Miller Twins Part of D-Day Invasion 70 Years Ago
June 5, 2014 by lmorgan
Two Elgin men, now in their 90s, will celebrate a birthday Friday and, no doubt, remember what they were doing 70 years ago that day, besides having a birthday.
They were on boats in the English Channel doing their part in the greatest amphibious operation in the history of the world as Allied soldiers stormed the beaches near Normandy, France.
Gaining a foothold in Europe marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. The war in Europe would be over in less than a year and the Miller twins did their part, like other soldiers, that day.
Harold and his brother Gerald “Red” Miller got together last week in Norfolk and remembered that time in their lives so many years ago.
The following are Harold’s reflections of D-Day.
An engineer on an LCI and LST 30 (landing ship tank), Harold Miller was doing his part to help win the war long before the sun rose that morning.
He said the first landing occurred at 3 a.m. that morning on Gold Beach.
Gerald’s ship had just come from the Mediterranean where the Luftwafte (Germany’s Air Force) had supremacy over the skies, Harold said. Here’s how he remembers that fateful day:
“It irritates me to read some of the history on the beachings that is wrong,” he said. “I just was reading another article, it was telling about D-day and it went on to tell that there was a group that went in at 6 o’clock in the morning. I don’t how many other ships or if there were other ships…we left Plymouth England about four or six hours ahead of all the other ships. So I never got to see the armada that crossed the English Channel. But we got up there and we anchored out about - I don’t know how far, it was dark. We anchored out and we anchored by the stern anchor because it was cable..a bow anchor was chain, you could hear it for miles. We had 112 British commandos - we had orders to get those commandos to the beach. The first boat was to be on the beach at 3 a.m., the second boat at 3:30 a.m. because at 4 a.m. they were going to start softening the beach up.
“When we hit the beach we had 36 commandos, thats all it (the LST) would carry,” he said. “That’
s an eerie feeling to feel the beach, that boat slide on the beach, and the darkness at that time, on an enemy beach.
“The first load had an hour, the second load we took in had only 1/2 hour to get beyond the beach where they were going to be shelling … They gave us knives so we had no guns - a Navy knife, I’ve still got it - they said if you broach on the beach and can’t get off, go with the commandos. They (the commandos) were tough, I doubt we would have kept up with them.
“The first load met no resistance, but the second time in we did. I don’t know whether some of the first group had screwed up or we had beached where there was a beach crew of lookouts — the commandos went over the side but we didn’t think anyone was hit, there was no blood in the boat. As soon as they got off, we left (Gold Beach). The tide was coming in and that makes it hard to get back off of a beach. We laid out there til morning, til daylight - it’s real difficult to tell, I would say maybe 1/4 mile -. we were close enough, we weren’t really in the fire.
“We gave LST 523 nourishment (water, diesel fuel). We got about a city block away and the 523 blew in half with 400 and some Army men on the tank deck in full gear, ready to hit the beach. It blew in half and they were in the water,” Harold said as he began to choke up.
“After the captain dropped hook he asked for men to go over the side. I am not a swimmer but I had a Mae West (life jacket) on. A guy was out about 50 feet out. He had no life jacket and the water was real choppy. I went down the ladder and dropped in the water.
“You’re afraid because they will panic, they’ll go crazy. I stopped out about 6 feet from him and I said ‘now mate, you’re not going to panic. You’re going to put your hand on my back, I’m going to get you to the Jacob ladder’. He said ‘No, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t’. I had maybe 200 feet to get to the Jacob ladder.” Around him there were water mines bouncing in the water.
Harold said Gerald’s ship was a little smaller than the one he was on.
“I don’t remember what his crew was. They beached on Utah Beach. Gerald’s ship captain come down along the beach looking for LST 30 because he knew Gerald’s twin brother was there on 30. It was like he was out cruising with a yacht! The minute he saw LST 30 he blew the horn, cut speed and turned a hard right. He came real slow and he honked it again. I was in the gun turret and I went down to the main deck, I ran across and I was in luck, the executive officer was standing there. And I said, ‘that ship that just honked, my twin brother is on it’. He said ‘the small boat’s down, the crews on there. Get it and catch them.’
It had been about 2 1/2 years since they last saw each other. However, they did keep track of one another through letters, thereby knowing what ships the other was on.
The reunion was brief, there was a war to be won.
After awhile, each went back to their tasks on a day which is now part of America’s history.