POW of World War II displays his artifacts at Monroe library
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Bernard Miller talks about his collection of World War II memorabilia he acquired as a POW in Germany that he has now donated to the Western Pocono Community Library, Brodheadsville.
The history books record that World War II, 1939-1945, was the most destructive conflict in history.
Nearly 417,000 American soldiers died in the conflict.
There were 130,000 prisoners of war.
Bernard Miller, 89, formerly of Effort, was one of those POWs.
He has donated his collection of World War II items to the Western Pocono Community Library in Brodheadsville where they are currently on display.
Miller says he wanted to make sure his collection would be preserved.
"I figured children and others might want to see and know how it was for POWs in Germany during WWII."
On Jan. 22, 1944, United States Army General Mark Clark issued the fatal order for 3,000 troops to cross the Rapido River at the base of Monte Cassino in Italy.
As a result, 800 men were listed as MIA, 200 were taken prisoner and the rest were killed. Miller was one of the 200.
He said they were loaded on a train boxcar and transported to Germany, which took three weeks. He remembers being very cold and very hungry. They were made to take off their shoes so they wouldn't escape.
He was interrogated in Furstenberg, Germany, sent to work on a farm where he injured his ankle with a pitchfork. When it became infected he was sent to a hospital filled with German soldiers.
From there he was sent to Neuenstein, a make shift camp, working in a steam power plant and helped build a bridge. The Russians invaded and the Germans and their prisoners went on forced marches to escape capture.
At one point, he and another soldier escaped for three days before being captured again. Then the Germans and the POWs were captured by the Russian army.
Miller says that what happened next could have come out of a scene from "Hogan's Heroes."
Miller and 11 others escaped. They saw a Russian soldier, asked where the American line was and took off in the direction he pointed. They came across 12 German soldiers who told the Americans they were headed for the Russian line. The Germans helped them find the American line where the Germans then surrendered because they didn't want to become Russian prisoners of war.
Miller was a POW for almost a year and a half. After a short stay in France, he was shipped home to Fort Bragg, N.C. and went out on war bond tours to raise money for the Army. He was honorably discharged Dec. 19, 1945.
Today he and his wife of 63 years, Dorothy, live in Wind Gap. They have five children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He retired from Anheuser Busch. He was very active in the American Ex-Prisoners of War of the Greater Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania Chapter and was a past commander.
While in Germany, Miller managed to acquire some artifacts from a POW camp's office that had been abandoned such as Kriegsgefangenen geld (POW money), a map of POW camps, POW stamps, a German bayonet and German officer badges, a belt buckle worn by a German officer and one by a common German soldier.
"We were told the Germans didn't believe in God but on the belt buckle it says 'Gott Mit Uns' which means God is with us," Miller says.
He also acquired a Serbian hat that he traded his for a Yugoslavian soldier's.
When he was a prisoner, he acquired a German matchbox. It said, "HAUSHALTSWARE" which means "kitchenware."
He scratched off the first two letters, HA and the last one, E for it to read USHALTSWAR. The Germans saw it as a form of propaganda and he was put in a holding tank for two weeks. He brought that matchbox home with him.
"The library is grateful to have been chosen as the recipient of Mr. Miller's POW collection. History of our wars fought for freedom are very important to share with the community," says Carol Kern, WPCL's director.
If you would like to see the display, the WPCL is located on Pilgrim's Way, off Rt. 115, Brodheadsville, across from the Pleasant Valley Middle School. The hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.