Jan 05

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 12)

Seventy-four years ago Belgium and the surrounding countries experienced one of the worst winters they ever had.

Seventy-four years ago my dad, Herbert Miller, was there, somewhere in Belgium, in the frigid cold and in the deep snow, fighting with the Railsplitters in the Battle of the Bulge.

My dad told me that he did not see the inside of a building for nearly a month during that time. Their clothing was not adequate for the bitter cold those soldiers experienced. He had the standard Army issue winter clothes: a wool uniform, sweater, and 2 pairs of socks, but it was not enough clothing for temperatures that ranged from 0 to minus 10-15 degrees and the knee-deep blowing snow. He said it was so cold they had to put their wet socks under their arms to keep them from freezing. And to make matters even worse, my dad had laryngitis and could not talk for several weeks during January of 1945.

His basic training at Fort McClellan could not have prepared him for these weather conditions, although it seems he was prepared for combat.

PFC Herb Miller, “The Railsplitters.”

He had just finished nine weeks of basic training at Fort McClellan’s IRTC (Infantry Replacement Training Center). Fort McClellan became an IRTC in 1943 and the training included situations that corresponded to European combat. Situations that included training under live artillery fire and crouching in foxholes with tanks moving overhead, [1] training just as my dad wrote about in his letters home.

My dad was trained to be a replacement troop. Replacement troops were sent to units individually to replace soldiers who had been killed or wounded. The replacements were not seasoned soldiers like those who had entered the war earlier with their unit and who had been fighting for some time. As a result, there was a high casualty rate among the replacement soldiers. The seasoned soldiers often hesitated to make friends with the replacements right away because they were replacing their fallen buddies and because of that high casualty rate. It was hard to make friends with the newcomer when he was likely to be killed soon. It was probably a very rough time for my dad, considering the fighting, the comradery, and the weather.

After his basic training my dad was home on furlough for about three weeks in November 1944. At the end of the November his sister Em and her husband took my dad to Lima where he boarded a train for the east coast. He was in Fort George Mead, Maryland, on 29 November.

Herb Miller home on furlough, with his siblings, November 1944.

My dad told me he spent three days at Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts, before leaving for England. He crossed the Atlantic on the USS Wakefield and docked in England. He crossed England by train, crossed the English Channel on an English boat, and landed at Le Havre, France, on 15 December 1944, just one day before the Battle of the Bulge would begin. He went to the Replacement Depot in France, close to Belgium, and was put into the 84th Division, 333rd Company, Infantry, on 23 December 1944.

My dad’s family saved the letters he wrote home to then and his sister Em saved the letters he wrote to her and her husband “Jack.” I continue with those letters in chronological order.

This first letter must have been shortly after he arrived in England:

Postmarked A.P.O. U.S. Army Postal Service, 31 [?] Dec 1944; return address Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. G, 3rd Platoon, P.P.O. 15665 c/o Postmaster, New York, N.Y; To Mr. Mrs. Carl Miller, R.R.#1, Willshire, Ohio. (Passed by U.S. Army Examiner 37373, censored by James W. Little)

22 Dec 1944
Somewhere in England
Dear Mom & All,

I finally found enough time to write a couple of lines. It’s really been a long time since I have received any mail. I’m feeling fine. I bought some cigarettes ahead and haven’t had any trouble getting any as yet.

It isn’t so very long until Christmas. It will be an awful funny Christmas. I never spent any away from home before.

How are Vernie and the rest getting along in school? Is dad still working at the Central Soya Co? I talked to Joe (the Mexican who used to work for Stucky) the other day. I never expected to see him.

Can’t think of any more to write so I guess I’d better close.


By the end of December my dad had been assigned to the 333rd, the Railsplitters, and was about to fight in Belgium.

Railsplitter Emblem.

Postmarked U.S. Army Postal Service, 2 Jan 1945; return address Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, N.Y; To Mr. Mrs. Carl Miller, R.R.#1, Willshire, Ohio. (Passed by U.S. Army Examiner 38658)

31 Dec 1944
Somewhere in Belgium
Dear Mom & All,

Well here it is the last day of the year. I was going to church this morning but it was called off until tomorrow morning.

