Soldier & Foxhole Buddy

A benefit from blogging is that sometimes I receive information from my readers. I love it when bits and pieces come together and we are able share information, make connections, and help each other out. Any additional information makes a nice addition to one’s family history.

A few years back I transcribed and posted my dad’s WWII letters, letters he wrote in Europe and sent home to family.

My dad, Herbert Miller, was trained as a replacement troop during the fall of 1944. He arrived in London around Christmas 1944 and was assigned to Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and France.

Herbert Miller, WWII

My dad took some photos during the war and saved some war mementos. He took the time to label most of the photos and items, something I really appreciate.

One name my dad wrote and mentioned several times is that of his fellow soldier Matt Trefun.

As a result, Matt Trefun’s name has been mentioned in a few of my blog posts. And that is how Matt Trefun’s grand-nephew found references to his great-uncle on Karen’s Chatt.

A couple weeks ago Matt’s grand-nephew contacted me. It turns out that Matt Trefun’s service during WWII mirrored my dad’s. They had several things in common, which is probably why Matt and my dad ended up being good friends. That and the fact they served side by side in the same company of the 84th. They also shared a foxhole.   

Walter “Matt” Trefun was born in Madison, Illinois, 16 September 1918. [1] By 1930 his family moved to St. Joseph County, Indiana, near South Bend and Mishawaka, where he lived the rest of his life. Matt enlisted in the Army on 20 June 1944 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, with his occupation given as farm laborer. [1] My dad enlisted in June 1944 and was also at Fort Benjamin Harrison for a week at the end of June 1944. He sent a letter from there, postmarked 30 June 1944. I wonder if they met while they were both there.

I believe they went to different locations for their basic training but after basic training they arrived in England about the same time. They were both assigned to Company L, 333rd Regiment, 84th Infantry Division.

My dad saved a few things that place the two men together.   

The photo of Matt and my dad shows they were good friends. It looks like my mom printed Trefun’s name on the photo, although she wrote “Mike.” I wonder if at one time my parents were going through photos and labeling them. I also wonder when this photo was taken. There is no insignia on their shirts.

Matt Trefun & Herb Miller

Matt Trefun’s name is one of the names written on this WWII flag from Dulken, Germany. The names written in ink are almost impossible to read but my dad made a list of the names on a separate piece of paper.

Souvenir flag from Dulken, Germany, with names from Co L, 333rd, 84th Div, Railspllitters.

Souvenir flag from Dulken, Germany, with names from Co L, 333rd, 84th Div, Railspllitters.


Names corresponding to names on the flag from Dulken, Germany.

On another list of names my dad wrote Walter Trefun, but Walter and Matt are one and the same. Matt’s full name was Walter Mathew Trefun, but he usually went by Matt. 

Walter Trefun written by Herb Miller on another list of WWII names.

I was also able to connect Matt Trefun to a story my dad told. My dad said that his foxhole buddy was an American-born Serbian who could speak several languages. Some German citizens told his buddy that they were forced to dig a very large grave and that many bodies were buried there. The soldiers alerted their commanders and they did find a mass grave.

Matt Trefun was that American-born Serbian soldier. His parents were both immigrants, both from Yugoslavia. It would not be surprising that Matt could speak several languages.

The name Walter M. Trefun appears in my dad’s Soldier Buddies autograph book. My dad wrote Trefun’s name and the names of 9 other soldiers who served in Co. L, 333rd of the 84th. My dad probably knew them all personally. The autograph book was given to my dad for Christmas 1945. The war in Europe was over by that time but my dad was still there for a time during the occupation. He and Matt Trefun had probably parted ways by that time since Trefun did not write in the book himself.   

Some buddies from the L-333-84th.

The last page in the book has a list of names of men from Co. L, 333rd, 84th Infantry Division, who my dad probably served with:

S/Sgt. Lawrence Broderick, Boston, Mass
PFC Richard Timmons, Wabash, Ind
PFC Walter M. Trefun, South Bend, Ind
PFC Herbert M. Miller, Willshire, OH
PFC Thomas Trowbridge, KY
PFC Harold Curtiss, Mich
PFC John Proctor, Ariz
PFC John P. Groves, Boston, Mass
PFC Peckor
Sgt. Carrol D. Ketzenberger, Ohio
S/Sgt. Wayne Spencer

Matt and my dad both received Bronze Stars, my dad receiving 2 bronze Stars.

Walter “M” Trefun, Bronze Star, 1945.

