Fallen Heroes: Private John T. Miller

Image from article on the 24th Medical Battalion, Korean War

This fallen soldier, who’s job was to provide comfort and aid to his fellow soldiers, was the first from his conflict to be returned home to his loved ones for burial. He was, of course, not the last.

Nicholas Miller (1814-1900) and his wife Catherine (1809-1892) immigrated with their seven children, aged from newborn to 15 years old, to the United States from Hesse-Cassel, Germany around 1854. They were residing in Goshen Township, in the city of New Philadelphia, by August 1860 when the federal census was taken. Nicholas’ occupation was listed as “laborer”, though given that his sons would all pursue the masonry trades, it is possible he may have been a stone mason as well.

The couples eldest son, also named Nicholas (1838-1903), married Rosine Geiser (1843-1921) in 1862 and, in 1870 was recorded as living in New Philadelphia and working as a stone mason. Nicholas worked throughout the community and appeared in the county records and newspapers for work done for the county. Among that work was stone work for the a wash-house and stable at the old county jail located on East Fair Street. Nicholas and Rosine lived in a home on West Ray Street in the city and raised three sons and one daughter there.

  • Reference to Nicholas Miller, Stone Mason, providing stone for the washhouse and stable at the county jail in New Philadelphia, 3 September 1872.
  • The old jail in New Philadelphia, 1868. (Source: ohiomemory.org)

John Miller (1863-1903) followed in his grandfather and father’s footsteps as a stone mason and lived in a home a block farther west on West Ray Street from his father. John married Lena Schwegheimer (1865-1953) in 1884 and the couple welcomed six children, including a son names Elmer (1895-1971). The Miller family suffered in the first three years of the 20th century, losing the elder Nicholas Miller in 1900, his son Nicholas in June 1903 and, finally, John Miller died unexpectedly in December 1903 from typhoid fever.

After the death of her husband, Lena Miller raised the children in their home on the 700 block of West Ray Street. Elmer Miller worked in the local metal manufactories once he finished school and, in 1927, married Goldie Marie Baker (1904-1970). Elmer and Goldie had five children, but one daughter died before reaching her first birthday. Their eldest son, John Thomas (1931-1950), attended school in New Philadelphia until after his junior year in 1948 when he left school to enlist in the United States Army.

  • John Miller's New Philadelphia High School sophomore year picture, 1947. (Source: delphianyearbooks.org)
  • John Miller's New Philadelphia High School junior year picture, 1948. (Source: delphianyearbooks.org)
  • Men of the 24th Medical Battalion evacuate a wounded soldier in Korea, 1950. (Source: academic.oup.com)

Private Miller completed his basic training and, in July 1949, he was assigned to the 24th Medical Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division that was stationed in occupied Japan. After arriving in Japan, Private Miller was able to complete his high school education and graduated while stationed there. When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, the 24th Infantry Division was the first United States Army unit sent, arriving in the summer of 1950.

The 24th Medical Battalion was shipped to Korea in July 1950 and went to work establishing hospitals and coordinating the movement of wounded men from the battlefields to MASH units, larger Army hospitals, and evacuating them to Japan when needed. Not surprisingly, these activities put 24th Medical Battalion personnel in harms-way on a regular basis and Private Miller was a victim of hostile fire on December 9, 1950.

Private Miller served in a unit tasked with taking care of the Army’s wounded soldiers and making sure they survived the horrors of battle. Unfortunately, Private Miller suffered the fate that he worked so hard to avoid for his fellow soldiers. While he was killed in December 1950, it would be June 1951 before his body returned home to Tuscarawas County for burial. He was the first Tuscarawas County fallen hero of the Korean War to return home and rest in his native soil.

Private John Thomas Miller's headstone at East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. (Source: findagrave.com)
Private John Thomas Miller’s headstone at East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. (Source: findagrave.com)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.


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