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Aug 21

Pfc. Herb Miller Arrives in Liverpool, 1944

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Victory over Europe (V-E Day) was 8 May 1945 and Victory over Japan (V-J Day) was 15 August 1945.

Back then our country was united in the effort to defeat Hitler’s Nazism and to defeat Japan after its attack on Pearl Harbor.

My dad, Herbert Miller, was a patriotic American and wanted to do his part to assist the war effort, so at age 18 he volunteered for the draft in the spring of 1944, when he was a senior at Willshire High School. He was drafted in May 1944 and completed basic training during the summer and fall of that year. On Christmas Eve 1944 he was in Europe, at a Replacement Depot in France, where he was assigned to the 84th Division, 333rd Company, Infantry. He first fought in the Battle of the Bulge and after that in several other European countries.

Herbert Miller

The war in Europe ended in May 1945 but my dad did not have enough time and points to come home. Besides, the U.S. was still at war with Japan in the Pacific. Had the war with Japan not ended in August 1945 my dad probably would have been sent to fight somewhere in the Pacific. As it turned out, he was able to stay in Europe with the Occupation Force, where he worked in a military Post Office until he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on 7 June 1946.    

A couple years ago I transcribed and posted here the WWII letters my dad sent home to his family and were saved by them. Since then I found a few short pages he wrote in December 1944, beginning when his ship from the U.S. docked at England. It appears he started writing a journal, but apparently did not continue it. I have a few pages, written on a small notepad, titled My Times in E.T.O. [European Theatre of Operations]:

My Times in E.T.O.

It was a chilly, foggy evening when the USS Wakefield pulled into Liverpool. We watched the sailors stand inspection for shore leave in England.

I was a replacement in a Rifle Co. I don’t even remember the company name. It don’t make much difference.

It was almost the 20th of Dec. As it was getting dark we marched down the gang plank and through the streets of Liverpool to the train station. As I walked past the buildings I noticed some were fenced in and well destroyed. I wondered if France would be the same.

After boarding the train we rode most of the night until we came to South Hampton. We waited in a large ? while the ship was unloaded. The ship looked pretty well beat up. I remembered the trip across the Atlantic and how rough it was. This ship was an old wooden Spanish ship and I do mean old.

The next day we pulled out into the Channel and the next land I would see would be France.

Interesting and a good beginning to a journal but I doubt he had the time to keep it up. He was assigned right away to the Battle of the Bulge and to other parts of Europe after that.   

USS Wakefield [2]

My dad wrote that he sailed to England on the USS Wakefield. According to Wikipedia.com, the USS Wakefield (AP-21) was a troop transport that served with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Before her war service, she was the luxury ocean liner SS Manhattan, built in Camden, New Jersey, launched December 1931. The ship has quite a history that I won’t go into here, but you can read about it on Wikipedia.com, using the link below.

Part of her WWII history that pertains to my dad: …[Wakefield] departed Boston on 13 April 1944, beginning the first of 23 round trips in the Atlantic theater and three in the Pacific. Between 13 April 1944 and 1 February 1946, Wakefield transported 110,563 troops to Europe and brought 106,674 men back to America, a total of 217,237 passengers…Her primary port of call in the European theater was Liverpool, visited so often that the transport’s crew nicknamed her “The Boston and Liverpool Ferry.” The average round-trip voyage took 18 days…

…After D-Day, 6 June 1944, Wakefield began the first of her trips as a casualty-evacuation ship, bringing home wounded GIs. On occasion, she also brought back German prisoners of war for internment in the United States. Sometimes she even carried both evacuees and prisoners on the same voyage. After 13 trips to Liverpool, Wakefield was sent to the Mediterranean theater to carry men and equipment to Italy…Returning from her 22nd voyage to Europe, the transport departed Boston on 4 December 1945 for Taku, China,…returned to San Diego, on 1 February 1946…then two round trips to Guam, February through April 1946, ending ship’s active service as a Navy transport

…Wakefield was decommissioned on 16 June 1946, five years to the day that she first entered service…She was struck from the Navy Register in 1959 and sold for scrap in 1965. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Wakefield_(AP-21)

[2] By Unknown author – Navsource Online – US Navy photo # No. V4-W215-1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3655628

 

4 comments

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  1. Thomas E and Debra A Reichard

    Karen, how wonderful that you have record of your Dad’s experiences. Did you do one of the military veteran banners for your Dad in Rockford? I still don’t know if my Uncle Don’s is up or not.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Deb

    1. Karen

      Hi Deb! I thought of having a banner made for my dad, but never did it. Maybe Rockford will offer them again next year and I will have one made. We were through Rockford a couple times last week, but it is hard to read all the banners when you are driving through. So I don’t know if your uncle’s banner is up yet. My dad lived closer to Willshire, but I don’t think they have the banners. He always drove his military Jeep in the Rockford parade, though, as well as Willshire’s parade. He loved getting that Jeep out and driving it in the local parades! Thanks for writing.

  2. Deborah Jones

    How wonderful that you have these memoirs from your dad!

    1. Karen

      I treasure all the little bits of information about his life that my dad left behind. Thanks for writing!

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