Jack Lloyd Miller
- Born: 14 Mar 1923, Poplar St., Flint, Michigan
- Marriage (1): Jean E. Kellogg on 8 Aug 1942 in Reno, Nevada
- Died: 31 Oct 2008, Fort Worth, Texas at age 85
From Kenneth Miller---
My brother Jack enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor. Following is something he wrote after the war, and the 2002 letter with which he sent it to me.
First the letter.
August 12, 2002
Finally made an effort to locate the story I wrote after the end of the war in May of 1945.
After re-reading it I was amazed at how many "typos" and miss-spelled words there were. However, hope it will give you a little insight into what went on with the 78th F.G. during those years.
Everytime I try to talk about those years, I have a hard time. So many things I want to say come to mind that I almost babble and in retrospect don't seem to make much sense. Even re-reading "A Backward Glance", it seems so empty, there were so many more things to be said, so many more experiences to be written down.
Oh well, it was a long time ago, and best be forgotten!
And now the story:
25 May, 1945
"A Backward Glance"
Now that the censorship restrictions have been lifted, I'll try and tell you just what has been happening to me and the 78th Fighter Group since the night of November, 1942, which seems to have been years and years ago.
The movies always portray the embarkation of troops as a very gay affair with crowds cheering and bands playing, but it is really a very different situation altogether. If I remember correctly, we loaded on a train at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, about 10 PM, November 23, 1942, to start our journey to: we didn't know where at the time.
Rain and mudpuddles, items that seem to be ever present during troop movements, were in their full glory that night even in New York. Have you ever seen a picture of "Sad Sack" loaded down under burdens about twice the size of himself? That is what we all looked like that night trudging through the rain. Full field pack, rifle slung over the shoulder (dragging on the ground half the time) and that mountainous "A" bag. It is surprising how much weight a person can pack in one of those glorified laundry bags, because after about a block they feel like they weigh a ton (at least).
They loaded us on a ferry on the N.J. side of the bay to take us over to the pier from which we were to depart. Looking across the bay, I got my one and only look at New York City which was only a faint outline because of the blackout. When we arrived at the pier, our journey started up, and it was really up! Climbed stairs until I thought we must surely be halfway to heaven. What a job climbing those stairs with that "A" bag. Our upward travel, which we thought with relief was over on reaching the checking room on the pier, had only just started. How easy it is to leave the United States through the courtesy of the U.S. Army. A checker at the end of the gangplank calls your last name and all you do is give your first name and middle initial and you're in. Cross the short gangway and you are as good as on the other side of the ocean. Another man hands you a couple of tickets, one with your room number and another telling you what time to eat chow. Then the fun begins, looking for your room. Our detachment, much to my liking, was all billeted on "A" deck, only one deck below the topside. We must have boarded the ship about halfway down because we had to go up about six decks to get to "A".
After stumbling and struggling upstairs for about another 15 minutes, finally arrived on "A" deck and started looking for room 45 which I was to bunk in and it was all mine (oh yeah). Had a beautiful little single room with bath, birdseye maple woodwork, built-in lights and everything, but just imagine sharing a single room with eleven other guys and all the equipment and baggage we were carrying. They had four sets of triple deck bunks built in that little place that was hardly big enough to hold one human size bed.
After much horseplay and wisecracking we finally got settled down for the night on our nice comfortable bunks of hard boards, strawticks and two blankets.
Our slumber was interupted about 5:00 a.m. the next morning by the clanging of the emergency bell so we all scrambled into our clothes, grabbed our life-jackets and went topside to se what was going on. It was only a lifeboat drill to acquaint the personnel with their lifeboats and stations in case of an emergency. We had no sooner fough our way back to the cabin when someone shouted we were moving, which turned out to be all too correct. The moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived and the trip to the other side was underway via the Queen Elizabeth thru the courtesy of the British Navy. She is a mammoth ship and as a conveerted troopship carried thousands of men. There were guesses ranging all the way from 10,000 to 20,000 men aboard. A continual stream of men had been boarding her for two days while docked at the pier there in New York.
