WWII veteran remembers fighting Battle of the Bulge
Editor’s note: This is the 13th article in The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series, which will feature veterans in our area and share first-hand accounts of their military service. The series will publish each Monday through Veterans Day. To suggest an Unsung Hero, call 304-636-2121, ext. 120.
ELKINS — A member of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division shared memories of high and low times during nearly a decade of service to his country.
Robert William “Buck” Miller, 94, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and served on the glider unit, jumping from planes numerous times to different locales in Europe.
Miller, who served from 1942 through 1951 — including during World War II — said he was one of the “go-to guys” when an operation required attention by the unit.
“If something came up, I was always the one that got it,” he said.
Miller also served as a paratrooper, truck driver and cook. His time in the service included tours in Normandy during the Battle of the Bulge, as well as tours during the Siege of Bastogne and in Ardennes and Brenner Pass.
Miller quipped that being in the military taught him to stay quiet.
“One thing I learned was to keep my mouth shut,” he said with a laugh. “I tried just about everything there was in there. I went up on KP (kitchen police) one day and I ended up cooking. There were some officers there and when they got through with their lunch they were all asking, ‘Who did the cooking here?’ They said, ‘Keep him.'”
Miller noted his independent lifestyle assisted him during his service.
“If I had something to do, I did it,” he said. “I didn’t ask anyone to do it for me.”
While jumping out of planes was a highlight for Miller, he also recalled a memory that he considered a low point — witnessing officers kill children in Sicily, just off the Italian peninsula.
“I remember when we got into Sicily, there was young kids there. Some of the guys was shooting them,” Miller said. “I told them, I said, ‘If anyone shoots another kid, I’ll kill them.’ I told them, ‘The kids, it’s not their fault. Like I said, I don’t care who you are. If you shoot one of them kids I’ll shoot you. I don’t care what rank you’re in.'”
During another of his tours, Miller described how a mortar came into the foxhole he and another soldier were in but didn’t explode.
“(The mortar) didn’t go off. I went in and got it and took it out,” Miller said. “Another officer took it out somewhere else to get rid of it. I believe I was the only one that messed around with explosives.”
Miller also met his wife while overseas. In 1944, he married Florence Seymour in Redding, England. Seymour moved to Elkins with Miller the following year. Additionally, Seymour’s sister was wed to Miller’s brother and also lives in Elkins.
Miller received honorable discharges from the military in 1945, 1949 and 1951. His basic training took place at Camp Toccoa, Georgia.
Miller was born in 1922 in Oktaha, Oklahoma, but moved to Elkins shortly after his birth as his family was from the area. Following high school, he went directly into the service.
When he was stateside, both before and after enlisting, he worked as a truck driver hauling loads across the country and into Canada. He retired at the age of 81.
He recalled one truck driving trip where he hauled dynamite, leading children to come to his truck anytime he made a stop.
“I was hauling from New Jersey to the West Coast and the Canadian border,” Miller said. “It said explosives on the trailer, and every time I would pull off the side of the road, the kids would come gather around there. We had to chase them off.”