This is the next installment of the letters my dad wrote home during his WWII service and during his training time leading up to the war.
My dad, Herbert Miller, was 18 years old in 1944 when he volunteered for the draft. He graduated from Willshire High School the spring before and worked on the local pipeline during the year before he entered the service.
After spending 2 days at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, for his pre-induction physical in May 1944, he arrived at the Reception Center at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana, on or about 29 June 1944, where he was inducted into the Army.
In his last letter from Fort Benjamin Harrison he wrote that he would be shipping out for basic training on 8 July 1944, headed for Fort McClennan, Alabama.
His letters continue from Fort McClennan:
Postmarked 12 July 1944, Fort McClellan, Ala, from Pvt. Herbert Miller, Co A-12th Bn, 8th Regt, I.R.T.C., Ft. McClellan, Alabama. To Mr. & Mrs. Carl F. Miller, Willshire, RR#1, Ohio
United States Army
Fort McClennan, Alabama
11 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well it is night again and will have time to write a letter or two. We don’t have so awful much time to spare. This camp is a very big camp and its trained infantry men are the second best in the United States. So will probably be trained good and the going tough.
Back at Indianapolis I was sworn in by a War Officer. They brought in some 18-20 Japanese (American born) to be trained. I talked to one for quite a while. He said he would fight the Germans but not the Japs. We also had a full blood German who was 39 years old, he came to the U.S.A. twenty years ago and boy he is a really nice guy. They drafted one guy from Indiana who was 45 years old and had nine children. They sent him a notice and he didn’t get it so they sent 6 M.P. after him and brought him there.
Here at this camp they have lots of prisoners of war (German). They don’t even guard them. In fact they are glad they are out of the war and don’t even try to escape.
Camp McClennan is built on about 15 or 20 hills and covers some 29,000 acres. So it is quite a large place. It is very old and we stay in little shacks which will hold about 6 men.
I’m not with Hoblet or any of those other guys, but there are a lot of guys from Celina who I know. Say would you send me my pope. It is either in the car or in the house. I would like to have it and I could use stationery. I imagine youins know I’m buying a $25 bond every month and $6.58 out for insurance. There will be a laundry fee. So quite a bit will come out of the check.
You say Norval bought the pigs? How were they, fat? Has Dale heard from the Army yet?
I imagine the wheat and oats are about all cut, shocked and thrashed and hay ready to cut again.
Do you know how far Ft. McClellan is from Willshire? Aprox 800 miles!
Can’t think of much more to write. Am fine, have gained about five lbs. but will that & some more worked off.
Will close for now & write later.
His next letter to his parents:
Fort McClellan, AL
14 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well today is Friday. They issued us rifles, bayonets and all other equipment. The rifle is a 30 cal. 9 shot automatic-gas operated or the M-1 (Winchester).
I haven’t heard from you yet here but mail call will be in about five minutes. We have mail call at 12:30 and at 5:30. Today they showed us around the camp. It is quite large. They have two amphitheatres, 4 theatres, and a lot of other things. We won’t start our training until Monday.
There hasn’t been much happening lately. In our hut there are two Kentuckians, two Ohioans, and two New Yorkers. I would like to get Don Hoblet’s and Fred Betzel’s address if you could get them.
In our training we have 14 weeks of Physical Training, called P.T., and marching and drilling. Then in the last three weeks we have maneuvers. That’s where we crawl under machine gun fire, mines, and explosives going off around us, and mortar and cannon fire ahead of us.
Just had chow. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, Southern cream chicken, lettuce salad, and pumpkin pie. Oh yes, 1 salt tablet to help stand the heat. But they didn’t have mail call. Me and my buddy has a way of getting out of extra work. We change from fatigues to sun tans right away before chow. They usually call out 15-50 men in fatigues for detail work or K.P.
There is a guy in the hut across the street who has a guitar and boy he can really play and sing.
How are things coming along at home?
If I hadn’t been shipped from Ft. Harrison last Sat. & Sun. I would have come home. I had a 24 hr. pass and was going to surprise youins but they canceled all passes because of the train wreck and they had to send some men on Sunday to make up for them.
