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Remembering a Golden Age
updated: Nov 17, 2012, 2:00 PM

By Montgomery Miller

I recently found this photo of my father JP Miller in his Navy uniform standing with his mother Rose Jetta, just before shipping out to fight in the South Pacific during WWII. Several years ago I published a story that included recollections of some of the fighting he saw and I would like to share an excerpt from that story with the Edhat community. Here is the excerpt:


The war in the south pacific had begun to turn in favor of the allies. United States Navy Lt. Commander James P. Miller sat, feet strapped in, nervously at his anti-aircraft gun, waiting for the next wave of Japanese suicide planes to attack. Men scurried about high above on the flight deck, recovering aircraft and preparing to launch more. The date was October 30th, 1944 and the Belleau Wood was patrolling with her task group east of Leyte. The ship had been named for a location near Chateau Thierry, France, where U.S. Marines had fought a fierce battle in World War I, on June 6, 1918.

Memories of his life as a young boy, growing up in west Texas, flickered briefly through his mind. The Great Depression had been particularly hard on the cattle ranchers and dirt farmers of the panhandle region. Earning a living had been about as tough as the baked earth that stretched across the parched landscape. At the age of seventeen he'd been a "barn" boxer, fighting in small west Texas towns under the name Tex Frontier. After joining the Navy, he'd lost his two front teeth in a prizefight to a better fighter and decided he would pursue a different career.

The Belleau Wood and her crew had played a key role in the Battle of Cape Engaño, occurring between the 24th and 26th of October. The high-pitched whine of the Japanese suicide plane could be heard as it approached the carrier group. Suddenly, the clamor of men and equipment was punctuated by the sound of anti-aircraft guns pumping shells into the air. Men were yelling and the familiar whizzing sound of machine gun fire from the attacking plane as it approached the ship arrived with unexpected closeness. The Japanese pilot began the final plunge towards the ship. Moments before impact, the plane exploded into a million flaming pieces, which fell on her flight deck aft, causing fires and setting off ammunition.

As men dove for cover to avoid the showering bits of molten debris and flesh mincing engine and prop parts strewn across the flight deck, one man scrambled off the edge of the deck, plunging two stories onto the back of the unsuspecting gunnery officer, James P. Miller, spinning him completely around and breaking both of his legs at the knees. Before the holocaust could be brought under control, 92 men were killed or missing. Thus ended Miller's effort to help win the war in the South Pacific.

In October of 1958, Playhouse 90 broadcast the live presentation of JP Miller's unforgettable drama Days of Wine and Roses, the original version, starring the late Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie.

The title of that drama, produced from Miller's screenplay in 1962 into a motion picture starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, was taken from the following poem:

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream

Ernest Dowson 1867-1900

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 344225 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 02:09 PM

Thanks for this. I just saw The days of Wine & Roses on Turner Classic Movies a day or so ago.


 COMMENT 344234P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 02:43 PM

I don't have the details as you do, but I have a large cedar chest that was my mother's and it is filled with old photos like yours along with letters my parents exchanged during the war. I haven't really dug into them, but have sampled only a few of them so I can only begin to imagine what they will contain one rainy day when I finally do get around to sorting through them and see what was going on back then, an era I know very little about. I also have more photos of relatives that, are sadly unmarked with names and places. Thanks for posting and giving me a nudge to get back into the contents again.


 COMMENT 344384P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-17 09:37 PM

Your dad is HOT!!


 COMMENT 344402P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 12:13 AM

That was great. My father was also in the Navy in WWII, as a PT Boat Ensign in the South Pacific. I also remember Playhouse 90, as my father had a very bit part on one episode. We all sat around the TV and watched, as it was filmed live in-studio. Although a decorated man, he used to remind us that war should never be glamorized, as it is akin to hell. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story exerpt. I appreciated reading about another brave, handsome and talented father.


 COMMENT 344463 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 08:40 AM

This is why this generation is often referred to as the "greatest generation". Not to be picky, but he must have been promoted three times since the picture as his sleeve insignia is not that of a Lt. Commander it is that of an
Ensign. i.e. Naval ranking system= Ensign, Lt. Jr. Grade, Lt., then Lt. Commander, Commander, Captain, etc.
Equivalent Army and Marine Corps ranking system of : 2nd Lt., lst Lt., Capt., Major, Lt. Colonel and Colonel, etc.


 COMMENT 344466P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 08:44 AM

thanks for sharing his photo and story. You can see how proud your Grandmother was, yet she must have been filled with trepidation. Much like all mothers, down through time.

**scanning and storing to disc is a good way to get these family memories out of trunks and into the hands of current and future generations..


 COMMENT 344514P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-18 10:46 AM

Thanks for sharing this. My father was in the Army and was in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily. Thank god he was at the bar of the Savoy Hotel in London on D Day (family lore.....) and not on the beaches of Normandy. He was in France on D Day plus 30 and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He went into WWII a Lt. and came out a Major. he also served in Japan during the Korean conflict (3 children and wife with him that time) and in VietNam. He retired a Colonel after 30 years. The best thing about him was that he, like most soldiers, was against war (one of the monuments on the beach in France quotes Eisenhower as saying something like this). He was so broadminded he patiently listened to all his five children's antiwar comments during VietNam, but of course went anyway because that was his duty.


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