Harold Edward Miller

January 2, 2013
After my visit at the American cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz at the end of December 2012, I decided to adopt a grave there, as I also did before at the Henri-Chapelle cemetery. I made contact with the responsible later that evening and had myself given a random grave. Coincidence or not, but Harold E. Miller's grave is my new adoption grave and he served in the same regiment and division as Clemit Lipe, my first adoption grave. This is the biography of Harold Miller.

Before the war

Harold was born on the 20th of June in 1907 and he grew up in McLean County, Illinois (USA). Harold was the son of Edward and Florence Miller. He had one sister, Mildred. Harold lived the bigger part of his life in Winnebago County, Illinois.


Illinois, United States


McLean County, Illinois


Winnebago County, Illinois


Harold went to high school for 2 years and worked as a salesman. He sang and danced in local theaters, together with his sister Mildred. They were known as two local talents. Harold was a party animal and was very popular among the girls.

He never got married and he was single when he enlisted in the army. In the summer of 1941, when he was at Camp Croft, South Carolina, he met a beautiful young brunette and they started a relationship.

In the army

Harold enlisted in the army on October 15, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois, at the age of 33. After enlistment he was sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina where he went training young soldiers. He taught them the use of bayonets, rifles, machine guns and grenades. Every night Harold was studying hard to prepare training for his men.


Fort Bragg, North Carolina

In March 1941, Harold was transferred to Camp Croft in South Carolina, he was promoted to corporal. In June of that same year he was promoted to sergeant and he led a platoon that existed of 53 soldiers and 2 corporals, he wanted a fighting unit.

It was during this period he started going out with a beautiful 27 year old brunette.


Camp Croft, South Carolina

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans joined the army to fight with the allies and the war became a real World War. Harold though, had no business fighting overseas. The army continued to shift him from base to base in the USA to postpone his going abroad.

In April 1942 Harold was promoted to staff sergeant at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The 78th division, 309th infrantry regiment was re-activated. He had to do a course so he could learn his men aerial map photography and map reading. There were about 70.000 soldiers at Fort Bragg. Harold earned 84,00 dollar/month in that period.

In July 1942 Harold was transferred to Camp Butner in North Carolina, a newly half finished camp. His unit was to become a combat ready unit. It took between 7 and 10 months before they would leave for overseas.

Harold continued to study for a second Lt. promotion, but he didn’t really want the responsibility. In November 1942, Camp Butner was receiving hundreds of men everyday. This meant mass confusion. Harold’s old outfit, the 9th Division, was in Africa, he wishes he was with them.

In August 1943 he was still training troops at Camp Butner. They were learning how to attack fortified positions such as pill boxes using flame throwers, nitroglycerin and dynamite. This was an indication they were going to fight the Germans in Europe.


Camp Butner, North Carolina

In January 1944, Harold visited his mother, his sister Mildred and her newborn son Richard. Harold’s last words to his sister were “I’ll write u from Berlin”!

In February 1944 Harold went on manoeuvers in Tennessee for 2 months. Then he went to Camp Pickett in Virginia where he continued training inexperienced troops 7 days a week for what would be D-Day. Thousands of men poured into camp. Harold felt the army was rushing the men through training too fast.


Camp Pickett, Virginia

In July 1944 Harold was in Henderson, North Carolina. He got hit by a car while waiting for his girlfriend at the bus station. The driver was not paying attention. Harold suffered from a deep chest wound and several stitches in the face. The driver was charged with careless and reckless driving. Harold spent about a month in hospital. There he met a soldier from his old 9th division. The soldier told him only 17 men from that unit were still alive. It was the group that was sent to Africa.

Harold was sent to Europe on November 1 where they could finally fight the Germans. His unit arrived in England where they were lodged in a town called Bournemouth, which was approximately 3 hours by train from London. It took some time, but Harold finally got to visit London where he found where his grandmother Miller lived as a child and to do some general sightseeing. He stayed there only a short time.


Late November 1944 his outfit travelled by train in box cars through France into Belgium. Many towns and villages were bombed by both German and Allied forces. The two big trade items were cigarettes in France and soap in Belgium. A soldier could get just about anything for these two items. His outfit was living in mud  and the weather was cold and raining.

On the 9th of December the division moved to the area of Lammersdorf in Germany where they would start their initial attacks against the enemy. Their first task was to attack and seize the towns of Bickerath and Simmerath. When the towns were cleared of German soldier, they had to move on to Kesternich.

The first field order for the 78th Division in World War II was published on December 11, 1944. Jump-off or attack time was set for December 13.


First combat movement of the 309th Infantry Regiment on December 13, 1944

These moves had not been without the unpleasantries of foul weather. There was also an introduction to the German buzz-bombs that regularly sailed overhead and occasionally dropped into the Division area. Along with the rain and mud there was now also the cold of the German winter. The roads were slippery with snow and the fields were blanketed with snow drifts.

In the early morning of the 13th in the cold and darkness the men of the 309th crawled from foxholes and wet cellars and moved forward over an unfriendly landscape which they knew only from maps. In almost total darkness they crossed the line of departure.

Harolds death

Harold was declared wounded and missing in action on December 13, 1944, that would have been during the first battle of Kesternich. It appears he was involved in the attack on Simmerath. He was one of the first to be wounded by machine gun fire. He most likely suffered a shoulder wound. He died only an hour after going into battle.

