WEST JEFFERSON — WWII Veteran Wayne Miller was presented with replicas of his honor metals displayed in a shadow box as a surprise gift from his family for Father’s Day on Sunday, June 21.
Retired National Guard member Billy Carter and Commander of VWF Post 7946 Jeff Houck presented Miller the gift in the presence of Miller’s family at Forest Ridge Assistant Living in West Jefferson.
Miller received his draft notice in August of 1943. He left from New York in 1944 for an unknown destination, leaving behind his wife Blanche and their young son.
Miller was first taken from New York to Scotland and then to England to prepare for an unknown mission.
Miller and other American soldiers were not informed about their assigned mission until three days prior.
The mission was the infamous D-Day invasion in Normandy, France which took place on June 6, 1944.
From England, Miller and others were transported by ship to the Normandy shoreline where the men boarded smaller boats to be taken closer to the beach. While under heavy machine gun fire and after wading in waist deep water for 100 to 200 yards, most the men were able to finally reach the beach shore.
The men quickly moved inland and spent the next five weeks in constant combat fighting from hedgerow to hedgerow, eventually advancing approximately 20 miles inland.
According to Miller, during these five weeks he was unable to change clothes or shave since their primary ship that had brought them from England had sunk before his personal belongings could be unloaded.
On July 12, 1944 on the outskirts of St-Lo, Miller said his squad came under heavy fire from the Germans in a hedgerow in front of them and to their left, which was left exposed because another squad failed to advance as planned.
The men came under intense mortar, artillery, machine gun and small arms fire and while running for better cover, Miller was severally wounded from exploding mortar or artillery. He was able to crawl a few feet to a large, abandoned German foxhole. He was then joined by six or seven of the remaining members of his squad.
The squad remained in the foxhole while mortar rounds and artillery continued to explode around them.
Unable to attack or defend themselves, the men voted to surrender. The Squad’s Lieutenant put a white flag on the bayonet of a rifle and waved it into the air.
Germans soldiers quickly surrounded the men with rifles and ordered them to climb out of the foxhole. Miller was lifted out by his fellow soldiers as he was unable to walk or stand due to his injuries.
The German soldiers took all of Miller’s squad that were alive and could walk and a German soldier said they would send a medic for Miller.
“It would have been so easy for them to just kill us at that point and particularly me since I was left lying there on the ground and would have been an easy target,” Miller said. “It is for this reason I had a deep respect for the German soldier.”
The German medic never came.
Eventually a medic of the United States crawled onto German territory to pull Miller back behind their own lines.
“The Germans were only a few yards away when they allowed the medic to rescue me,” Miller said.
Miller was given seven pints of blood at a first aid station and was eventually moved to a field hospital in France before being moved again to England.
According to Miller, he remained in different hospitals in London until December, 1944 and returned to the United States on Christmas day.
The medic who Miller credits to saving his life wrote his name on a piece of paper for Miller which Miller stored in his wallet. Unfortunately, after returning to the United States, his wallet was stolen and the medic’s contact information was lost before Miller was able to contact him.
“This has always bothered me that I have not been able to contact and thank the medic who saved my life,” Miller said.
Miller was discharged from the service Nov. 2, 1945.
Miller and his wife Blanche currently reside at Forest Ridge Assistant Living in West Jefferson.
Together they have seven children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
When Miller was presented with the replica metals he had previously earned he said, “I am so glad I was able to do it.”
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.