Here are some more letters that my dad, Herbert Miller, wrote home during his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, during the summer of 1944. During that time he was in Company A, 12th Battalion, 8th Regiment. He mentions some of his siblings in the letters: Ruth, Em, Helen, Kenny, and Vernie. Helen was dating Paul “Red” Linn at the time and Red was serving in the Pacific during WWII. Helen and Red eventually married.
5 Sep 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Received your box the other week also received your box today containing cigarettes, peanuts & etc. They really taste good.
About all we are doing now is physical training, firing on range and study of weapons. We fired the carbines Monday. They are a little rifle with a barrel 16 inches long and [weighs] 6 lbs. It fires 15 shots as fast as you can pull the trigger. It really is a nice weapon. I qualified for sharpshooter with it. We will be having night problems a lot from now on. We have a 6 hour night problem Friday night. The best part of it is we get Saturday morning off and in the afternoon have 2 hours swimming.
Has Dad gotten the hen house completed yet? I’m glad to hear my car is starting better. How are the tires holding up?
Well it looks like Germany will give up pretty soon. They will have to because we have been on German soil for quite a few days. When Germany gives up it won’t be over a couple of months to knock off Japan. You remember me telling about Moore going A.W.O.L. Well he came back the other day and before they could court martial him he took off.
Poor Pvt. Goldman. Tonight he was over to the P.X. and somebody put a lighted cigarette on his hat. About ½ of it burnt before he knew it and was he ever mad.
They are getting up a softball team to play the W.A.C.s Thursday night. I think I’ll play. There are a lot of W.A.C.s here. They work in the hospital and drive trucks etc. I went to a show Sunday night. Saw Red Skeleton in “Rainbow Island.” It was really good. I sat beside a sergeant who was in the Sicily and Tunisia Companies in Italy. They had news reel showing the battle in the streets of Paris. I never heard anybody cuss the Germans like he did. He was wounded seriously and was just recovered.
I guess I’d better close for now.
My dad wrote the following letter to his church youth group back home at Zion Lutheran Church in Chattanooga, Ohio. But first he apparently sent the letter to his sister Helen so she could edit it before passing it on:
5 Sep 1944
Dear Youth Council,
It is Tuesday night and since we don’t have every night off I decided to write a few lines to let you all know how I am.
Helen has been sending me the Youth Council Paper. I enjoy reading it, especially the jokes. Say, who thinks them up anyway? I noticed most of the letters in there were from Navy and Marines and since they cannot get along without the Army I better write a few lines for the Army.
I have found out there is only two times in the Army, quick time and double time. Quick time is a rapid walk and double time is twice as fast. We do a lot of both. Likewise the Army has two favorite phrases, “Double time–march” and “break is over, back to work.” We always hate to hear the sergeants say those two. As you know the Alabama weather is very hot, which makes it very uncomfortable to double time or to do exercises.
I saw a show the other night. The title was “Rainbow Island.” It really is a good show. That makes the second show I have seen since I left the vicinity of Chattanooga.
Thursday night Co. A plays the W.A.C.s in a game of softball. It’s a good way to get acquainted. Right?
Guess I’d better close since the lights in the day room will go out in a half hour.
P.S. Helen don’t put this P.S. in the letter but would you correct this letter for mistakes?
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 11 Sep 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
Sunday afternoon, 10 Sep 1944
Dear Mom & All,
I just had chow. Had turkey, dressing, tomatoes, salad, carrots, and ice cream. I have to scrub up my mess gear and canteen cup pretty soon. We eat out in the field tomorrow.
We fired the automatic rifles. They told us to fire them one at a time. Well you squeeze the trigger and release it and quick about five shots go off. We will probably fire the machine gun and mortar next week.
Em wrote and said Vernie and Kenny were really good tomato pickers.
I got a pass for town but don’t think I will use it. I’m going into town some Saturday night and get a few things.