Hanging far out the porthole I caught the last glimpse of the New York skyline and waved goodbye to the Statue of Liberty standing there proudly in the murky gray dawn with her torch held high.
About 9:00 AM we went up on deck to have a look around and found that we had picked up an escort of three destroyers, Being the month of November, the wind was really blowing and the waves were running pretty high. They were running so high that they almost came up to the rail of the promenade deck where we were standing and I thought how lucky we were to be on "A" deck instead of 14 decks below where some of the GI's were sleeping. The ship was rolling quite a bit even though it was so big, but the small destroyers were really having a time of it. They would go almost out of sight at times when a big wave hit them.
Our escort didn't stay with us very long, as the Queen Elizabeth is a very fast ship and can outrun almost anything either on the surface our under. Every three minutes she changed course so we were running a zigzag pattern all the time.
No sooner had the escort turned back then the rumors started to fly thick and fast as they always do on a troopship. Submarines trailing us, orders to turn back, pack of subs waiting to intercept the ship, and all the old favorite standbys. Everyone just sorta laughs them off, but deep down inside it gives you a funny feeling after looking out there and seeing nothing but miles and miles of water.
Our course the first day and night out must have been to the south as the weather turned very warm and most of us slept without blankets. The second day we swung north and made a beeline for England which we learned a couple of days later was our destination, when they passed out booklets titled "Guide to Great Britain".
The big disadvantage of being on a Limey ship was the chow. What a mess they served us for food. The main dish was mutton which just about turns my stomach to smell. It would take hours to sweat out a chow line which wound its way all the way from the Mess Hall to "A" deck about four flights above. When at last the line had advanced far enough that old familiar smell of mutton would drift up the stairs and I'd just turn around and go back to the cabin. They had a P.X. way up in the bow of the boat that sold Nestles Chocolate Bars by the box and PepsiCola so that was my main diet. Never went to the Mess Hall to eat more than twice all during the whole trip. One of the cooks had quite a racket worked up. At night he would come around with a box full of ham sandwiches; just two slices of bread with a slab of ham between them, but I never tasted any better sanwiches in my life. No one knew where he managed to get the ham nor did any one ask any questions because they were all so glad to get something edible.
Another problem was the washing and keeping clean business. Have you ever washed your face or tried to shave with salt water? What a thrill! It's an impossibility to work up a lather with soap, and the salt from the water sticks to your skin clogging all the pores and making your face hard and dry.
Orders on board ship were to not be doing any unnecessary moving about the ship from one deck to another, but we were continually roaming around and exploring things. The men were packed on that boat like sardines and if the Jerry had ever caught her it would have cost the government millions of dollars in loss of men and equipment.
As usual, the card and crap games were going in full swing at all hours of the day and night. There were some Canadians, British, and Aussies on board and many of our fellows wound up with a fistfull of money still not knowing what they had.
Many of the fellows got seasick from the continual rolling of the boat. The pitching was so severe at times that it made it difficult to even walk around. One minute you'd be leaning way to the right and the next to the left; one minute you'd be walking with your knees up around your ears, and the next you would feel as if an elevator had suddenly dropped from beneath your feet. Little Joe Oliver, I think he is sort of afraid of water anyway, was sick from the time he stepped on the boat till we docked. He never left his bunk.
One day they came around asking for volunteers to stand airplane watch topside, and just for the change, I stepped up. They took four of us way up to a little metal crow's nest which was welded on to the front of the forward stack. What a wind there was up there. It was all one could do to hold on. Even then, the feet would be fluttering out behind like a racing horse's tail. No planes were spottted during our four hour shift, but a couple of ships off in the distance seemed to cause quite a bit of excitement up on the bridge which we could look down on from our lookout. Never did find out what they were.
Day by day the tension grew aboard. Sweating out a trip across the ocean is no easy task for a land bound soldier. The morning of the fifth day out someone raised the shout of "Land, Ho" and everyone rushed topside to see if it was true. Sure enough, laying off our port bow was the southern tip of Ireland. You could just feel the tension ease when land was sighted and everyone walked around with a big smile on his face.
