History

These soldiers built 3 tanks in a night to face the entire Nazi 'bulge'

On Dec. 18, 1944, Pfc. Harry Miller was cold, exhausted, and covered with grease. His hands were numb from the cold and he was bone tired after working all night. He and his fellow Soldiers from the 740th Tank Battalion had toiled around the clock to piece together three American tanks from an ordnance depot in Belgium.


With only the three refurbished tanks, Miller and the 740th was asked to stop the 1st SS Panzer Division, the German spearhead in the Battle of the Bulge.

Even before the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive that December, Miller was not thinking about Christmas. His only thought was on keeping warm, he said. Northern Europe had been gripped by record-breaking cold.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Bill Augustine

When the German tank columns first approached, Miller and his fellow Soldiers were in Neufchateau, Belgium, but they had no tanks. At the beginning of the battle, the 740th was ordered to proceed to an ordnance depot in nearby Sprimont. Miller was hopeful, as he believed tanks would be issued at the depot. However, upon arrival, there were no functional tanks.

Depot personnel had left town in a hurry, leaving all of their equipment and tools behind. Miller and the 740th worked throughout the night and by morning, three tanks and a tank destroyer rolled out the gate. They were ordered to Stoumont to stop the German advance.

Also read: This is the massive Nazi sneak attack at the Battle of the Bulge

The 740th's three tanks faced the lead element of Battle Group Peiper and the 1st SS Panzer Division. One M-1 Sherman tank fired and destroyed a German Panther. A second Sherman destroyed a second German tank. A third tank, a restored M-36, destroyed a third German tank. With the three German tanks out of action, and the narrow road blocked, the attacking German column retreated. Thus, a few restored tanks within their first one-half hour of combat had turned the tide of the German attack.

Miller was part of a specialized unit. A few days later he crewed one of six Sherman tanks that formed the Assault Gun Platoon. His tank had a 105mm gun.

A roadblock is set up with 30 caliber heavy machine gun, and a tank destroyer is ready for action near Bastogne, Belgium.

During much of the Battle of the Bulge his unit supported the 82nd Airborne Division.

Miller remembers the snowfall was especially heavy. Members of 82nd were cold and exhausted. Marching through four feet of snow was laborious. A few lucky Soldiers from the 82nd jumped on his tank to hitch a ride to avoid walking in the deep snow. Suddenly the tank took on enemy fire. When they heard audible dings from enemy bullets hitting the tank, the 82nd Soldiers scrambled off to take defensive positions.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by U.S. troops in World War II.

The 740th Tank Battalion was formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 1, 1943. It had mostly men from Texas and Oklahoma. They trained at Knox and at the Desert Training Center in Bouse, Arizona.

Leaders: 8 amazing facts about General Douglas MacArthur

Miller is a veteran of 22 years in the Army and Air Force. The Columbus, Ohio-native had always wanted to serve in the Army and enlisted at the age of 15 in 1944. Besides being a veteran of World War ll, he served in the Korean War with Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters, in the communications center.

Miller later served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War with the Strategic Air Command. He was in charge of codes and cryptology used for command missions, including bombing runs in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in January 1966 as a senior master sergeant and a communications operations superintendent.

Upon retirement, Miller worked as a private investigator, director of security and safety at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as a safety inspector at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, where he again retired in January 1989. He took up jazz and swing drumming lessons at age 69 to play with Seattle, Washington bands.

Miller, 89, resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. He laments that out of 800 Soldiers from the 740th, only six were able to attend this year's reunion on Labor Day.

Miller said he is proud of all of his military service and wishes he could do it all over again. He advises Soldiers who are serving today to stay in and retire.

transition

4 ways to strengthen your relationship with a military child

Tough. Adaptable. Resilient. Cultivated. Hardy. Well-rounded.

These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They've certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.

And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
History

Check out these amazing uncovered photos of the great Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the "average" soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn't just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 things you didn't know about 'Top Gun' (probably)

In 1986, Paramount Pictures released Top Gun, a story about a hotshot naval aviator, nicknamed "Maverick," who had some extreme daddy issues. When the film landed on the big screen, it was an instant blockbuster, pulling in millions of dollars worldwide.

Filled with adrenaline-packed scenes, Top Gun inspired audience members of all ages to get out there and try to be the next hotshot pilot. After more than 30 years, moviegoers who have memorized all the film's catchphrases probably think they know everything there is to know about this action-packed classic.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

8 reasons why peacetime training is just advanced LARPing

Live-action roleplaying is popular among nerds the world over. But what they don't realize is that the military hosts their own LARPing events to prepare for war.

While training for real-life combat, it's important that the military runs simulations that get as close to the real thing as possible. But, when you start to really break it down, it becomes clear that the government is spending tons of money on opportunities for advanced LARPing — as they should be.

Keep reading... Show less
History

The sweeping legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.

Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 reasons Jack Burton was the warfighter I always wanted to be

Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.

Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That's where the similarities between Jack Burton and myself end.

Keep reading... Show less

6 exercises that you should be doing on chest day

Gym-goers the world over have proclaimed that Mondays are International Chest Days. This is because the chest is considered one of the most important parts of the male physique. Why? It's simple. Having a well-trained chest tends to draw wandering eyes while you're at the beach, and who doesn't want that positive attention?

Keep reading... Show less