So will wait for my 15 day furlough at the end of my Basic. Well must close for now and will write late or soon I mean.
My dad also wrote letters to his siblings. The following letter was written to his sister, Helen, who lived at home with their parents. It is dated Sunday 17 July 1944, from Fort McClellan:
I went to church this morning and am sending the bulletin. I have the day off but I think I will go to a show this afternoon.
Friday night I went to a stage show at the U.S.O. amphitheater. It was really good.
It seems like it is getting hotter every day. Yesterday it was 98 degrees in the Day Room and it has an electric fan, and about 105 outdoors. I keep taking salt tablets all the time.
Yesterday afternoon our Lieutenant took us swimming and was it ever nice.
The hut I stay in is built on a hill. Down one side of the hiss is the mess hall and down the other side is the latrine. There are about 43,000 acres around here that the government owns. Everywhere you look there are hills.
Oh yes, when we were swimming yesterday some WACS came to the pool but the corp. told them to come back in the eve, because we were all in G.I shorts (underwear) & I would get through swimming at 4:00.
Tomorrow the rest of the guys start training. I don’t because I noticed my name was on the bulletin board for K.P. Mon. & Tues. So will have two days training to make up. Lot of them had K.P. last week.
Last week we would go out on detail one day and get off the next. The PX’s don’t open up until about 4:30-9:00 so I slept then.
It is pretty hot down here and ice cream tastes pretty good. So the guys in our hut usually buy a pint a night but that runs into money.
I’m not spending as much money here as I did at Indianapolis. Outside of buying the kids those things I haven’t spent over 75 cents, fifty of which went for stationery. Stationery is pretty expensive around here so you can send that what Em bought.
At Harrison we didn’t have hardly anything to do and I bought a few cakes [?].
Well am getting about to the end of the page so will close.
Interesting to read that my dad wrote about eating ice cream. He loved ice cream! I remember him saying that he got his taste for ice cream while he was in the service. That he was too young to drink beer so he ate ice cream instead.
The next letter was written to his sister Catherine “Kate” and is dated July 20, 1944:
Dear Catherine & All,
It’s Thursday night, about 9:30 to be exact, and I am trying to write. I’ve been watching some of the guys trying to weave helmet netting. It is woven the same way that fish netting is woven. It looks as hard as the devil. I think I will weave mine on the wall of my barracks instead of a nail driven in the desk here.
I feel like a pincushion tonight. It took us all morning to take shots. We had three shots, one for lock jaw, two for typhoid, a small pox vacc. & blood test and type. Three in one arm, one in the other, and one in the end of my finger.
Yesterday we went out on a hike. While we were coming back it started to rain so we stopped and put on our rain coats and kept on walking. Today we started to take exercises and it started to rain. It was about 5:00 so we went back to our barracks and had mail call then chow. Something must be wrong with the mail. I’ve only been getting one letter in the last five days. I haven’t even been hearing from Dorothy. There is a guy in our barracks who has received 24 letters in the last five days and his mail comes through like that all the time.
You say dad has been having trouble with his tires. Vernie said he blew out one on his car.
Is my calf growing very much? How are the grain crops turning out?
I received a box from youins and from Johnnies yesterday at the same time. Clara sent stationery, Bible with a steel plate, and some chewing gum. I am chewing some of the gum now. Thanks a lot for the box. It sure feels good to get boxes even if I don’t get very much mail.
The other day when we were out on the hike I heard a heck of a noise coming up the road aways. Looking up I saw a group of tanks coming about 35 miles an hour.
Well can’t think of much more to write. Tell Vernie, Kenny, and Ann not to get mad because I don’t write. Tell them the letter is for all of them. It is pretty hard to find much time but I’ll try to write them later.
P.S. I receive that special delivery from Mr. Morrison but it won’t help any. I’ve about as much chance of getting in the radio outfit as the rest of them.
I wonder how my dad got the time to write all these letters. After all, he had to be very busy and tired. One thing for certain, they looked forward to receiving letters and packages. Mail call was probably the high point of the day. I also noticed that my dad always wanted to know how things were going at home, on the farm and with the family.
The letters continue next week.