World War I vet­eran’s diary found in Wilkes-barre

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - BY BOB KALINOWSKI staff Writer

Clear­ing out his late mother-in­law’s home in Wilkes-barre, Ge­orge Brown stum­bled upon World War I his­tory.

In a shoe­box in­side the Bar­ney Street home, Brown found a diary his wife’s grand­fa­ther, Clarence L. Miller Sr., car­ried with him in France dur­ing World War I.

“Can you en­vi­sion this? This guy is sit­ting in his bunker get­ting shelled at, writ­ing this, not know­ing if any­one is ever go­ing to read this,” Brown said.

To­day marks 100 years since the end of World War I when the Al­lied Pow­ers signed an ar­mistice on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Ar­mistice Day has been cel­e­brated an­nu­ally around the world on Nov. 11 for much of the last cen­tury. Fol­low­ing World War II and the Korean War, Nov. 11 was re­named Vet­er­ans Day in the United States.

Brown thinks his dis­cov­ery of Miller’s World War I diary was ex­tra spe­cial be­cause of the theme of this year’s Wy­oming Val­ley Vet­er­ans Day Pa­rade is ded­i­cated to the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I.

A for­mer Wilkes-barre coun­cil­man, Brown is vice pres­i­dent of the pa­rade com­mit­tee.

“It is an amaz­ing piece of his­tory. Now we have some lo­cal his­tory of some­one who fought in the bat­tle,” Brown said. “It ties in per­fectly for our pa­rade theme for this year.”

Miller, then a book­keeper who lived on South Welles Street in Wilkes­barre, was drafted into the Army in July 1917.

Most of Miller’s diary doc­u­ments his train­ing stops and then each time he ar­rived in a new town in France.

But that changed on Oct. 8, 1918 when his unit en­gaged Ger­mans near the town of Cha­tel Chéhéry.

“Went up into the lines Oct. 8. Rested the night be­fore on the side of a hill. In the morn­ing, quite heavy shelling. No doubt Jerry knew we were there,” Miller wrote.

Jerry was a nick­name Amer­i­can troops used for Ger­mans. So was Fritz.

Miller later wrote about a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing an­other Ger­man shelling.

“It was at this place that I had my clos­est call. A shell landed di­rectly out­side of the hole where our phone was sta­tioned. The heat of this I felt right through the ground and Craig and my­self were cov­ered with dirt. Shortly af­ter this, our line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions went out,” Miller wrote.

Miller wrote about how he was tasked to go out in the bat­tle­field and re­pair the com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines.

Sev­eral days later, his unit en­tered the town of Saint Ju­vin.

“Things were a lit­tle quiet be­fore this but as soon as the boys had climbed onto the hill, the Ger­mans im­me­di­ately thrown over a bar­rage, but our boys moved on. From my re­lay sta­tion, through a spy­glass, I could see things very clear. It was not long be­fore I could see Ger­man pris­on­ers walk­ing down the road, many of them car­ry­ing our wounded on stretch­ers. My, what a sight,” Miller wrote.

On Nov. 11, 1918, the day the war ended, Miller wrote he was go­ing on a seven-day leave.

Brown said he could “sit for hours and read his diary about what he went through.”

Other me­men­tos found in the shoe box were Miller’s pay log — he earned $36.60 per month — and a let­ter from a French woman he met dur­ing the war.

Miller and the woman be­came friends and pen pals. She called him, “My dear lit­tle Amer­i­can sol­dier.”

“France ap­pre­ci­ates ev­ery­thing you boys have done in help­ing save her coun­try from com­plete ruin by a foe that knew ab­so­lutely no limit,” she wrote. “I trust such a thing will not oc­cur again.”

World War I was billed as “the war to end all wars.”

But Europe and France would again be rav­aged dur­ing World War II.

Miller died in March 1978 at 82 in Clay­mont, Delaware.

Miller’s son, Clarence Jr., and his wife, El­iz­a­beth, lived on Lock­hart Street in Wilkes-barre for many years be­fore mov­ing to Bar­ney Street. Clarence died in 2014, while El­iz­a­beth died in De­cem­ber 2016.

Their daugh­ter, Maryanne, and Brown mar­ried 45 years ago.

While clean­ing out his mother-in-law’s home, Brown found the shoe box con­tain­ing Miller’s war me­men­tos.

“As I looked through Clarence’s diary, I tried to un­der­stand what went through his mind and how he en­listed to fight in what was sup­posed to be ‘the war that would end all wars.’ Then, I re­flected on how ironic it was that less than 30 years later my fa­ther joined the Marines to fight in the Pa­cific Cam­paign dur­ing World War II,” Brown said. “All I could think about was how these men were the ‘Great­est Gen­er­a­tion’ and how thank­ful we should be to all vet­er­ans who have served and are cur­rently serv­ing our coun­try.”

Mark Mo­ran / staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

TOP: Clarence Miller’s per­sonal sol­dier pay record book and var­i­ous other ar­ti­cles. ABOVE: Ge­orge Brown dis­cov­ered the doc­u­ments while clean­ing out his mother-in-law’s Wilkes-barre home.

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