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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.

Love,
Herb

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.

Love,
Herb

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.

Love,
Herb

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.

Love,
Herb

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.

Love,
Herb

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.

 

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