wouldn’t or couldn’t stand on his one leg. So him and the Sarge went round and round about it. Finally the Sargent told the Captain he wouldn’t fool around with this guy any more and talking back was a court martial offense. And he said he wanted him court martialed. So they are going got.

I’ve been getting a letter a day from youins now. I can hardly wait till I get that box of cookies.

We were out yesterday and were in one of the outdoor classrooms. We march to one of the classrooms and take off our equipment and stack arms in a neat order. Well we were up in the hill in class studying about the compass and it started to rain. After it rained a while we ran down and took the rain coats out of our packs and put them on. Everything was covered with Alabama mud. Rifles, cartridges, belts, packs, and everything. So we had a nice job of cleaning up our equipment yesterday evening. The worst of it was we practiced throwing hand grenades after the rain and half of the fox holes were filled with mud. We had to lay in it and throw the grenades, kneel and stand. We were really muddy.

There is one guy here from New York. His name is Goldman. He is about 40 years old and really a corker. He is always sleeping. One day he was sleeping in class so the Captain made him stand at attention. Pretty soon he was swaying back and forth asleep again. So the Captain had another guy stand behind him with a branch and keep him awake. Yesterday he went asleep while we were throwing grenades. The grenades are brought out in a two-wheeled cart and it was about 1 ½ miles out there. He had to push the cart of equipment, grenades and everything back to camp. He was mad when he came in for supper. The Captain sure gets a kick out of him so do the rest of the guys.

Can’t think of much more to write so will close.


P.S. Sure glad to hear youins are finally getting some rain. I’ll bet the corn don’t look so good.

The next letter is postmarked 1 Aug 1944, Ft. McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:

31 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Receive your letters every day now. All my mail is coming through now except a few letters from youins and I’m not getting any mail from Dorothy.

I received your box today. Things were smashed up awful bad they still taste good. I also received a dollar from Caroline today. I have around 4 dollars besides my 2 dollar bill that will last me quite a while. I also receive the Herald and Standard all the time now.

Say, could you have Helen get ahold of a couple of hymnals (church hymns) at Berne, get a couple alike of cheap ones. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. Just so they have some popular church songs in them. The reason I wanted them, there are a couple of guitars who like to play church songs but don’t have the books. Sunday night some of the guys got together. We found a couple of songs in the back of the Prayer Book that Rev. Walber gave me. They played and we all sang. We were singing down in the Day Room tonight here.

Thanks a lot for the money and box. Will have to close now. Go on guard duty tomorrow night and need the sleep.

Love, Herb

My dad mentioned that while at Fort McClellan he purchased some items that he sent home to family members. Below is one of them, a pillow that he sent back home to his paternal grandmother Christene (Rueck) Miller. Interesting, too, that Christene was was a German immigrant. Actually my dad’s paternal grandfather, Christene’s husband, was also an immigrant, but he was deceased by that time.

Money seemed to be an issue and he was very grateful when various family members sent him a dollar. What would be next to nothing to us today was evidently a lot back then. My dad’s farm family had enough to get by but they were far from wealthy. It was undoubtedly a sacrifice for the folks back home to send him a dollar.

Some of the relatives mentioned in these letters: Johnny and Clara (Miller) Reef and Howard and Caroline (Miller) Caffee were my dad’s aunts and uncles. Clara and Caroline were his father Carl’s sisters. Bob and Bernice (Brewster) Dudgeon were also his aunt and uncle, on his mom’s side. Red mentioned was Paul Linn, my dad’s sister Helen’s boyfriend at the time. Helen married Red after the war. Em, Vernie, Kenny, Kate, Ann, and Ruth were also my dad’s siblings. Em was dating Norval Weitz. Kenny Ellenberger was my dad’s first cousin, on his mom’s side. The minister back home at Zion Chatt was Rev. Wolber. My dad was dating Dorothy at that time. He did not meet my mother Florence until after the war.

I will continue the letters next week.

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