This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
When talking about World War II, the Pacific and Atlantic theaters are the main topics.
The little known China-Burna-India (CBI) Theater is usually overlooked, except for history buffs and those who fought in the theater.
But that changed on Aug. 15 when the Representative Office of the Republic of China in Taiwan held a special 70th anniversary of V-J Day commemoration in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and West Chester resident and CBI veteran Alfred Miller was invited to be honored and represent his CBI comrades.
“It’s about time,” Miller said.
Although there was one hitch: Miller didn’t have any way to get down there with his son tending to some health issues in his family.
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“They asked me to find veterans and that was a tall order,” said Zehao Zhou, a professor at York College. “I was only able to get three people who were interested and two were able to provide their own transportation. Mr. Miller wanted to go, but he couldn’t arrange transportation.”
Miller reached out to both state Sen. Andy Dinniman and state Rep. Duane Milne and they took over from there.
Dinniman reached out to Krapf’s Coaches, Inc., and it immediately jumped at the opportunity to help the veteran and show its appreciation and gratitude for his service.
“(Dinniman and Milne) worked extremely hard to arrange transportation for him,” Zhou said. “To me, the government is of the people, by the people and for the people and this is the epitome of bipartisanship. Their genuine interest, to me, was palpable – it was authentic. I was very touched by that.”
Waiting outside his home, Miller was joined by his son, Stephen, when a Cadillac Escalade arrived to take him on his trip south.
“Everybody had a camera and was taking my picture,” Miller said with a laugh. “I’m only a GI, what is all of this?”
At the ceremony, Miller joined with two other CBI veterans, Chinese World War II veterans – including generals — and a mostly Asian audience. Miller was also a guest speaker.
“The theater is known as the ‘Forgotten Theater’ and soldiers were known as the ‘Forgotten Soldiers,’” Zhou said. “They have felt slighted, neglected, belittled, forgotten. There are 250,000 veterans who served in that theater that went unnoticed.
“But these GIs are so popular and respected in China. You can call them the best ambassadors ever from the United States to China. They will never be surpassed.”
Miller served with the 271st Military Police Company (MP) from 1942 to 1945 and finished his service with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
“Dad provided security, protection, and guard duty for the Army convoys from Tinsukia to Ledo,” Stephen Miller said. “The Ledo Road joined up with the Burma Road as the main supply line route to China. Security was most important to protect and safeguard the transport of supplies via convoys from Japanese attacks on both roads. Keeping the supply lines open was critical to the Allied Forces success in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during World War II.”
Don’t be fooled by the 98 year old’s age — he’s still as sharp as ever and has plenty of stories to share about his wartime experiences, some of which he shared at the commemoration.
“There was an airplane that came over our camp in Tinsukia one night and he radioed in he had a fire in the cockpit,” Miller said. “We couldn’t radio back. He came around a second time and was coming in for a landing. I thought, ‘My God, there’s nothing here but jungle — don’t come down here.’ Down he came and landed and cut a swath through that jungle about two miles long and about 60-feet wide. The plane caught on fire and he was roasted.
“I got the radio out of the plane. We didn’t have any electricity in our tents, but we had an ingenious corporal who was an electrician and came by a 5,000-watt generator and hooked it up to our tents. I hooked the radio up and one Saturday night, I was listening and Tokyo Rose came on and said, ‘The Japanese just captured Staff Sergeant Alfred L. Miller.’”
Miller was never captured and came back home to West Chester to his bride. The two married a year before he went overseas and, as he likes to say, spent his honeymoon in India.
He also brought back his men as well.
“I had seven men in my squad and I brought all seven back,” Miller said. “It was an experience. There were good times and bad times.”
The Millers couldn’t be happier to see everything people did for someone they didn’t know.
“My family and I are very grateful to everyone who helped Dad have the opportunity to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event on the 70th anniversary of V-J Day honoring the CBI veterans,” Stephen Miller said. “This was a wonderful honor, remembrance and heartwarming experience I know my father will never forget.”