I’m sending home some French money. It’s a 5 francs piece and is worth about 10 cents in our money. I ran across some Ohio boys in the outfit I’m in. Van Wert, Mansfield, Findlay, and some other places. There are a lot of them from Ohio.

The Army issues us all the cigarettes we want They pass out cigarettes and nobody is left out.

We don’t see any candy at all, only what we get in our ration cases and that is only a couple of pieces.

Am feeling fine and hope youins are the same.


P.S. I would like to have some home baked cookies and candy.

Service Flag at Carl Miller home for Herbert Miller, WWII.

There was no envelope with the next two letters, which were sent together:

31 Dec 1944
Somewhere in Belgium
Dear Em & Jack,

I finally got around to writing that letter to Mr. Purdy. I’m enclosing it. I want you to recopy it and put any corrections in it. I didn’t know whether or not it is called the News week or the News Letter.

I visited a little bit of Germany a while back. I sure have gotten around, haven’t I?

I can’t think of very much to write. What I do know I can’t tell you.

I would like to have some home baked cookies and cakes and also candy and peanuts.

Guess I’d better close.


31 Dec 1944
Somewhere in Belgium
Dear. Mr. Purdy,

I was wanting to write to you sooner but this is the first chance I have had to write.

I received the Rockford News Letter while I was down at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, and enjoyed it very much. So I thought I would write and say hello to the people at home and give you my address, so that I may continue to receive the newsletter.

Pvt. Herbert Miller

As you can see, they could not write anything critical about what was happening in battle, where they were at, or what they were doing. Letters were read and censored and passed by an examiner. That is understandable. There was a lot was at stake.

To be continued next week.


[1] Fort McClellan, Wikipedia.org,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_McClellan

Jan 01

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Karen’s Chatt!

Dec 29

A Schumm Christmas Surprise

Merry Christmas to me!

Last week I received a Christmas gift that was quite a surprise. Bob, a friend of ours and someone who Joe worked with for many years, likes and collects antique and vintage items as well as local advertising memorabilia. He has given me some local items of interest in the past.

Blue Ribbon Baking Powder, for Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, O.

Bob said that he had had this old tin for some time and that it had been stored away. He took it out of storage and as he was looking it over he noticed the names on the back—Wolf & Schumm. He learned only a couple years ago that my mother was a Schumm and that I have a Schumm connection. He remembered that.

And Bob gave me is this amazing old tin–a Blue Ribbon “Surest Purest” Baking Powder tin as a Christmas present! The label is darkened with age but still very readable.

Blue Ribbon Baking Powder, for Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, O.

The reverse side of the tin tells that it was “manufactured for Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, Ohio.”

Blue Ribbon Baking Powder, for Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, O.

That information is printed right on the label! I wonder if it was common to have the store name on the product label?

The Wolf & Schumm General Store served the little village of Schumm in the early 1900s and was run by Logan Wolfe and Gustav Schumm. [1] [2] Gustavus “Gustav” Jacob Schumm was born 18 December 1881 to Henry and Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm. He married Dorathea Elizabeth Bienz on 27 December 1908 and they had 5 children: Arthur William, Ora Katherine, Karl George, Ida Johanna, and Paul. Gustav’s son Karl George is still living and remembers his father’s general store, the brick building that once stood along the railroad tracks in Schumm.

By 1920 Logan Wolfe and his family had moved to Sprague Street in Willshire, where he managed a garage. His father-in-law John Acheson, an 86 year-old widower, lived with them. [3]

This tin would have been from that time period, likely sometime between 1908 and 1920.

The can is 4¾ inches tall and 3 inches in diameter and probably held a pound of baking soda.

I had never seen anything like this, bearing the name of a small store. There are a few Blue Ribbon Baking Powder tins on Ebay but they have a different label, a red label with a blue ribbon. They also look more recent.

Blue Ribbon Baking Powder, for Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, O.

There are directions on the back label of the tin: “Use one heaping or two rounded teaspoonsful only of this baking powder to one quart of sifted flour.”

“This baking powder is composed of the following ingredients and none other: bicarbonate of soda, phosphate, alum, starch. Manufactured by Wabash Baking Powder Co., Wabash, Ind. Guaranteed under serial number 5444.”

Very interesting that the baking powder company was not all that far from Schumm.

