Letters from Clarence F. Miller: Btry C 535th AAA Bn 1943 - 1945

I think we are all enjoying the adventure, I am constantly amazed at the amount of information that is available to us these days.
More information about his service is available from a letter he sent to his parents, sometime after the war was over. It was published in the Clark County Press (date: to be determined). Clarence’s family provided a copy of the article, and I reproduce the text here:

They recently released the censorship regulations so I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know a little more about my escapades since I left the good old U.S.A.
We left for New York Harbor Februaty 11. I doubt if I will ever forget that first day out at sea. It was snowing and cold and I was so blue I almost felt like crying, and most all of the others did, too. We had a fairly nice trip over, although we swept out a submarine once or twice, but nothing ever came of it. They surely had us guessing, though. We arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, February 22, and from there took a train ride to Bridgewater, England, where we made our home until the invasion of France.
On June 4 we left Portsmouth, England, for the coast of France. We were all expecting a rough ride across the Channel, but as luck was with us, things were pretty quiet. We manned the ack-ack guns on the ship and were on the alert status most of the way across. When we neared the beach everything began to pop. I never saw so many planes and ships concentrated in one area in my life. There was enough noise from the massive Navy guns on our warships alone to drive a man crazy. The whole beachhead area was just one big cloud of dust from shellfire and divebombing.
When I hit the beach I got my first taste of war and to say the least it was repulsive. I had read a lot in the papers about the German artillery, but I never realized it was so ruthless and merciless until we came face to face with it on the beach. The first night we got very little sleep and most of us didn’t get any, but sleep was the least of our worries. There was a German plane that went over just after dark and it came every night thereafter about the same time. We called him “Bedcheck Charlie,” anyway he started dropping his bombs and three dropped within a few yards from us but they were duds and didn’t go off. If they had, a lot of us would have been buried alive or killed by shock.
From the beach, we were sent inland to guard an air strip at Coigny, France, and stayed for some time before and until Cherbourg fell [note: June 30].
Then came the breakthrough at St. Lo [note: July 25-27]. We stayed thereuntil we got to Versailles where we got another big landing field for our planes. From there we got passes to Paris and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and some pretty girls.
Then we went on to Leige, Belgium where I got my first glimpse of the highly publicized buzz bomb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb). They travel very fast and are hard to hit. I got to see Liege a little later, where lots of homes were nothing but piles of rubble. Then came the German break-through, and Krenkelt, which was near the Siegfield line. On December 16 we were in the middle of the Germans’ big drive. We became surrounded with our escape routes cut off while more shells than I thought were possible were thrown at us in the next three days. On the third night we were finally able to open up a road where we could retreat for several miles back, where we held a stand.
Finally we drove the Germans back to the Cologne Plains. We crossed the Rhine River at Ludendorf bridge. And there, we were the first ack-ack of our kind on the opposite shore. The Germans tried to knock out the bridge with their planes divebombing the area so as to keep our reinforcements from crossing, but we kept them from knocking out the bridge.
After the Rhine, we were around the Ruhr Valley and when the Krauts surrendered we were sent to the Third Army under General Patton, where we were until the war ended. Now you have an idea of what we have done in this war.

All I can say is WOW!


P.s. again, thank you for all the letters.
I think we are all enjoying the adventure, I am constantly amazed at the amount of information that is available to us these days.

Thanks for all your help.

That being said, there are things that are harder to find. For example, I have not been able to find an electronic version of the 535th movement map. Fortunately, I now have a scan of it. I am going to also post it in the 535th history thread on the other area. Sorry if there are quality issues

Update: I've gotten in touch with Marie's family. Preliminary reports are that she has fond memories of Clarence (she is still alive), although I don't know any details. Just that her face "lit up" when Clarence was mentioned. She is now aware, to some extent, of my project. I am in contact with a couple of her sons.
Here's Marie's story, based to a large extent on what she has told me:

Marie Gall was born March 2, 1923, the daughter of Edwin and Margaret (Weber) Gall from York, Wisconsin, which is about 8 miles east of Neillsville. She had five sisters (Viola, Louise, Theresa, Alice, Jean) and four brothers (Elmer, Thomas, Arthur, James). A sister, Dorothy, died at the age of 2. Most of the family grew up in Neillsville. Her dad was a farmer in the Town of York but not a very successful one. So they moved back to Neillsville and he got a job at a place called "Milk Pool.” The Neillsville Milk Pool was a cooperative of about 100 patrons that was started on June 1, 1934. The plant was formerly owned by the Neillsville Mile Products, Co. The Milk Pool focused on the manufacture of butter and casein (a milk protein). Within a year, they had about 260 patrons and were making 3000-3500 pounds of butter and 2300 pounds of casein a day. The plant was expanded in 1937. For a while, they lived in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, and then moved back to Neillsville. Marie went back to Milwaukee and got a job at the Zenith Foundry in West Allis, where she was a sand core maker. Sand cores are used for molding, including the molding of engine blocks.
In Milwaukee, she met Joseph Vetrano, son of Mr. and Mrs. Mikele (Mike) Vetrano. He was a design draftsman for Allis Chalmers. Allis Chalmers had a tractor plant in West Allis. Marie and Joe were married on June 16, 1945. They lived in Cudahy, WI, the first few years of marriage then moved to Milwaukee, where Marie still lives today.
They had five children

James: October 24, 1946
Linda: March 6, 1948
Michael: June 15, 1949
Donald: September 24, 1963
William: May 9 1960

Marie was a housewife, mother and she made designer quilts for the church for years. Joseph and Marie were in a terrible auto accident in 2000. Joe lived 2 1/2 months then died. He was 86 yrs. old. According to Marie, she never knew Clarence that well. She says they had only 4 or 5 dates, and then he went into the service. They did write to each other a lot, and she did it because soldiers needed to hear from folks back home. According to Marie, “With such a bad war going on, I never found out when Clarence married or when he passed away. I knew his sister Jeanette. She married Frank Zank.”
That makes sense to me based on the letters, none of them struck me as particularly "close".
That makes sense to me based on the letters, none of them struck me as particularly "close".

Oh, I think there were different perspectives.

He constantly talked about how they were engaged. When he had a three day leave in early 43, he stopped by and picked up Marie before surprising his folks. When he was on furlough, Marie spent a week at his folks' house, and he spent 4 days at her folks'. And he talks about how he wants to get back home to see his family and his girlfriend.

Considering the complete despair that set in when he learned she was getting married, I think that, from his side, she was a large part of what kept up his morale, something to come home to. Look at his comments after she dumped him - "there isn't a future for most of us fellows..."

Just imagine if that had happened a year earlier (may 44)?

How much of his fight was to get back home to Marie? I think his letters suggest there is a lot of that.

She clearly felt differently about him than he felt about her, but I think she was very important.
So I guess one question I have in all of this is what do the families think of our interest in all this?

I mean some people might be flattered at the interest others may find it quite "creepy" that a bunch of people that have no connection to them are compiling this data.