By Terry D. Janes
Colonel William B. "Bull" Miller as a 2nd Lt. In 1943
Anyone who has read much of anything on this website has at least noticed the name, if not gathered that I hold a deep respect and admiration for the late Colonel "Bull" Miller. How Colonel Bill and I became friends, and he became my mentor is already amply covered in the beginning of my book, so I won't rehash that here. Suffice it to say, that I loved this man like a father. "Bull" Miller got his nickname because of his large size. Bill was large inside as well as outside. This fierce warrior who had fought three wars and devoted his life to the service of his country, also had a gentle side to him that rarely failed to win people over. Bill was a natural-born diplomat as well as a warrior. He was also very intelligent, as well as truly humble. He never wanted to take credit for things, and would instead give the credit to others.
As this website nears the end of it's third year online, I thought that it is high time to give my old friend some of his due. You see, without knowing it, it was Bill who gave me the idea for creating this website to begin with. I began using computers for telecommunications long before there was an internet, or even Windows software. Communications with the public was limited to the printed word. My goal was to share the history of "Patton's Troubleshooters" with as many people worldwide as possible, in order to make sure they were never again forgotten. There was no way that I could produce and sell enough printed books to accomplish this lofty goal. Colonel Bill and I discussed many ideas for how I could continue, short of winning the lottery. Nothing seemed quite right. Colonel Bill's son had bought him a computer. I suggested that Bill use his computer to link to mine so that I could send him some files. Bill had never considered the practical uses for such a idea, thinking of computers more as isolated, fancy typewriters.
The internet had just come into existence, but few people were actually using it yet. Bill asked me what I thought about this new "internet thing". I explained that I thought it was a great idea, if only enough people came online. I got to thinking that if it did in fact become more commonplace, it could become a great communications tool, and might just be what I had been seeking. I shelved the idea in the back of my mind, and got on with life. In April 1999 I went to Nashville, TN. for a business meeting. On my way home to Kansas City, I drove past Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In 1943, when the 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils were there, it was called Camp Campbell. The Red Devils were born and raised (trained) there. As I drove up the interstate alongside the fort, the sun was just setting, leaving the hills and woods shrouded in ghostly shadows. I could almost see old Sherman tanks moving amongst the trees. The mental image was profound, and left me with goose-pimples. I couldn't help but think about Colonel Bill, and could almost feel his presence. I promised myself to call him when I got home and tell him about it. He'd get a chuckle out of it, and probably be reminded of a great story or two about Campbell, and we would have yet another warm conversation as friends do. I always enjoyed talking with Bill. In fact, I had talked to him a week earlier, and we had a good talk. He had informed me that his knee was giving him fits, but he was fine otherwise. He did surprise me by saying he wouldn't be attending any more Blue Ridge Reunions. I didn't understand that. I assumed that maybe someone had pissed him off, and he didn't want to discuss it, so I let it drop.
When I returned home from the Nashville trip, I called Bill to tell him about my experience. I was shocked to hear his ex-wife answer the phone. She didn't live there, and I couldn't imagine why she was answering his phone. I asked for Bill, and she curtly informed me that he had died, been cremated and had his ashes spread at sea. Evidently, he had suffered a sudden heart attack and died. I was crushed to learn my friend was gone so suddenly. Life went on, and I soon found myself facing the loss of my mother a year later. Two years later, I resigned from my job with an heir search firm. I decided to start a research services company of my own. By this point, the internet had grown tremendously, and showed no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I knew that to compete, my research company would need a website. I bought the domain and hired the hosting service. I created a little one-page site that announced to the world "The Troubleshooters Research Services Company was in business!" Big deal. Who wants to hire a research company based upon a one-page ad, without knowing what kind of experience you have, right? Well, I created two more pages, that listed my accomplishments. One of the biggest accomplishments centered around the history project I had been working on since 1985.