Actually, this is the second Wolf & Schumm item Bob has given me. A couple years ago he gave me a small wooden box with Wolf and Schumm, Schumm, Ohio, stamped on it. It was likely a mailing box.

Box to Wolf & Schumm, Schumm, Ohio.

What a wonderful Christmas surprise that I will always treasure.

Thank you, Bob and Sharon!


[1] 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 114, p.2B, dwelling 39, family 39, Gustav Schumm; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1375251, NARA microfilm T624, roll 1238.

[2] 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 114, p.2B, dwelling 43, family 43, JF Wolf; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1375251, NARA microfilm T624, roll 1238.

[3] 1920 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 146, p.10A, dwelling 95, family 96, John Logan Wolfe; digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T625, roll 1446.

Dec 25

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Karen’s Chatt!


Dec 22

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 11)

Below are some more letters that my dad, Herbert Miller, wrote home during his Army basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama’s IRTC [Infantry Replacement Training Center] and when he was waiting to be shipped out to Europe in WWII. After finishing his basic training he came home on furlough in November 1944.

Herb home on furlough, November 1944.

It seems that my dad wrote a lot of letters. In addition to the letters to his parents, some other relatives and his girlfriend, he wrote quite a few letters to his sister Em and her husband Norval “Jack.” My aunt Em also saved his letters and I am grateful that her family gave me those letters a couple years ago.

My dad had been home on furlough in November 1944 and by the end of November he was in Fort George Meade, Maryland, getting ready to ship out for Europe. From the letter below we learn that Em and Jack drove my dad to Lima when his furlough was over and from there he went to the east coast.

Envelope postmarked Fort George Meade, MD, 30 November 1944, to Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, Rockford, Ohio:

29 November 1944
Dear Em & Jack,
I haven’t got very much time to write tonight. Thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I got here OK.

I want to thank you and Norval for taking me to Lima. You know it didn’t cost me a cent to get out here. I used my G.I. ticket for train, bus, and everything.

We received a part of our equipment—jungle [?] packs, gas masks, new liners, and steel helmets. They are using the jungle [?] packs over in Europe, too, so it doesn’t mean a thing.

I’ll probably be here a week at least. They don’t tell us anything.

Guess I’d better close.


Letter from Herb to Em & Jack, Dec 1944.

By the end of December 1944 he was in Belgium fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

The next letter he wrote to Em and Jack is dated 31 December 1944, from Somewhere in Belgium. He was not allowed to say where.

To be continued in another blog post…

Right now, for the rest of this blog post, I am going to backtrack a little and do some catching-up.

I have my dad’s letters to Em in a different folder and I wasn’t as organized as I should have been when I started transcribing the letters he wrote to his parents. As a result, I did not transcribe and include the letters to Em and Jack with the letters he sent to his parents.

So today I am including some of the more interesting parts of those letters he wrote to Em and Jack during basic training.

It seems that Fred Betzel, Donald Hoblet, my dad, and some other locals were together at Fort Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana, on 4 July 1944 for processing. They most have left Mercer County as a group and were together for at least their first seven days at Fort Harrison. At that time my dad was finished with his processing, waiting to get shipped out to his next destination.

In a letter to Em and Jack, dated 6 August 1944 from Fort McClellan, he mentions that he read in the Standard that Vincent Jolly was killed in action and was concerned about “Red” Linn, who was dating his sister Helen.

In another letter to Em and Jack, dated only “Sunday” he mentions that he wrote 8 letters since dinner and was getting tired of writing! [I don’t know how he had the time for all that letter writing along with his basic training!]

In the same letter: …The Army isn’t quite what I thought it would be but it isn’t so bad. We have ice cream every noon and iced tea or orange aid to drink. Today we got two bars of ice cream, iced tea, mashed potatoes, peas, chicken, and biscuits. So it was a good dinner.

You ought to see me with my ammunition belt on, gas mask on, steel helmet, and rifle with bayonet. If I could I would have my picture taken with the rifle. The rifle I got is a Winchester M-1, 9 shot automatic gas operated rifle. It weighs about 8 pounds….Talking about hot, it was 98 degrees in the day room and there was an electric fan in the room…

My dad absolutely loved ice cream. He told me that he acquired his love of ice cream when he was in the Army–that he wasn’t old enough to go out and drink beer with the other guys, so he ate ice cream instead.