Spent all that day working our way up the Firth of Clyde and about 10:00 PM that night, 29th November, 1942, dropped anchor in the harbor at Greeneck, Scotland. Our long journey over water was finally completed and everyone slept much better that night.
Early the next morning, we all got up and made ready to leave the ship. About 9:00 a.m. they called out our unit number and we started that long trip down, deck after deck, to the waterline where we were loaded on a small lighter (British word for Tender) for the trip to shore. After we pulled away from the ship a half mile or so did I realize what a monster the Queen Elizabeth really was. Even though she was anchored about a mile offshore, she seemed to fill the complete harbor. Although we had taken only five days to cross the Atlantic, it was a relief to plant two feet on something solid and which was not continually pitching from side to side.
They hurried us right along and we didn't have much of a chance to observe our surroundings. Working fast as they did, it still must have taken two days to unload the thousands of troops that were aboard.
Our first big laugh at the difference between the old and the new world was their trains. Working up and down a grade opposite the window of the one we were on was the smallest engine and freight cars I'd ever seen. They looked almost like toys. Four of the little freight cars could easily be put into one of ours.
Our welcome in Scotland was very cheery and it was easy to see the difference between the people here that had been at war for three years already and the people at home. Every station we came to smiling ladies came along the cars passing out hot tea and crumpets, and even though I don't like tea something hot tasted mighty good after living on chocolate bars and Coke for five days. Every little village we went through people all waved and shouted a greeting.
The afternoon was a bright sunny one and we passed through some very beautiful country of long rolling hills and woodland. Everyone started to think this wasn't going to be half bad, but we were to learn later that when the sun shines over here, it is a rare occasion.
Glasgow, Scotland was the first town of any size that we stopped in and my first impression was that I'd seen it somewhere before. It finally dawned on me that it looked just like the picture postcards I'd seen of towns in the States taken around 1900-1910. Small narrow streets, high fronted brick buidings, people riding around on bicycles, and the old horse and cart. The towns over here were built years and years ago and they haven't changed to this day.
About 1:00 AM on the morning of December 1, 1942, the train jolted to a stop at our destination of Goxhill, Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England. Being newly arrived in a country that was practically on the front line of fighting we expected a Jerry plane to come diving down strafing the column during the three mile trudge to camp. I kept looking along the ditches for a nice soft spot just in case. They took us directly to the mess hall and I can assure you that a meal of sourkraut and wienies never tasted so good. The service group that was to be attached to the 78th had preceded us by a couple of months and they had things pretty well organized for our arrival.
Now they say that the English and Americans speak a common language, but the next afternoon when we arose and tried talking to some Englishman that was digging a ditch outside the hut, I had quite a few doubts. Hearing him talk was almost like listening to a foreigner. What he was trying to tell us was that Grimbsy was only 18 miles away.
We did not bring our planes over with us so while we were waiting for the arrival, there wasn't an awful lot to do except getting settled and organized. Operation at Goxhill would be very much different than it was in the States as the field and sites were spread out over a good ten mile radius which made travelling from one place to another very difficult. This was soon overcome by securing bicycles from the RAF and issuing one to every man. It used to look like 42nd and Broadway around the hangar line except that the traffic was composed of bicycles instead of automobiles.
After reading about the terrible bombing raids on England in the papers at home, we were all set for the worst, but a couple of weeks went by with nothing happening and everyone was beginning to think it was a lot of malarky. We were to have a rude awakening. Goxhill being situated right across the river from Hull was not a very quiet spot.
Sunday night, December 15, I was all alone on duty in the Control Tower and the only noises breaking the silence was the pacing back and forth of the machine gun crew on the roof. Suddenly the blackout curtains seemed to jump at me and the windows started a terrific rattling, then came the roar of an exploding bomb. I jumped about three feet straight up from that chair and hit the floor running. Was undecided at first whether to make for the shelter or stay put, but knew I didn't want to be alone so I went up on the roof with the MG crew. It was almost like having a grandstand seat for the 4th of July fireworks. Red tracer bullets streaking through the sky, the crack and burst of flak high overhead, flares dropped by the planes trying to light up their target and the red flash and roar of exploding bombs. Saw my first German plane crash flaming into the sea that night. It was very interesting and exciting to watch, but when one stopped to think that the people the bombs were falling on were losing all their worldly goods and even some of their lives, it quickly turned one's excitement to hate of war.
