Sunday, February 17, 2013

Uncle Jerry and the Great War

My great-uncle, Jeremiah Miller

One of the bonuses of spending a lot of time nosing around in back issues of old newspapers is happening upon family information you didn't know existed.

The following appeared in The Chariton Leader of May 15, 1919, in editor Henry Gittinger's "The Mormon Trail" column, a weekly catch-all for items Henry had picked up when visiting with people or elsewhere but that didn't exactly qualify as news.

My great-uncle, Jeremiah "Jerry" Miller (1892-1986), had just been home for a few weeks when he apparently spent a few minutes visiting with Henry. The following was the result:

"Jerry Miller, of English township, has been at home several weeks. He was in the 30th division of our army which went overseas a year ago, and was in the hostile zone from the time they landed until the armistice was signed. The 27th and 30th divisions were on the Hindenburg line. Jerry was on the firing line continuously from Sept. 27th until Oct. 20th, when they were relieved for rest and recuperation, and were just ready to return when the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased.

"In their company there were 240 men and only 40 got back to camp --- balance either captured or killed. Even in their training and recruiting camp they were constantly subject to German shell fire.

"There were five Lucas county boys in his division, himself, Ernest Herndon, Ambrose Taylor, (   ) McNay and Arthur Johnson. However, only Ernest Herndon remained with him, the others being transferred to different service. He was with Ernest Herndon when he was shot, but he did not learn of the fatal results until he heard from home weeks later. After the day's battle he went back to look for Ernest but could learn nothing of him. He says that during the time he was on the line it was almost a constant shell fire day and night. Jerry says he shot no Germans --- all he had to do was feed the machine gun --- and the other fellows did the shooting."

Isn't that amazing? And does anyone out there in the family know if by chance Uncle Jerry and Aunt Fern named their oldest son Ernest in honor of Ernest Herndon? It seems to me I've heard this, but can't remember.

Uncle Jerry and Aunt Fern (Griffis) Miller, married June 4, 1919

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