"Bull" Miller's Crew, 1943
Suddenly, it dawned on me! Without realizing it, I had given myself the chance to do what Colonel Bill and I discussed. I had all this web space I'd paid for, I had just taught myself how to create a website, and here was the perfect media to reach people worldwide, and tell them about "Patton's Troubleshooters"! In my mind, I could almost hear Colonel Bill's chuckle. At that point, this website changed. It's whole reason for being changed. I changed. We are now getting ready to begin our fourth year online, and the site keeps growing! I credit my old friend Colonel Bill for inspiring me. If it weren't for him, I may never have gone beyond that one pitiful page, and all the help I have been able to give to people, at no charge, would never have happened. I'd like to tell you more about my old friend and mentor. The following is from his official US Army Biography:
"Colonel William B. Miller was born 29 June, 1919 in Clarksburg, W.V. He received a B.S. Degree in Education from the University of Georgia. His military education included the Associate Course, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1956, Nuclear Weapons Employment Course #6, US Artillery and Missile School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1964, Military Advisor Institute, Washington D.C. in May 1968, and United States Army Management School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia in January 1971.
Colonel Miller entered military service 21 October, 1942 and served in an enlisted status until May 1943 when he received his commission after graduating from OCS at Fort Knox, Ky. He was then assigned to Company B, 702nd Tank Battalion, Camp Campbell, Ky., where he served as Platoon Leader and Company Commander (June 1943-June 1945). He next served as Company Commander, Company B, 805th Replacement Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky from June 1945-October 1945. He was in civilian status from October 1945 until October 1950. He then served as Registrar and Instructor in the Reserve Command and General Staff School, Fort Meade, Md. From October 1950-June 1951. From July 1951-November 1952, he was assigned with the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Division, Headquarters 8th Army in Korea as Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, and Regimental S2 and S3. He was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia from November 1952 until June 1954, and served as an Instructor and Training Publication Officer in the Army Extension Course Department. He attended the Command and General Staff College from June-December 1956 [Ironically, he wasn't aware then, that just blocks away from him in the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery, his first Platoon Sergeant and friend, my uncle, S/Sgt. Frank L. Ream Jr. lay buried]. He departed for France in December 1956 and was assigned to Operations Division of G3, HQ COMZ. He returned to the States in November 1959 and served as Operations Intelligence Officer for the Assistant Chief of Staff, Department of the Army, Washington D.C. until October 1962.
His next assignment was Operations Intelligence Officer, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C. October 1961-June 1964). From July 1964-June 1965, he served as Operations Intelligence Officer, Eighth US Army. He arrived at Fort Jackson in August 1965 and was assigned as Commanding Officer, 3rd Battalion, 1st Training Brigade until 30 June 1966. He then assumed duties as Commander, US Army Reception Station. On 1 June 1967, Colonel Miller organized and assumed command of the US Army Personnel Center, which was composed of the US Army Reception Station, US Army Overseas Replacement Station, US Army Transfer Station and a Returnee Reassignment Station located in Charleston Air Force Base, Charleston, SC. In July 1968, he was assigned to the Military Advisory Group, Athens, Greece, where he initially became Chief, Operations, Plans and Training, and later became Deputy Chief, US Army Section of the MAG. He returned to the States in November 1970 and was assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky in December of that year. On 7 February, 1971, Colonel Miller assumed command of the Committee Group, Army Training Center, Fort Campbell, Ky." Colonel Miller retired from military service out of Florida, and lived until his death in Redington Beach, Florida. He organized the 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils Association, and arranged reunions of the Red Devils each year, until passing the reigns down to younger men. He was a member of the 80th Division Blue Ridge Association, and was the only member of the 702nd to attend most of the Blue Ridge Reunions. Many of the Red Devils felt unwelcome at the Blue Ridge Reunions, and in the division veteran's association. Colonel Miller persisted to the end in trying to bridge the gap of understanding between infantry and tankers, brothers in arms.
When I asked Colonel Bill for an autographed photo of him, he gave me this. It had his autograph, and he was in it (left), but he considered it more interesting because it was taken on the occasion when he met the famous S.L.A. Marshall, rather than just being one of him. Bill was a very humble man at heart.
