An area World War II veteran says he was slated for missions to Japan, but the fighting came to an end prior to his deployment.
The United States recognizes “Victory over Japan” Day on September 2nd of each year. An announcement of the surrender, however, came on August 14th – the day many in Europe consider the end of the war in Japan.
90-year-old Adrian Miller currently resides in rural Winamac. He was drafted into the Army during World War II, though the year remains a bit clouded, and sent to Florida for 17 weeks of training.
“We had a farm, but I could have stayed out yet for a little while,” says Miller. “Everybody else was gone already so I decided I might as well get it over with.”
The Army was looking for enlistments in the paratrooper divisions. Miller took the opportunity, joining the 101st Division of the 501 Parachute Infantry. He described that decision as leading to “the best part” of his life. He said those instructing the paratrooper training did not care what your rank was.
“When it’s time for training, you go down there, and you might be next to a Colonel or something, you know. And pretty soon the guys that are training the paratroopers – that’s all they do – it would be nice for them to stand there and say: hey Colonel, give me a push-up. And you’re sitting right there and it just makes you feel good.”
The 101st was stationed in France. Miller says he did a stint in England prior to joining the company as a rifleman. Among his duties was preventing German troops from accessing precious oil for their vehicles. There were probably more than a few close calls, some described in gruesome detail.
Members of his family were also deployed, though Miller says communication with his brothers and family in the United States was largely cut-off after he was sent to training in Florida.
His missions were largely focused to Europe, but Miller says at one point he was slated to ship-out to Japan’s interior country. He was not made aware of the mission.
“We had our parachutes on, lined-up, and were just about ready to get in the plane,” says Miller. “They said the atomic bombs went off. They told us it’s over, they surrendered.”
Miller said he went to a major French city, perhaps Paris, to celebrate the announcement.
Death tolls are difficult to count, but estimates have put the casualties as a result of the atomic bombs at more than 100-thousand. Miller says at that point, it was either us or them.
“Those Japanese women, they all had rifles,” says Miller. “I figured they’d be shooting at us when we got down there, something or other. So I believe the atomic bomb was the best thing that ever happened, not only to me, but all the other Americans too.”
Miller says the death count would have been enormous even without the use of the atomic weapons.
The 101st was deactivated shortly thereafter, causing him to be sent back to the United States with another division. The return home was greeted with a parade in New York City.
“It was a proud outfit, very proud,” says Miller.
The honor of wearing the 101st airborne’s eagle symbol even allowed certain privileges while traveling Europe following the war in terms of food, accommodations, and attractions. Miller remarked that’s not something seen in 2015.
Japanese military officials signed the surrender agreement on September 2nd, 1945 on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri.