«

»

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.

Love,
Herbie

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.

Love,
Herbie

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.

Love,
Herbie

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>