Below are some more letters that my dad, Herbert Miller, wrote home while he was at his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. It was late in the fall of 1944 and he was in Company A, 12th Battalion, 8th Regiment there. He was nearly finished with his basic training and would soon come home on furlough to the Miller farm in Mercer County, Ohio.
In these letters my dad mentions his brother Vernie, his uncle and aunt Bob and Bernice (Brewster) Dudgeon, and his cousin Murlin Miller.
Today’s first letter was addressed to both his parents but the salutation was just Dear Mom.
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 1 Nov 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
29 Oct 1944
It’s Sunday morning and all is going along pretty good. We pulled into this here area Thursday night and have had every day off since then but we have been having night problems every night. Last Thursday we ran the artillery problems. We fired a lot of tracers and a lot of artillery was flying around. As a result they started a forest fire. We started fighting the fire at 2:00 and it was 3:30 [?] when we got it under control. There were close to 1000 men fighting the fire. I would say there were about 20 acres of timber burnt and then there were a lot of fields which were covered with grass that was burnt.
Only about another two weeks before I’ll be home sometime in three weeks. I imagine Don Hoblet will be home about the same time. Since he is in I.R.T.C. at Texas and the training is practically the same.
Don’t send any more boxes or anything like that.
We don’t get any candy, [?], or cookies, cakes & pies out here and everything is done tactically. That is you don’t smoke after dark. No loud talking or singing and when you eat you have to stay five yards apart.
I don’t get much chance to write letters out here. So am going to write all I can this morning.
It sure will be good to get home again. It’s been almost 4 months since I have been in the Army. I haven’t heard from Dale or Murlin. I wrote to Murlin a couple of times but he never answers.
I hope you are all OK. Am feeling fine. Will close for now.
My dad mentions Central Soya in Decatur in the next letter. His dad Carl worked there. He also mentions the Luther League, the youth group at Zion Chatt, where the family attended church.
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 2 Nov 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
1 Nov 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It’s Wednesday noon and we have today off as far as training is concerned. We had a night problem last night and have today off. We have been having inspections and everything else. I received your stationery today. Sure was glad to get it.
Well we have only two more weeks out here on maneuvers. I don’t know the time and date I’ll be home but it won’t be so very long.
The sun is shining pretty bright now but about 12:00 tonight it will be plenty chilly. Friday night we start the hike back to the Fort. It isn’t a very hard march, only 21 miles and 8 hours to make it in.
Last night in the night problems about half of the 4th platoon played hooky. So today the 4th Platoon isn’t enjoying the day off.
I’ll bet that was really a swell Halloween party the Luther League had. I sure would have liked to be there. I’ll bet Vernie looked comical in his outfit. That fire over at Decatur at the Central Soya Co. was really destructive. Dad wasn’t on that shift was he?
Guess I’d better close. Can’t think of anymore to write.
My dad apparently wrote October instead of November as the date on the next letter.
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 7 Nov 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
5 Oct 1944 [5 Nov 1944]
Dear Mom & All,
Today was Sunday. It is now about 8:00 in the evening. Only 6 more days to go till my training cycle ends. Tomorrow they are going to tell us where we are going next. This infantry training doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be an infantry man. I could get in heavy weapons or air corps or anything.
I imagine the crops are all in and it is getting pretty chilly out.
You asked about my birthday present. You don’t need to get me anything. If you really want to the cigarette lighter would really be swell.
I went down to the main PS but they didn’t have any pillow cases. I’m going into town some night this week and get them.
I received a letter from Bob & Bernice the other day but didn’t get it answered yet.
It’s a little chilly tonight so I built a fire in the stove. It is just as warm as toast in here now.
I made that 24 mile hike OK. It was pretty tiresome walking 8 hours straight.
Guess I’d better close. I’m feeling fine and hope you are the same.
With all my love,
There is a big gap, 10 days, between that last letter and the next one. He wrote home quite often and he was supposed to find out where he would go after basic training the next day. It had to be shocking news that he was going overseas to fight and he surely wrote home about it. Or was he not allowed to write home with that news? I wonder how much they told him about where he was headed and how much he was allowed to tell. And I wonder, if he did write letters home during that time period, what happened to them.
Last letter from Herb while in Alabama.
That is what some family member wrote in pencil on the envelope postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 15 Nov 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
15 Nov 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It’s Wednesday night and everything is coming along ok. I have all my clothes packed. I couldn’t take everything with me so I had to send a box home. The only thing I’ll beat the box home—or should.
I ship out tomorrow morning sometime. So I ought to be home Friday evening sometime. But I don’t know the exact time I get there. There is a boy from Rockford whose folks are coming to Lima or wherever he is going. We go to Cincinnati first and from there will take the quickest or the first train north and he is going to call his folks from Cincinnati.
I bought both of my grandmothers a present. I wanted to get them something for Christmas and I saw something nice in Anniston.
It’s not much use for me to write a long letter because I’ll be home pretty shortly.
Be seeing youins soon.
My dad headed home on his furlough on 16 November and he thought he would be home by the following day. Depending on when he had to leave again he would was probably home for about 10 days, give or take.
The family took a lot of photos while he was home on furlough.
A few others from Zion Chatt were home on furlough about the same time:
From the next letter we know he was in Fort George Mead, Maryland, by 1 December.
Postmarked Fort George Mead, MD, 1 Dec 1944. To Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1, Willshire, Ohio. His return address indicated Co. A, 22nd Battalion, 6th, Regiment.
1 Dec, 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It is Friday evening about 5:10. We have retreat in about a half an hour. We didn’t have anything today except making up different kinds of ? rolls.
I sold that other cigarette lighter. They guys really like that kind of lighter.
It’s about 9:15 now. This evening right after chow I went over to the PX & bought me some Christmas cards and am mailing 15 out tomorrow. I have a lot more ready to send but guess I don’t want to fill up the mail room.
Tomorrow we test our gas masks in the gas chamber and we have from 1:00 Saturday morning until 5:30 Monday morning off.
I can’t think of much more to write so will close. Am feeling fine and hope youins are the same.
The postmark is different on the next envelope: Postmarked from U.S. Army Postal Service 8 Dec 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller. His return address is different now, too: Pvt. Herbert Miller (35845400), Co. G, 3rd Platoon, APO 15665 c/o Postmaster, New York, NY. He was probably getting ready to ship out and go overseas. Someone, likely a family member, wrote on the envelope in pencil, Herbs paper in here. I wonder what paper that was?
7 Dec 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Just a half an hour to go till chow. Sure am getting hungry. We eat breakfast at 6:00, dinner at 11:00 and chow at 4:00. They are giving out some passes tonight, but I don’t feel like going to town tonight. I’m in the mood to see a show again.
They really have a swell library here. After the show last night I went over and read awhile.
I thought I would see Slim Ault or Eugene Case but didn’t see them at Meade or in fact haven’t seen them since my furlough.
I think I’ll sign up for an allotment and send some of my money home each pay day.
I can’t think of any more to write so had better close.
My dad always loved to read. I guess it must run in the family and the love of reading was passed down to me.