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 arrived at Fort McClennan, Alabama, about 10 July 1944 for his Army basic training. His letters continue from there, from where I left off last week:
Postmarked 23 Jul 1944, Ft McClellan, AL, to Miss Helen Miller, RR#1, Willshire:
10:30 Thurs. evening
Dear Helen & all,
I don’t have very much time so will write Catherine, Helen, & all a letter together until I have time. I want to thank Helen for her $1 she gave me. I have it about half spent already. Got a hair cut tonight & cost $.55 so that isn’t so bad. Say that Celina Standard really gets read here. I read it first and then Robert Caywood, Snider and a couple of other guys. I’ve been saving them, they sure are good to read.
It will be a while until I get paid a month or two yet. Went through the obstacle course today. A couple of guys passed out from the heat. One person was going across a ditch on an outfit like a ladder over head and you just go by reaching for one rung then the next. What I was saying this person was sort of heavy and one of the rungs broke. He fell in the water and crawled to the shore, got on the ground and passed out.
I’ve found out there is only two times in the Army. Quick time and double time. Quick time is just ordinary marching and double time is twice as fast and w sure do a lot of double time. Boy those 17 weeks are really going fast. Only 15 more to go. I been in a little over a month and it don’t seem near that long.
We really get plenty of salt down here. Really need it because it sure is hot. I wrote Lisle Adams a letter the other day and got a card from him today.
Imagine the oats is about all thrashed by now. How is the corn coming along. You will have to excuse my writing. My left hand is pretty sore. Got a couple more shots.
Guess I’d better close for now. Have to be in bed before bed check.
Postmarked 24 July 1944, Ft. McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:
Sunday 23 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well it’s Sunday eve again. I just had a telephone call from Dorothy. She said Jiggs & that girl from St. Marys are engaged. Received a box of cookies & card from Clara. I forgot about the ants up here and shoved the box underneath my bunk. The next time I went to the box it was full of ants. So me and the other three guys started to shake and blow the ants off. After we got the cookies free from ants we put them all in a box and suspended it down from the ceiling by a soaped string. We decided if that didn’t keep the ants away we would take four of our canteen cups, fill them with water and set one of the beds in the water by setting one leg in each. You see we had an extra bed. But they didn’t get in the box suspended from the ceiling.
Didn’t I tell youins that I might go to night school and college. Chances are that I won’t but I might. Tomorrow we go on a seven mile hike with full field equipment.
At the end of the cycle we will go on a 24 mile hike to a certain hill and camp out there for three weeks and have maneuvers. We also have to do 34 pushups in a certain length of time and do pretty good on the firing range.
Say, before I forget it you can send me about seven or eight clothes hangers. And I also could use two or three dollars in a couple weeks. We won’t be paid for a month or two and I might use them. I have been going to a few shows and eating quite a lot of ice cream. I’m not out of money but I imagine I could use some.
While I was at Ft. Ben. Harrison the day I shipped out I telephoned Dorothy that I couldn’t come home. If I would have stayed there a few days longer or wouldn’t have shipped out that day, I would have come home. I went in Fri. night and signed up for a 24 hr. pass and could [have] gotten it.
I finally got Vernie’s and Kenny’s shirt ready to mail. They cost 75 cents apiece and also got Ann a present. It is a miniature gun, the same kind they issued to us. I got Dorothy a scarf about 4 ft square of grey silk and yellow tassels around the outside. It also has Ft. McClellan, Alabama, U.S. Army on it.
We really had a good dinner today. Chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolate milk, ice cream, cake, and potato salad.
You will have to excuse my spelling. I guess I can’t spell very good. Must close.
Postmarked 26 Jul 1944, Fort McClellan, Ala, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:
Tues, 25 Jul 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Well it is Tuesday night and I have finally found time to write a few lines. I didn’t get to mail that box yet. The post offices are closed at night and we are busy in the daytime.
We went in the gas chambers today. Went in Chlorine and tear gas. We also had other gasses such as mustard and about five or six other kinds.
Some of the guys are playing the guitars and singing. They are really good at it. Some are from Ky, N.Y., Ohio, Ind, N.C., and all over. I sent you a book showing what our training is like. How are the crops coming along? Is Vernie helping Johnnie any? Are they having any trouble with my car?
The weather down here is still pretty hot. It gets so cold at night that you have to cover up. But in the daytime it is awful hot.
Did dad give “Hanks” [?] a picture of me? I sent Ruth one, also Dorthy and Em & Norval. It is pretty hard to write, there are so many things that we aren’t supposed to tell. We get all the new uncensored and different things.
They also are training for poison gas. They think they will start using it. All of the Infantry men wear gas masks now and have gas grenades on hand just in case.
I ought to write to Johnnies tonight but won’t have time. Will have to wait till tomorrow night. Well will have to close.