From a letter dated 15 August 1944, from Fort McClellan: …I was sorta afraid of the M-1 rifle but really like to shoot it now. It is only practice now but I qualified for marksman. A lot of the guys are going around with black eyes and bruised cheeks where the butt of the gun hit them.

This week is going awful fast. Only twelve more weeks then my training will be over with. We got paid last Saturday night. My check was $21.58. I had a $25 bond taken out, $6.58 for insurance, and $1.50 for laundry. We signed the payroll tonight again so will get paid in 18 days…

From a letter dated 10 September 1944, from Fort McClellan: …I read in the Standard they had German prisoners working in the tomato factories. Do they have many guards watching them? There are a lot of them here. The other day I saw a truck load of German prisoners and one of them was driving the truck. They don’t have any trouble with them around here…

We have a new set of sergeants coming in. I talked to the sergeant who will be in charge of our platoon. He is really nice. Where do you think he is from? You guessed it—OHIO. He was in the Ohio 37th Division and has seen a lot of action. He said on those islands there was about one Marine to every six Infantry man. Tarawa was the worst battle up until the battle of Saipan. That was the worst so far. There is a news broadcast now. The Yanks have started in the Siegfried Line. It shouldn’t take so very long now. But I still say Japan will give up or be licked before Germany. I don’t look for the war with Germany to be over before the first of the year….

In a letter dated 11 October 1944 he mentions to Em and Jack how tough the Infantry is. He also mentioned that he heard that Don Hoblet was having a hard time of it, too.

Camp McClellan church bulletin, 1944.

Here are a couple other items I overlooked and did not include during his basic training:

A bulletin from the Sunday worship service on 16 July 1944, at the Eighth Regiment Chapel, I.R.T.C., Fort McClellan, Alabama:

In the area of the bulletin designated “Message—use this space. Write a letter home,” my dad wrote:

16 July 1944,
Dear Mom & All,
Well had or am having today off so went to church this morning. As you will notice on the front is the picture of the 8th Regt Chapel. The I.R. T. C. means Infantry Replacement Training. I received your letters yesterday and it is about time for [?]

I got Vernie and Kenny a t-shirt apiece but forgot to get Ann anything yet. So will get Ann something tonight and mail them tomorrow evening.

We had a little practice with our rifles the other day (Saturday morning). One guy dropped his rifle. Now he has to carry the gun around and sleep with it for a week. Will close and write more on stationery.


Note Herb wrote in Camp McClellan church bulletin, 1944.

My dad wrote about a point system, a gig system, in one of his letters and the family also saved the paper that explained the system:

Six Point Hutment Gig System
Headquarters 12th Training Battalion, Infantry Replacement Training Center, Fort McClellan, Alabama

Effective immediately the “Six Point Gig” system will be used in area and hutment inspections. A total “Gig” of 6 points of more for any week will result in restriction to the company area for the week and, or that man may be given extra duty for three successive evenings at the discretion of the Company Commander. The following key and point values will be used in this plan.

a—Dirty floor: 1 pt/man in hut

b—Shoes dirty or disarranged: 1 pts

c—Shelves or ledges dirty or disorderly: 2 pts

d—Poor police outside hut: 1 pt/man in hut

e—Bed improperly made or arranged: 1 pt

f—Bed unmade: 2 pts

g—Trash cans not emptied: 1 pt/man

h—Windows dirty: 1 pt/man

i—Equipment disarranged: 2 pts

j—Clothing disarranged or unbuttoned: 2 pts

k—Rifle rack dirty: 1 pt/man

l—Rifle I unlocked rack: 6 pts

m—Lights or radio on: 1 pt/man

n—Beverage bottle in or around huts: 6 pts/man in hut

o—Mop or broom hot hung properly: 1 pt/man in hut

Six Point Gig System, IRTC, Fort McClellan, AL, 1944.

Lastly, here is a 1949 Christmas card from one of his Army buddies, Larry Broderick, of Medford, Massachusetts:

1949 Christmas card from Herb’s Army buddy Larry Broderick, Medford, Massachusetts.

While we spend this Christmas in comfort, with our freedoms, let us remember what soldiers past and present went through and still go through for us,our country, and future generations.

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