Last week’s blog post ended with the letter my dad, Private Herbert Miller, wrote home to his sister Em on 31 December 1944 from somewhere in Belgium. What a way to spend New Year’s Eve.
My dad had been home with his family on furlough in November 1944 and left by the end of the month to be assigned somewhere. His brother recalls that my dad did not know where he would be sent. It could have been the Pacific, Europe, or even somewhere in the states.
He was sent to Europe. After landing in England he was sent on to France and finally to Belgium to fight in the Battle of the Bulge at the end 1944.
My dad was a replacement troop and was put into Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters.
January 1945 was one of the worst winters ever in Belgium. Temperatures were below zero. The snow was knee deep. The winds were blowing. The winter clothing they were issued was not adequate for the bitter cold they had.
The Battle of the Bulge was the largest land battle ever fought by the U.S. Army and it was a very important battle. My dad said they were constantly on the move, walking and moving forward during the day and digging shallow fox holes to try to keep warm and to get a little sleep at night. He said they stood in water in the fox holes for hours on end.
I don’t know how he had the time to write home, but he managed to write a few letters to his parents and to his sister Em and her husband Norval “Jack.”
This next group of letters my dad sent home were V-Mail, short for Victory Mail, a mail process used to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad during WWII. It was created in 1942 to reduce the space and weight required to ship soldiers’ letters home. V-mail letter sheets were a combination letter/envelope and they formed an envelope when folded. Soldiers wrote their letters in a limited space and added the name and address of the recipient on the special stationery. V-mail stationery was about 7 X 9 inches and no postage was necessary. Each letter was first read by a military censor before it was copied to microfilm and reduced to thumb-nail size. The rolls of microfilm were flown to the U.S. and developed at a receiving station near the addressee. The letters were enlarged and printed on paper at about 60% of their original size, about 4¼ x 5¼ inches, before being delivered to the addressee.
I have quite a few V-Mail letters, which are small and are very difficult to read.
There is an additional postmark on some of these V-Mail letters. It is stamped right on the letter with a red stamper and marked Berne, Ind, and has a date. One letter was dated 31 January and was stamped 1 March, so it took quite a while for a letter to reach home. I can’t imagine the family waiting every day to hear from him, not knowing where he was or how or what he was doing.
The next group of letters my dad sent home:
To Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, RR #1 Rockford, Ohio; from Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. Passed & stamped by censor Robert W. [?]
Postmark stamped in red at the bottom of the V-Mail: Berne, Ind, 1 Mar 1945
17 January 1945
Somewhere in Belgium
Dear Sis & Jack,
How is the farming coming along? How does Jack like his John Deere tractor? I’ll bet he can hardly wait to get to try it out in the spring.
Say Jack, how is the tire and gas situation coming along back there? Can you get all you want for the farm?
I got me a Heine flashlight. It doesn’t make a very bright light but it works. A lot of the guys have German P-38 and Lugar pistols. They are OK but I don’t care too much for souvenirs. Can’t think of much more to write. Tell Norval’s folks I said hello.
I am feeling fine and hope you are the same.
To Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, RR #1 Rockford, Ohio; from Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. Passed & stamped by censor [?] Kuhn [?].
31 January 1945
Dear Em & Jack
How are things coming along back Chattanooga way? Is Hank’s Place still there? Yep, it’ll be a great day when I’m able to sit in there and not worry about formations or chow. Ah chow; now we’re getting somewhere. That’s something to look forward to—that is if you don’t have a sample of C rations or K rations tucked in your pocket for the next meal.
I imagine Norval and his dad are getting things ready for spring. Did they get their cement stables and stanchions and electric milker? Those modern stables sure do make a difference.
I sure would like to get some news from home, but the mail is so slow. I would like very much to have a fruit cake and cookies. Thank you.
Guess I’d better close for now. I think youins know you can’t send packages overseas unless they are requested.
To Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1 Willshire, Ohio; from Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. Passed & stamped by censor Robert W. Velard [?]
18 January 1945
Somewhere in Belgium
Hello Mom & All,
I guess I’ll have a little time to write a few lines. I’m writing as often as I can. The weather really is cold and the snow is about knee deep.
The time really does go fast It’s past the middle of January already.
I Helen still hearing from Red? Where is he at now or don’t youins know?
How is the farm coming along? Who is going to do the farming? Johnnie I’ll bet. Johnnie really likes his tractor. You know I’ve decided farming is the best life after all. I think I’ll go back to the farm after I get home.
Guess I’d better close for now. Am feeling fine and hope youins are the same.
To Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1 Willshire, Ohio; from Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. Passed & stamped by censor D.J. Kuhn [?]
31 January 1945
Dear Mom & All,
Here’s another letter and I hope it finds you all well.
I got paid last night, 1895 Francs or $3.75 as I sent $30 to Helen to go on the $75 I owe her. Just like I told her when I borrowed it for the car. If I went to the Army I could send some to her. Maybe I can have it paid off pretty soon, but I ain’t worried about it.
I got a five dollar raise, that a little more to add to my savings.
How is Kenneth Ross? When was I was home on furlough his sister said he was wounded.
They tell me most are back on rations again and lettuce is pretty high in Pairs. Well I sure could go for some fresh fruit. We’ve been getting canned goods and canned meats most of the time. Once in a while we get chicken. That’s when I go around for seconds.
Guess I’d better close for now.
Undated letter. To Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, RR #1 Rockford, Ohio; from Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. Passed & stamped by censor Peter [?]
Postmark stamped in red at the bottom of the V-Mail: Berne, Ind, April [?] 1945.
Dear Em & Jack
How are things coming along around Chattanooga and vicinity? I hear Bud Oakley is in 4-8 again. I’ll bet that makes him mad. I can’t tell where I’m at either can I give the date. I think they are military secrets.
I’ve been receiving my mail pretty regular but still no taxes. I sure would like to have some of those home baked cookies and cakes. I get pretty hungry for ice cream and malted milks but will have to wait till I get back to the states to get anything like that.
I received the copy of the song “What A Friend We Have in Jesus:” yesterday. Thanks a lot for sending a lot of songs like that one. I’ve tried to sing but couldn’t remember all the words
Today for dinner we had baked beans, rice and meat balls, pears, bread and jam and coffee. This morning we had French toast and syrup cereal, and coffee.
I wrote mom and dad yesterday and decided to write youins today. I’m hurting pretty bad for stationery or I could write more often. Guess I’d better close for now.
P.S. Please send me a box of home baked cookies, hard candy or peanuts, and stationery. Thank you.
My dad sure appreciated and looked forward to the home-baked goods. That had to be a real treat. He also appreciated having the hymns to sing. Lutherans love to sing! He also was looking forward to returning home to the farm after the war, when his life would return to normal. You have to have hope.