After the surprise of the first raid we experienced on Hull, it came to be quite a common thing and no one paid much attention to it. Listening to the German broadcast that night, Lord Haw Haw was heard to make the statement that the German air force would soon pay a visit to the new American fighter group stationed at Goxhill. Although we waited in anticipation of that call, it never came in the five months we were there.
With the arrival of our planes, sleek twin-tailed P-38's, the excitement mounted and everyone worked very hard to hurry the day of our entrance into combat. That great day was almost at hand and the planes had even flown several practice escort missions with the bombers over England, when a hard blow was dealt the 78th. All our planes and pilots were taken and shipped to North Africa where they participated in the invasion of Africa.
Here we were again without planes. One afternoon a srange plane appeared in the sky and circled the field for a landing. After it had landed and taxied to the tower, a curious crowd gathered to inspect this new doodle bug. It was a short stubby single place pregnant looking plane called the Thunderbolt.
The task of readying for combat started once more, but it was more difficult due to the fact we had all new pilots and planes which some had never flown before. Inside of two months the pilots had all the necessary hours of training and gunnery practice in "T-Bolts" to qualify for combat. Our next step was to find a station further south from which missions could be flown deep inside of enemy-held territory.
After trips of inspection and meetings at 8th Air Force Headquarters, Colonel Peterson, our commanding officer, picked a base called Duxford which is located 9 miles southwest of Cambridge. On April 4th, the day the sweetest little woman in the world was born, we left Goxhill, part of the fellows going by train and part by truck convoy. I was lucky and got to drive a jeep. When we left Goxhill it was very chilly and we were all bundled in flying clothing, but as we drove south it became warmer and by the time we reached Duxford we were all in our shirtsleeves.
Duxford is a wonderful station with all permanent brick buildings and everyone was delighted after living in Nissen huts at the widely dispersed field of Goxhill
On April 13, 1943, the 78th flew its first combat mission which was a fighter sweep over Holland; no enemy aircraft were encountered. It was the first all-American fighter group to go into operation from England, being preceded only by the 4th Fighter Group which had been made up of transferred personnel of the old "American Eagle Squadron" of the R.A.F..
It was a thrill even to sit back at the field and listen to the cool steady voice of Colonel Peterson leading the group over enemy territory acquainting the pilots with landmarks and battle formation getting them ready to tangle with the enemy. A lottery started on the station as to who would be the first pilot to shoot down an enemy plane. In the first few days of May the lucky person was able to collect as Major James. J. Stone destroyed the number one victory for the 78th.
As if under a jinx, the group suffered the worst blow in its history; Colonel Peterson was lost. I was listening to the Group over the radio that day it happened. The Colonel's voice came in reporting a formation of planes a few thousand feet below them and said he was going down to see what they were. A few seconds later the voice daid, "They're Jerries, boys, give 'em hell!" That was the last ever heard from Colonel Pete. The Group destroyed 17 for the loss of one, but the loss of Pete overshadowed everything. Colonel Peterson was so well liked and had worked so hard for the Group that it was almost like losing a father and everyone felt just as bad about it. If you have read Bob Hope's story "I never left home" you will remember him telling about one station they stopped at in England where nothing seemed to click and all the jokes fell flat. This was the one, as he came just after Colonel Pete was lost.
Things settled down to more or less of a routine and the fellows were issued passes during which they traveled around the country seeing this little island of England, the favorite spot of course being London which the English compare with New York, but in my opinion it is a very poor comparison.
