Even war couldn’t keep them apart

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By Nancy Schaar
FPS Reporter

Dean Miller

Dean Miller

When the guns of war were raging during World War II, two local brothers joined and served together for their country.

Twin brothers Dean and Charles Miller have lived their lives side by side and served their country in the same way.

The brothers were born May 22, 1922, and will turn 95 on Memorial Day this year. They grew up and lived their entire lives on the family farm on Plum Run just outside of Bowerston. They are the sons of the late Clyde and Gladys Brown Miller. They graduated from Bowerston High School in 1940.

Dean was drafted in March of 1943, and Charles insisted he was going along. They were always together. From childhood, school days, milking the cows on the farm, even double dates, they were side by side and they were going to war together, too. They even had special orders that traveled with them stating they were not to be split up.

“It was just what was right. If he was going, so was I,” said Charles.

After basic training, they had to wait on service orders, so the army assigned them to be the groundskeepers for an officer serving at Fort Riley. That officer turned out to be Oleg Cassini, the famous fashion designer, and his wife, movie star Gene Tierney. Dean commented, the wife was always very nice but Oleg was kind of mean to people.

The next leg of their service was at Camp Hood in Texas and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. There, they were joined with the 70th Division Trailblazers and sailed on the Mariposa from Boston in 1944. They landed in Marseille, France, Dec. 10, 1944, at a point that held special meaning for them, as it was the same place their father had landed during World War I.

Their sailing had one very close call when a German rocket almost hit the ship but blew up in the water alongside instead, according to Dean.

“I remember going up the gangplank as we boarded the ship at Boston. It’s like it was yesterday,” said Charles. He remembers, after getting off the ship, seeing all the burned out vehicles and guns and even a cross with the helmet of a dead German on it.

He added seeing the tracers for the first time overhead sure scared him. He was carrying ammo for their mortars when the German bullets sprayed through the trees. He remembers shrapnel spraying the jeep he was driving one time but he didn’t get a scratch.

The brothers were attached to the Third Army Division commanded by General George S. Patton.

Combat started eight days later and the boys endured continuous combat for 83 consecutive days. The fighting they experienced sent them through the campaigns of Ardennes-Alsace, the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland and Central Europe. They were heavy weapons ammunition bearers.

Their division experienced their first casualties almost immediately as they stood directly in the path of Hitler’s southern pincer, Operation Nordwind.

Dean said they worried about each other during those 83 days. Although they were there together, they weren’t side by side or manning the same equipment and weren’t able to actually see each other. He also remembered all the snow and severe cold, even worse than Ohio winters back then.

When the war ended, the twins went to Antwerp, Belgium, where they boarded a ship for the South Pacific. But after a day and a half at sea, Charles said the Japanese surrendered and they were sent to Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, to assist with repatriate services. They still managed to have a few unusual adventures during their service there.

Dean was selected to drive an officer to Florence, Italy, to get married. He enjoyed the opportunity and was able to also tour Rome. While in Austria, Charles had use of a jeep and enjoyed seeing the countryside.

Charles was chosen to escort news photographers across the mountains in Austria to Berchtesgaden, Germany, which was Hitler’s famous mountain hideout.

Dean remembers a time when he and a buddy were sent out in a jeep. Shelling started and he jumped into a ditch on one side of the road and his buddy went into a ditch on the other side. Neither took a hit but the jeep was destroyed.

The brothers saw plenty of war, and had plenty of unusual and exciting experiences during their time of service. They were thankful when they boarded the SS Sea Sturgeon in March of 1946 for the trip home.

They sailed from LeHavre, France, but five days away from the United States, the ship hit a large ice flow and one of the ice bergs in the ocean. The side of the ship was ripped open and they thought the ship would sink. They were taken to a higher deck from their quarters.

The LeHavre limped into the port at New Jersey March 21, 1946. The twins lost their personal belongings in the ship and were disappointed to have lost all their photographs and mementos of their service time.

The “Miller boys,” as they have always been known in the area, received the America Campaign Medal, Bronze Stars, European African Middle East Campaign Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, four Battle Stars, Efficiency Honor, Combat Infantry Badge, Rifle Badge and Drivers Badge.

Following discharge, they returned home to the family farm where they married and built their homes only a short distance apart. They both married and raised their families on Plum Run.

They have quite a few letters they wrote to their parents while in the service. Both men told mom and dad how they were getting along and the conditions under which they served. Their mom kept them all those years.

They asked if the spring planting was done and Dean asked if his mom would send him a wallet since he had lost his. Dean described his supper ration and the difficulty in eating. He had some kind of canned meat and eggs which usually made him sick. He also had one stick of gum, a candy bar, and four crackers. He wrote a few days later that “the war is looking real now”.

Dean also asked his mom to send soap and razor blades and said it was very difficult to keep clean where they were camping.

Charles wrote he was hungry but the food wasn’t very good. He said they did have some kind of meat for supper last night and potatoes for a change. He asked about the new colt. He said he had been doing a lot of driving lately and that evening he came in just as his brother was being sent out to drive an officer somewhere.

Dean wrote in one letter about the weather they were having and then asked if his parents heard Hitler was dead. “That makes two big shots that are dead,” said Dean. The next sentence asks about the neighbors and how everyone was doing.

Their closeness continued as they worked side by side at Evans Pipe Co. and U. S. Concrete inUhrichsville. When those plants closed, they continued to work together until 1985 at Reymond Machine in Brightwood.

Following the deaths of both of their wives several years ago, they moved in together once more. They shared the daily tasks and yard work too. One will cook dinner, the other cleans up and they’d switch and take turns with the chores. They enjoyed mowing the yard together.

Things are much quieter now for the twins and their age has brought a few health issues recently but memories pop up every now and then and they are taken back to those days of war and are thankful they came home.