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Mar 23

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 20)

My dad, Herbert Miller, was trained as a replacement troop during the fall of 1944. After he arrived in Europe he was assigned to Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and later in parts of Luxemburg and Germany.

PFC Herb Miller, “The Railsplitters.”

My dad wrote quite a few letters home during the time he served our country in Europe during WWII and his family saved most of them. I have most of the letters he wrote to his parents, Carl and Gertrude (Brewster) Miller, and to his sister Em and her husband Norval “Jack”.

I am transcribing my dad’s letters and posting them here on Karen’s Chatt, along with some of the photos he took during the war.

These letters are from Pfc. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. L, 333rd Infantry, A.P.O. 84, c/o Postmaster, New York, NY, to Mr. & Mrs. Norval Weitz, RR1, Rockford, Ohio.

Below is a letter to my dad’s sister Em and her husband Norval “Jack.” The letter is in pretty bad shape and has several holes in it, so a few of the words are missing. There is no envelope with this letter.

21 May 1945
Germany

Dear Em & Jack,

I guess I’d better write a couple of lines. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written.

I’m on guard at a sawmill here at Bad Nenndorf, a town close to Hanover. There are a couple of German Gals over here, flirting, but it was probably their brother or fathers that have been shooting at us.

I sent some snapshots home to mom and them. I have a camera. Say, have they got that rifle I sent home? It should be there before long. Also the canteen and other things I sent home.

The rumor that is going around is that the 84th Division is going to the States. It sort of looks that way.

We have come about 110 miles closer. We’re moving back toward the Rhine. It makes a guy feel sort of funny to pass back through some of the towns that you fought in and the first thing that you think of is the shells flying around and about the guys that didn’t quite make it to the end or those wounded.

Back in the Belgium bulge we were dug in on a ridge and a Germany shell happened to hit the hole next to the one I and Trefun was in. The assistant squad leader of the squad got hit. From his belt up he was full of holes from shrapnel. He didn’t even know what hit him. He and I used to be together a lot and we got to be good buddies. In civilian life he played in one of the well-known orchestras. I can’t think of it just now. He knew Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo and the rest of the leaders. The same time he got hit a piece of the same darn stuff busted my wristwatch.

On the way from the Rohr to the Rhine another buddy got hit. He used to be an anti-aircraft gunner and volunteered for the infantry about a week before. We were moving into the town of Harten [?], a town where the Jerries landed some paratroopers to try to stop our drive. We were spear-heading at that time. The 1st squad, 1st platoon went first, as usual; and I’m in that squad in the A.R.  team at that. The Jerries let us walk in town and then opened up. We all dived for houses and proceeded to clean out the houses that we had entered. We made all of the Jerries that we took prisoner walk out in the streets. There were tracers flying everywhere. We tried every way we could think of to get back a few houses. We were in the ?? house up on the right side of the road.

[?] Krauts about 10 yards in front of us. All twelve of us were in that house, or I should say beer garden and there was plenty of beer.

We were pinned down in there about three hours and it wasn’t so very long until dark. We had everything planned to fight for the finish. About that time some artillery began to come in—the only thing it was theirs.

This guy was a grenadier. He and the bazooka team and Lamb, the platoon guide, were upstairs in the window trying to knock out a machine gun nest they had spotted when a burp gunner opened up on them at the window. Jack was hit through the neck, arm, and chest and Lamb got a bullet hole through his helmet just nicking him. We carried Jack down in the basement so that he’d be safe from shrapnel. That made us pretty mad so we lay down a barrage of hand-grenades and made a dash for the next house. We surprised them and got about 30 Krauts prisoners we had quite a few pistols, but that was the last of our thoughts, we just had ourselves in deeper. We were about to see what the situation was there, when we heard a tank coming. We didn’t know if they were ours or not so they got the bazooka team ready to fire on it. When around the corner comes two American tank destroyers—hell-bent and fire. The rest of the town was duck-soup and the T.D.s saved the day. We were going to bed down for a good night’s sleep when they got us together to go out and try to defend the town.

Your Brother
Herbie

PS If you want to give the letter to Helen and correct it to put in the youth council paper.

German prisoners of war at German railroad station.

German prisoners of war at German railroad station.

Back of Sherman Tank, Germany.

Notes by Karen: This letter is very interesting because he tells about some of the combat he was in. I remember my dad telling the story about the tank destroyer. They heard a tank coming but didn’t know if it was friendly or not. It was just a good thing that it was an American tank destroyer!

It would have been very hard to see your fellow soldiers get hit and I am sure it is something my dad never forgot. He really never talked about that part of the war. In the sixth paragraph he mentions the name Trefun. That would be Pfc Matt Trefun. They were probably in the same squad and Trefun’s name is one of the names written on the Nazi flag my dad brought home. A photo of the Nazi is in part 18 of my dad’s WWII letter series blog posts.

In that same paragraph my dad mentions that the shrapnel hit and busted his wristwatch. This story was printed in The Willshire Herald on 12 July 1945:…”Pfc. Herbert M. Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Miller of south of town, has been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained while in action in Germany. He was hit by a shrapnel, which broke his wrist watch and injured his thumb. His buddy was killed by being hit by the same shrapnel. The Purple Heart has been sent to his mother.” That certainly hit close to my dad!

In these letters my dad also gives some indication of where he was and where he fought. Sometime I may plot it all out on a map.

 

 

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