All of his action was in the heart of the Siegfried Defense Line. An on site medic believed Harold was taken prisoner while wounded and got killed by a bayonet so the Germans could spare their ammo. The War Department declared Harold dead as of December 14, 1945. His remains were recovered in Bickerath, Germany. They found him thanks to his dog tags. When they found his body, his right femur and left tibia were fractured, his right mandible was missing and the body was already decomposing. Harold was buried at the American cemetery in Neupré (Belgium) on April 4, 1946.

An eyewitness shared following information: "In a small wooded area behind Bickerath to the north lies 1 American body on top of the ground. Fighting took place in and around Bickerath from Sept. 14, 1944 to Dec. 14, 1944. It is believed that the deceased was killed by artillery fire." Informant: Josef Stollenwerk, Bickerath, Germany.

Another report states: "Soldier was wounded near Simmerath, Germany, and given first aid by an aid man. When a patrol was sent back to get him, no trace of this soldier was found".

During Harolds short stay in the war, he earned a Purple Heart. He is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré in Belgium. His grave is located at plot D, row 22, grave 4.


Ardennes American cemetery, Neupré, Belgium

109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division


309th Infantry Regiment


78th Infantry Division


Technical Sergeant


The 78th Infantry Division was first activated on August 23, 1917 at Camp Dix in New Jersey. The division existed of four infantry regiments: the 309th, 310th, 311th and 312th and three artillery regiments: the 307th, 308th and 309th.

It was until only May 1918 before the division was transferred to France to fight in the First World War. The 78th fought in three major campaigns: the Meuse Argonne offensive, the St. Mihiel offensive and the Lorraine offensive. Two soldiers of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor during these campaigns. It was demobilised in June 1919.

The division was reactivated during World War II on August 15, 1942 at Camp Buttner, North Carolina. It was designated as a replacement pool division. It remained like that until March 1, 1943 when the division was restored to field duty and to its training regimen.

After two years as a training division, the 78th embarked for the European Theatre from New York on 14 October 1944, whereupon they sailed for England. They arrived on 26 October 1944, and after further training crossed to France on 22 November 1944. On November 27 they were moved to Tongeren in Belgium and on the 7th they were transferred to Rotgen in Germany.

The 309th Infantry Regiment relieved the 1st Division in the region of Entenpfuhl between December 1 and 12. On December 13 they attacked the villages of Simmerath, Witzerath and Bickerath and were fighting for Kesternich. On December 18 Gerd von Rundstedt launched a counter attack in the region of Monschau.

The 78th Division held the area it had taken from the Siegfried line despite many violent German attacks throughout the winter. The Division attacked Kesternich on January 30, 1945 and took it February 2. On February 8 they took Schmidt and one day later they took the vital Schwmmanauel Dam.

During the coming weeks they crossed the Ruhr and the division joined the offensive of the First and Ninth Armies toward the Rhine on February 28. On March 8 the 310th Regiment crossed the Rhine over the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, the first troops to cross in the wake of the 9th Armored Division.

That unit, attached to the 9th Armored and acting as motorized unit had driven across Germany capturing Euskirchen, Rheinbach and Bad Neuenahr. The 78th Division expanded the bridgehead, taking Honnef and cutting part of the Autobahn on March 16.

From April 2 until May 8 the division was active in the reduction of the Ruhr Pocket and at VE-day it was stationed near Marburg. It remained on occupation duty in Germany until it was deactivated on May 22, 1946.

The division took part in three major campaigns; Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central-Europe, and this during 125 days. Only one soldier received the Medal of Honor (John Edward Kelley of the 311th Infantry Regiment). In total 1.427 soldiers were killed in action, 6.103 got wounded, 231 were missing and 385 were taken prisoner of war.

Contact

I learned about adopting a war grave while surfing the internet. I immediately sent in a request to adopt a grave at the Henri-Chapelle cemetery in Belgium and got one assigned to me on June 13, 2012.

After visiting the Ardennes American cemetery in Neupré later that year I did another request to adopt a grave on this cemetery and Harold E. Millers grave got assigned to me on January 2, 2013.

I started looking on the internet to find as much information as possible on this soldier, but I couldn’t find much. I requested a personnel file, but it got destroyed in a fire in 1973 and I had to pay a big amount for what they were able to recover.

One day my Dutch Facebook friend John Bessems tipped me to contact Andi Hunting, she seems to be an expert in finding relatives of American soldiers that are buried overseas. After mailing her, she answered me later that day and gave me the name of 2 relatives of Harold, along with their addresses and some hints for writing them.

Some days later I wrote letters to Richard and Stephen Wenberg, the sons of Harolds sister Mildred and Stephen Wenbergs wife, Ronette Wenberg, added me on Facebook. We talked and talked and I started mailing Ronette and Stephen frequently, and Stephen told me all this information on Harold you can find here. I’d like to thank them a lot for this, and also a big thank you to Andi for helping me find the relatives, and John for helping me find Andi!

Personal information

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army
Service # 16017052
309th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division, B Company
Entered service from: Peoria, Illinois on October 15, 1940 as a Private

Born: June 20, 1907
Hometown: McLean County, Illinois

Died: December 13, 1944
Status: finding of death (FOD)

Buried: Plot D, row 22, grave 4, Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré, Belgium
Awards: Purple Heart


Purple Heart


Family
Father: Edward Miller
Mother: Florence Smith
Sister: Mildred

More pictures












Sources

- http://www.abmc.gov
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com NARA
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com overseas American cemeteries
- http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.nl
- http://aad.archives.gov
- Andi Hunting
- Stephen E. Wenberg and his wife Ronette, Richard Wenberg
- http://www.findagrave.com
- Die Hard, history of the 309th Infantry Regiment

Any information you can provide me about this soldier, can be mailed to me (nicklieten@hotmail.com). Thank you!