Postmarked 30 July, Fort McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:
30 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It is about 8:30 Sunday morning, ate chow about an hour ago. Church doesn’t start until 10:30 so will have time to write the letters. I am behind. I was going to write Bernice but can’t decide whether they are on the Geneva route or on the Berne route. Which one are they on? Ye, my mail is coming though now. Only I haven’t heard from Dorothy for about a week now. I’m not going to write until I hear from her.
I got a letter from Kenneth Ellenberger Saturday and have answered it this morning. Our chaplain is home on a furlough. So a minister from Anniston is coming up today. I got the two dollars yesterday. Sure glad to get it. Thanks a lot. Was going to a show last night but there were a couple hundred soldiers waiting to get in so I went over to the Service Man’s Club and got me a great big cherry sundae and a hamburger and went back to the hut. Some of the guys went into Anniston last night on a pass. I could have had one but didn’t want any.
Yesterday a guy turned his ankle. The Sergeant told everybody to fall in at attention at the end of the class. This guy wouldn’t or couldn’t stand on his one leg. So him and the Sarge went round and round about it. Finally the Sargent told the Captain he wouldn’t fool around with this guy any more and talking back was a court martial offense. And he said he wanted him court martialed. So they are going got.
I’ve been getting a letter a day from youins now. I can hardly wait till I get that box of cookies.
We were out yesterday and were in one of the outdoor classrooms. We march to one of the classrooms and take off our equipment and stack arms in a neat order. Well we were up in the hill in class studying about the compass and it started to rain. After it rained a while we ran down and took the rain coats out of our packs and put them on. Everything was covered with Alabama mud. Rifles, cartridges, belts, packs, and everything. So we had a nice job of cleaning up our equipment yesterday evening. The worst of it was we practiced throwing hand grenades after the rain and half of the fox holes were filled with mud. We had to lay in it and throw the grenades, kneel and stand. We were really muddy.
There is one guy here from New York. His name is Goldman. He is about 40 years old and really a corker. He is always sleeping. One day he was sleeping in class so the Captain made him stand at attention. Pretty soon he was swaying back and forth asleep again. So the Captain had another guy stand behind him with a branch and keep him awake. Yesterday he went asleep while we were throwing grenades. The grenades are brought out in a two-wheeled cart and it was about 1 ½ miles out there. He had to push the cart of equipment, grenades and everything back to camp. He was mad when he came in for supper. The Captain sure gets a kick out of him so do the rest of the guys.
Can’t think of much more to write so will close.
P.S. Sure glad to hear youins are finally getting some rain. I’ll bet the corn don’t look so good.
The next letter is postmarked 1 Aug 1944, Ft. McClellan, AL, to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller:
31 July 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Receive your letters every day now. All my mail is coming through now except a few letters from youins and I’m not getting any mail from Dorothy.
I received your box today. Things were smashed up awful bad they still taste good. I also received a dollar from Caroline today. I have around 4 dollars besides my 2 dollar bill that will last me quite a while. I also receive the Herald and Standard all the time now.
Say, could you have Helen get ahold of a couple of hymnals (church hymns) at Berne, get a couple alike of cheap ones. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. Just so they have some popular church songs in them. The reason I wanted them, there are a couple of guitars who like to play church songs but don’t have the books. Sunday night some of the guys got together. We found a couple of songs in the back of the Prayer Book that Rev. Walber gave me. They played and we all sang. We were singing down in the Day Room tonight here.
Thanks a lot for the money and box. Will have to close now. Go on guard duty tomorrow night and need the sleep.
My dad mentioned that while at Fort McClellan he purchased some items that he sent home to family members. Below is one of them, a pillow that he sent back home to his paternal grandmother Christene (Rueck) Miller. Interesting, too, that Christene was was a German immigrant. Actually my dad’s paternal grandfather, Christene’s husband, was also an immigrant, but he was deceased by that time.
Money seemed to be an issue and he was very grateful when various family members sent him a dollar. What would be next to nothing to us today was evidently a lot back then. My dad’s farm family had enough to get by but they were far from wealthy. It was undoubtedly a sacrifice for the folks back home to send him a dollar.
Some of the relatives mentioned in these letters: Johnny and Clara (Miller) Reef and Howard and Caroline (Miller) Caffee were my dad’s aunts and uncles. Clara and Caroline were his father Carl’s sisters. Bob and Bernice (Brewster) Dudgeon were also his aunt and uncle, on his mom’s side. Red mentioned was Paul Linn, my dad’s sister Helen’s boyfriend at the time. Helen married Red after the war. Em, Vernie, Kenny, Kate, Ann, and Ruth were also my dad’s siblings. Em was dating Norval Weitz. Kenny Ellenberger was my dad’s first cousin, on his mom’s side. The minister back home at Zion Chatt was Rev. Wolber. My dad was dating Dorothy at that time. He did not meet my mother Florence until after the war.
I will continue the letters next week.