As time wore on this Group became the leader in many things, one of the most important being the pioneering in the use of long range external fuel tanks. Captain London, a member of the 78th became the first American to score a double kill on one mission and to become an Ace with five victories. Major Roberts was the first American to score a triple kill on one mission. All these things happened when the actual battle for air supremacy was in progress, the outcome of which was a big item in the planning for the invasion of Europe. While returning from a mission, Major Q.L. Brown was chased to the deck by a Focke Wolfe 190 but finally managed to shake him off. While skimming along the ground he shot up a train and a flak position and became the first American to do any ground strafing in a thunderbolt. When it was discovered the that the "T" Bolt could go in and slug it out 10 feet off the ground after being designed as a high altitude escort ship, the 78th was assigned a lot of strafing and dive bombing missions which are a lot more dangerous than air combat.
Then came the day everyone had waited so long for, June 6, 1944, the invasion of Europe. No one had the slightest inkling of what was coming off till they pulled all the ships up to the hangar line and started painting the black and white invasion stripes on the wings, fuelage and tail. So came the day and our planes were continually in the air giving cover to the landing troops.
Afer the huge and fast sweep through France things quieted down and we went back to the old job of bomber escort to industrial targets in Germany, getting in a few licks at their ground transport and airfields now and then.
In December of 1944, the 78th again changed planes. This time it was to the P-51. It was a difficult changeover because the maintenance on an inline engine is much more difficult then on a radial engine such as the P-47 has, and the ground crews started putting in many long hours of work.
Our next big day, in fact the biggest in the air, came in February of 1945. After escorting bombers to Germany, the Group ran into a bunch of Jerries and managed to shoot down 32 of them out of the sky.
During the months of March and April when the G.A.F. was actually grounded, we had a couple of field days shooting up German planes on the ground. One day the Group scored 56 and about a week later destroyed 134 in one day, a record kill which as yet hasn't been equaled.
That just about brings the story of the 78th up to the present date leaving the final score of victories at 694 enemy aircraft destroyed and several hundred probably destroyed and damaged. Besides that there were hundreds of locomotives, freight cars, trucks, bridges flak positions, etc. destroyed, which added to the efforts of the other units of the 8th Air Force made one huge sum which helped to hasten the defeat of Germany.
Jack Lloyd Miller's Obituary:
FORT WORTH -- Jack Lloyd Miller, 85, of Fort Worth left this earthly world to join his beloved wife of 66 years, Jean, in heaven Friday, Oct. 31, 2008.
Funeral: Noon Friday, Nov. 7, at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church. Interment: 2 p.m. Friday in Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Visitation: The family will receive friends at 11 a.m. Friday at the church.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory be made to the Music Ministry of Meadowbrook United Methodist Church, 3900 Meadowbrook Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76103-2602.
Jack was born March 14, 1923, in Flint, Mich. A proud husband, father and grandpa, he spent the majority of his life in the Flint area, raising a family and working in the family-owned business, M&M Warehouse Inc. During World War II, he served his country as a technical sergeant in the 8th Army Air Corps based in Duxford, England, where his uniform and service records are on permanent display at the Duxford War Museum. After retiring, he and Jean, who passed away Aug. 13, 2008, spent many years volunteering for the Flushing Senior Center and being surrogate grandparents to scores of fifth-graders at Central Elementary.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Miller was preceded in death by his brother, Claremont Miller.
Survivors: Those left to cherish his life are his son, Mark D. Miller of Fort Worth; daughter, Cathilee Miller Tracy of Fort Worth; granddaughter, Megan E. Tracy of Boulder, Colo.; sisters, Janet Martin and Elaine Pearce of Michigan; and brother, Kenneth G. Miller of Walnut Creek, Calif.
Noted events in his life were:
1. Occupation: Warehouseman, bookkeeper.
2. Education: Central High School, Flint, Michigan.
3. Religion: Protestant.
4. Residence: 5197 Darby Ave.: Flint, Michigan. This is from the address book of Alice Paulina Leary.
Jack married Jean E. Kellogg, daughter of Orin Kellogg and Eleece Hovey, on 8 Aug 1942 in Reno, Nevada. (Jean E. Kellogg was born on 4 Apr 1923 in Womens Hospital, Flint, Michigan, christened in Court St., ME Church, Flint, Michigan and died on 13 Aug 2008.)