Pfc. Walter Trefun Routs Patrol in Germany
The Bronze Star medal has been awarded two St. Joseph county men for meritorious achievement in military operations. Pfc. Walter M. Trefun, 24, son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Trefun, 1530 Kemble avenue, received the award for service with the Ninth army in Germany. He prevented a 12-man German patrol from cutting off his squadron from its own line and obtaining valuable information in the Ardennes campaign, and he helped hold off the enemy near the city of Hardt while members of his outfit captured it. Having served in the European theater of operations since last December, he also wears the combat infantryman badge. Private Trefun has two brothers with the navy in the Pacific, Seaman 2/c Louis Trefun, and Machinists’ Mate 1/c Stanley Trefun. [2]

Amazing that Matt had two brothers serving in the military at the same time. Three sons from one family serving at the same time must have been very hard for the family. But they all returned home from the war. 

Trefun brothers, 1945

Meet Again
Machinist’s Mate 2/c Stanley Trefun (right) and Signalman 2/c Lewis Trefun recently met at a Pacific naval base for the first time in two years. They are the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Trefun, 1530 Kemble avenue. Stanley’s ship made a brief stopover and Lewis, who was stationed at the base, took the harbor orders aboard. Stanley saw him come up the gangway. Stanley’s wife, Evelyn, and children reside in Bremen, Ind.

Matt Trefun was honorably discharged on 1 May 1946. [1]

After the war Matt married Mary Mandich on 23 November 1946. [4]

In 1951 Matt worked as a factory worker at Studebaker. He and wife Mary lived with Matt’s parents at 1530 Kemble in Mishawaka. Matt’s father and brother Lewis also worked at Studebaker. [5]

Walter “Matt” Trefun died 24 June 1989. [1]

Walter Trefun
South Bend–Services for Walter “Matt” Trefun, 70, of Dunham Street, who died at 3:40 p.m. Monday in Memorial Hospital, will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church. Burial will be at Sacred Heart Cemetery. Friends may call until 9 p.m. today in Zahoran Funeral [Home]. [6]

All very interesting. What a small world we live in. I wish my dad were here to hear this and tell us more.

[1] U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Walter M Trefun;

[2] PFC Walter Trefun Routs Patrol in Germany, The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Ind, 17 Jun 1945, p.12;, viewed 5 Jan 2023.

[3] Meet Again, The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Ind, 21 Aug 1945, p.19;, viewed 5 Jan 2023.

[4] Trefun/Mandich marriage announcement,The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Ind, 4 Dec 1946, p.19;, viewed 5 Jan 2023.

[5] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Mishawaka, Indiana, 1951, p.796, Walter M Trefun;, viewed 5 Jan 2023.

[6] Walter Trefun obituary, The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Ind, 26 Jul 1989, p24;, viewed 5 Jan 2023.


Skip to comment form

    • Kenneth Miller on January 6, 2023 at 9:23 am
    • Reply

    I remember Herb going to South Bend at least once to meet an army buddy but never knew any details.

    1. I would think Matt was probably that Army buddy. Thanks for this information!

      • Doug on June 8, 2023 at 10:59 am
      • Reply

      Would you be able to guess on the possible decade this took place?

      1. I am not sure if my uncle Kenny will see your question. I will ask him if he remembers and get back with you.

    • Doug Trefun on January 7, 2023 at 12:40 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to post this. I never knew my grandpa Trefun (Lewis Trefun) or any of his brothers since they all died before I was born or was too little. And while almost all traces of them have been wiped away by time. Your dad’s letters home have provided the first real insight into any of my Trefun family from that generation. There are still so many questions I’d want to ask. But for now it truly makes me happy knowing that Pfc Trefun had a friend in Herb.

    Also fun fact, my uncle Matt only worked at Studebaker until they closed in the 50’s. After that he got a job at Notre Dame as a cook. By all accounts he was a loud, foul mouthed, but lovable guy who would yell at the ND football players when they lost.

    Somewhere there is a retirement letter from ND describing his time there (according to my dad). And oddly enough he went by “Wally” at that time.

    1. You are very welcome. Putting information together in a report-form is an organization tool for me and makes it easier to refer back to and share in the future. Yes, they must have stayed in some sort of contact since my Uncle Kenny remembers my dad going to South Bend to visit Matt. I am so glad my dad’s letters and notes give you some additional information about your great-uncle. Evidently he went by both names, Walter/Wally and Matt. Thanks for writing!

    • William Fairchild on April 18, 2024 at 11:33 pm
    • Reply

    My father , Raymond Eugene Fairchild was also in the 84th infantry 333rd division Was in the Bulge and afterwards helped liberate camps in Ahlem and Salzvedel where his interpreter “Hank” was told to tear their stars of David off of their prisoner outfits and throw them on the ground. He later asked Hank to tell them they would never have to wear them again. Hank, would later become famous as Henry Kissinger.

    1. What a story! I knew Henry Kissinger was in the 84th but have not corresponded with anyone connected to him. Thank you for writing and sharing that story.

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