"His decorations and awards include the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five campaign stars, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal with four stars, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device and two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and six overseas bars." I pestered Colonel Bill for years to tell me about why he was awarded his first Bronze Star in World War Two, when he was Company Commander of B Company, 702nd Tank Battalion. Humble man that he was, he never would tell me. I found out later, that the Battalion Commander of 3rd Battalion, Major Karl Neussner, put Bill in for the Bronze Star. Bill was out on the battlefield, leading his company of tanks, when he spotted a wounded infantry lieutenant. Bill ordered his driver to go near the body of the wounded man, and under intense mortar, artillery and direct fire, picked up the infantry officer and carried him back to the medics at the command post. That was Bill. Always cool as ice under fire. He didn't want to talk about it, because in his mind, he was only doing what needed to be done, and he didn't need thanks for that. He knew that if the situation were reversed, that infantryman likely would have done the same for him. That is how Bill saw things. He didn't consider himself a hero. But he was a hero to me, and to many others who were lucky to know him.
Recently, I made a new friend. I was familiar with his name through the Blue Ridge Service Magazine, and I remembered Colonel Bill spoke fondly of him as a fellow member of the Florida Chapter of the Blue Ridge Assn., as well as the VBOB Chapter. The man is Gerald V. "Virgil" Myers, G Company, 317th Regiment, who served on the Executive Council for the 80th Division Assn., and is currently Commander of 80th Post #47, Florida, and President of Chapter #32, VBOB, West Florida. Virgil wrote to me recently, asking my help in making an announcement on the website. I was happy to lend a hand. Virgil and I began talking about Colonel Miller, whom we both counted as a dear friend. Virgil wrote "I didn't know Col. Miller during my time in service, but met him at one of the 80th Div. Reunions and become very good friends with him over the years that followed. My first combat was at Sivry, France, about 12 miles SW of Pont A Mousson. That was a frightening 2 days for this naive new GI. 168 of us went into Sivry --the second evening we were told to pull out, and only 40 of us walked out, amidst artillery and mortar fire. I do remember Farebersviller as if it was yesterday. I don't have any pictures since a camera was just excess baggage for foot soldier to carry. Actually a camera was the last thing I was thinking about at that time. When I arrived at the 317th Inf., I remember the fellows talking about Gen. McBride's failure as a leader in serious situations, but accepted his problems because he was a General and had pull in the Army, they thought. …I'm glad you were able to know Col. Miller; he was one of my favorite people."
"The following poem was read to our VBOB Chapter 32, just a meeting or two before he passed away. I thought you might enjoy it. It was as if he knew something was going to happen to him.
MISS ME---BUT LET ME GO---
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me-- but let me go.
For this is a journey
That we all must take
And each must go alone
It's all a part of the Master plan -
A step on the road to home
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows
In doing good deeds.
Miss Me---but Let Me Go.
- - Author Unknown
I was going through some material tonight for our next VBOB Meeting, and come across the above poem, with a note from Col. Bill saying "This copy is for you, Virgil". I just wanted to share it with his friends."
I would like to thank Virgil for sharing this with us. I can just see Bill Miller reading that. That was Bill; ever the warrior, but always putting others first. Somewhere up there, I know Bill is watching all this and smiling. He's probably embarrassed at the attention I have drawn on him here, but I think everyone who knew him would agree it is justified. I'll "Miss Him, But Let Him Go" until we meet again. Thanks Colonel Bill! You made a world of difference! Mission Accomplished.
After writing and publishing this piece, I got the following message from former Corporal John "Bucky" Weaver. "Bucky" served under the then Lt. "Bull" Miller during training stateside, and in combat until just before the Moselle battles, when he was injured and sent to the hospital in England. "Bucky" was my uncle's Tank Gunner, and right hand. About Colonel Miller, Bucky says: "He was truly a GI's officer. In camp he played touch football and softball with the enlisted men and in combat he was fearless. He was the first one I crawled to when our tanks were hit at Argentan and, as we lay in the grass while tanks were burning, we could see General McBride, yards away, chastising Capt. Stover as the latter refused to bring another platoon through the same trap. You know the rest of the story."
© 2016 Opinicus Publishing Company-All Rights Reserved