The Arrowhead Club

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII.  His family was from Wisconsin.

Wilfred’s father, Fred Anton Miller, was born April 8, 1892 in Dorchester, Wisconsin. His mother, Mary Ludvina Sadkowski Miller, almost nine years younger than her husband, was born March 31, 1901 in Pueblo, Colorado.

Fred and Mary were married September 27 (or October 18 according to a second source), 1920 in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. Their first son, Leo Anton Miller, came along on February 8, 1923. Second son, Wilfred Frank Miller, followed two years later on February 15, 1925 in Osman, Wisconsin. Osman is an unincorporated community in the town of Meeme, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

In 1930, the family lived on a farm in Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, which was about fifteen miles away from Meeme. But by 1940, the family had moved back to the Osman community in Meeme, and were still farming. The boys were now seventeen and fifteen years old, and helped out on the family farm.

On April 6, 1943, their father Fred died of a heart attack. I don’t know if either of the boys had already begun their service in WWII by that time, but both boys did go to war. Older brother Leo was a Marine. A partial war record shows that he was in the service on June 30, 1944 and that he spent time at Camp Pendleton.

Younger brother Wilfred enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bombardment Group on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as part of the James Joseph Brodie Crew. Wilfred was the tail gunner for the crew. Brodie flew two missions – on August 4 and 5, 1944 – as co-pilot with two other crews in order to get some combat training before piloting his own ship with his crew. Wilfred Miller and the rest of the Brodie crew flew their first mission together on August 7. Wilfred completed nineteen missions.

On September 28, 1944, on Mission 201 (Wilfred’s nineteenth mission), moments after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany, the Brodie crew’s flying fortress, Lazy Daisy, collided with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew’s fort, Lead Banana. Aboard Lazy Daisy, the navigator, George M. Hawkins, Jr., tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller, and flexible gunner, Harry A. Liniger were the only survivors. Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945. His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship. Miller later bailed out of the tail section.

Wilfred Miller became a prisoner of war at the Stalag Luft IV POW camp in Gross-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia. I have no specific record, but he must have also endured the eighty-six day Black March with the other prisoners of Stalag Luft IV. After liberation in 1945, Miller returned to the states, but I have no further record of his life.

In late 1944, according to the Next of Kin list for the Brodie crew, Wilfred’s mother Mary lived in Newton, Wisconsin, another unincorporated community in Manitowoc County. Perhaps she had moved off the family farm after her husband died and both boys had gone to war.

On September 30, 1950, Wilfred’s mother Mary re-married. She married Adolph Bauer in Osman, Wisconsin. After thirteen years together, Mary became a widow a second time on November 4, 1963 when Adolph died. Mary lived until the age of eighty-eight, dying January 25, 1990 in Manitowoc, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, just two months from her eighty-ninth birthday. She is buried in Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme.

Both of Mary’s sons died the next year. Younger brother Wilfred died June 29, 1991 in Cleveland, Wisconsin. He is also buried in the Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme. Older brother Leo died just a few months later on September 8, 1991 in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller

If any descendants of the Miller family have any additional information about Wilfred Frank Miller they would be willing to share, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

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