Do you remember the guy whose fox hole caved in when the tank ran over us? His name is Harry Goldman. He went out to the obstacle course and climbed up on the net and had someone take his picture. And that book I sent home, he goes around and had the guys sign their name and put sergeant, corporal, lieutenant, or captain in front of it. Somebody asked him why? He said he wanted to make an impression on his wife.
Guess I’d better close,
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 13 Sep 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
12 Sep 1944
Dear Mom & All,
It’s Tuesday night and don’t have very much time to write tonight. So this letter will be rather short.
Last night my turn came up for detail and didn’t get it finished until 11:15.
Monday we went out and practiced on the different formations for combat patrols. We had eight different problems and we ate in the field. One problem was to knock out a machine gun nest, another to capture a village, another to find and kill snipers, etc. Today we had 2 hrs. of P.R. One hour we ran cross country. We had 4 periods of mortar, 1 period of bayonet practice and 1 period of trentation [?]. That is the discussion of the latest news. There are five armies in France. The Canadian 1st Army, the English 2nd, the American Third Armored Division, the American Seventh Army, and one other American Army. The English and Canadian are in the northern part of France and are fighting in the Netherlands. The one American army (I think the Third Armored Division) has penetrated five miles through the outer Siegfried Line, inside of Germany. The other two American Armies, one which landed in Southern France, will without a doubt connect with the Third and also the Italian Campaign. So you see there will be a line from the Atlantic Ocean at the Netherland border to the Mediterranean Sea.
I imagine the corn is about all cut that is to be cut. Is the tomato season over with yet or is it just getting a good start?
Guess I’d better close,
Postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 15 Sep 1944, addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
15 Sep 1944
Dear Mom & All,
Tonight is Thursday night and am about ready for bed. But decided to write you a letter first.
We fired the machine gun today. They are pretty nice to fire, except they jump around a little bit. Tomorrow we fire the automatic rifle at moving targets. Saturday we fire practice rounds in the mortar. We started out on log drill. Each log weighs about 500-1000 lbs. and there are 6 men to a log. We lift them, throw them, and lot of other different things.
Say, the next time you send a box would you slip in a dime’s worth of hard candy? I’m sort of hungry for it. I haven’t’ eaten any since I’ve been in the Army.
Can Helen get the film? I had my picture taken by one of the boys here. I stripped to the waist and put on my steel helmet and had my rifle and bayonet. I will send you some after I get them.
We ate out in the field every day this week except Tuesday and we go out again tomorrow. Today we had chicken, mashed potatoes, cold slaw, ice cream, iced tea, creamed carrots, and a piece of pie.
How do the kids like school? Vernie’s a freshman this year isn’t he? What subjects are they taking?
I imagine the tomato season is about over. I got a letter from Dale yesterday and he said they are turning out pretty good. I wanted to write him tonight but am getting so sleepy I think I will go to bed.
This is the photo my dad mentioned in the above letter and now we know the story behind it. I always wondered…
The next letter was written to my dad’s sister Helen, postmarked from Fort McClellan, AL, 18 Sep 1944, addressed to Miss Helen Miller, RR#1, Willshire, Ohio, from Pvt. Herbert Miller:
17 Sep 1944
I’m not going to write a very long letter. I don’t have much time. You asked what size of film the camera took. It is 127 or G-127. Either one.
We had bologna for supper and chocolate pudding. Today has been a hot day. It gets pretty chilly at night. Tomorrow we fall out with full field equipment. I don’t know what we do but it will be something. Yes, I would like to read the St. Paul’s League Paper, if you could get it. So Edna Clase and Dobby Gibbons are getting married. There are a lot of them getting married back home.
I’m going to read a comic book and go to bed. I want to get plenty of sleep tonight. Guess I’d better close. Will write soon.
P.S. Tell Helen this camera will be OK. I won’t have so awful much time to take pictures. We only have one more Sunday off before I come home. The rest of the time will be in Libman [?]
All things considered, I think my dad wrote a lot of letters. I really don’t know how he found the time to write to immediate family, extended family, and friends. He also enjoyed taking photos and developing the pictures himself. He had a camera in Germany as well and took photos there during the war.
More letters next week.