Fallen Heroes: Staff Sergeant Loren Ray Miller

Members of 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, cross the river at Dornot, September 1944.

The story of every fallen hero is a sad one to write, but occasionally I will come across one that seems more so. When I sit down to research each fallen hero I often come across efforts by others to document some aspect of that person’s life, showing me that they have not been completely forgotten. In other cases, like this one, the lack of information motivates me even more to tell their story.

Loren Ray Miller’s (1919-1944) family arrived in the United States in the early 1850s from Germany. Loren’s grandfather Henry Miller (1848-1909) made his home in Coshocton County in the early 1870s, married Margaret Gephart (1851-1931) and raised a large family. One of their sons, George E. Miller (1884-1925) would marry another Coshocton County native, Ada Mae Hotham (1888-1981), in 1918 and the couple relocated to the town of Strasburg in Tuscarawas County.

George worked as a carpenter in Strasburg, at first at the Weber Planning Mill in Strasburg and then later as an independent house carpenter. The couple welcomed their first, and only, child in June 1919 and named him Loren Ray Miller. Between 1918 and up to the 1920 census record, the young family made their home on Weber Avenue in Strasburg.

Loren Ray Miller as a high school sophomore at Strasburg High School, 1937. (Source: ancestry.com)

Thanksgiving Day 1925 George Miller, and a number of friends, grabbed their shotguns and headed out hunting for the day. While George was walking through the woods with his hunting party around 11:30 am, a companion accidently discharged both barrels of his shotgun into George’s left leg. The rounds tore through George’s leg, just below the knee, severely damaging the muscle and bone. George was taken to Union Hospital in Dover where doctors worked to save his leg, and his life. Doctor’s amputated George’s leg above the knee, but the wound was too severe and George died a day later. Loren was six years old.

Loren attended school in Strasburg throughout his youth and completed high school there in 1939 where he played basketball. Following high school he worked odd jobs around the area, including a job with Boyer’s Service Station in Strasburg and later as a clay worker in a local brickyard. Loren’s mother remarried after the death of her first husband, marrying local brickyard employee Charles Swank (1875-1953). Loren was living with his mother and stepfather on 5th Street SW in Strasburg when he was drafted in January 1942 for service in World War Two.

Newspaper account of George Miller’s hunting accident, 27 November 1925

After being drafted Loren trained at a few bases in the United States before being sent overseas in November 1942 to join the United States Army’s 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in Iceland. The regiment eventually made its way to England and prepared for the cross-channel invasion of France, where it arrived in early July 1944. Assigned to the 5th Infantry Division in General George Patton’s Third Army, the unit fought its way across France during the summer of 1944. It is likely during this period of prolonged combat that Loren found himself promoted through the ranks to Staff Sergeant.

Patton’s aggressive and quick advance across France put the German defenders on their heels. An unfortunate side effect of that speed was that, by the end the summer of 1944, Third Army had advanced beyond their supply line’s ability to support them. Additionally, other Allied offensives needed supplies as well. The lull gave the defenders the opportunity to shore up their positions on the east bank of the Moselle River near Metz. It was not until early September that Third Army was able to take the offensive again.

The 11th Infantry Regiment’s attempt to cross the Moselle River and attack Fort St. Blaise, 8 September 1944. (Source: https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Lorraine/index.html)

The 11th Infantry Regiment, beginning on September 8, 1944, was tasked with crossing the Moselle and establishing a beachhead on the east bank on the outskirts of Metz. The American commanders who ordered the cross-river assault were unaware that many of the fortifications and defensive positions had been reinforced by the Germans during the period that the Americans were resupplying. The 11th Infantry Regiment met fierce resistance from German units and was forced to withdraw back across the Moselle on the evening of September 10, 1944, after holding the beachhead for 60 hours. The regiment lost 363 killed and wounded, among which was Staff Sergeant Loren R. Miller.

Loren R. Miller had no brothers or sisters, and no children, to carry on the memory of his heroic sacrifice in 1944. He was buried on October 29, 1944 at Grandview Union Cemetery in Strasburg.

Loren Ray Miller’s headstone at Grandview Union Cemetery, Strasburg, Ohio. (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89664185/l-mill)

If you would like to read more details about the 11th Infantry Regiment’s efforts to cross the Moselle River, click the links below:

The XX Corps Crossing of the Moselle (Part of United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: The Lorraine Campaign)

The Operations of the 10th Infantry (5th Infantry Division) in the Vicinity of Metz, France, 10-16 September 1944. (also covers activities of the 11th Infantry)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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