* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr.
Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr. was born on 4 July 1932 in Virginia. He was appointed to West Point from the 2nd Congressional District of Maryland and entered on 3 July 1951. He was in Company I1, graduated on 7 Jun 1955 and was commissioned in the US Army in the Infantry.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
How I got my appointment to West Point
One of my husband's West Point roommates sent a one line bio several weeks ago stating that he would send his information after his former roommates submitted theirs. He included me in that challenge and I sent the following information to him and the other two individuals he had included. To date, I will be the only to answer and I really only know the skeleton of Chris' story and it is more than 44 years since I heard that.
Chris Miller graduated at age 16 from an eleven year school in Westminster, Maryland. Since he was only 16 at that time, he was ineligible to even apply for entrance to West Point . He was still interested in becoming a jockey, but grew too much during that summer, so attended Western Maryland College for a year and then took his entrance exams. One of his congressmen selected him and he was assigned to Bullis Prep School for a year and then entered with all of you in 1951.
The physical almost eliminated him since x-rays showed that he had broken something in his right shoulder years before. Plus, he had flat feet. The examining doctor said that they would not hinder him in any way and passed him. When he was 12, someone at the stable where he worked put him on a Thoroughbred and turned him and the horse into a field. The horse had never run before excepting on a track and crashed the two of them into a fence. His mother asked if he could move his shoulder and he said yes. So, no visit to the doctor or x-rays were taken at that time.
It wasn't until the winter of 1956/1957 which he spent in Korea, that his shoulder ever bothered him and then it started to ache from time to time. This went on until 1964/1965 (spent in Alaska) when it became so painful the doctors at Ft. Wainwright said he needed surgery. Since we were going to have to leave Ft. Greely because I was pregnant and our original departure date would have been close to the time the baby was due, Chris was given three choices for reassignment. Surgery on the shoulder, Viet Nam, or ROTC in Texas. Needing command time, he chose Viet Nam.
Perhaps you might hear from those other roommates now.
30 AUG 2010
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr., USMA Class of 1955
"Be thou at Peace"
Putting together some memories of Christopher Jesse Miller offers me an opportunity to pay long overdue tribute to a great friend, a true soldier and a good roommate. This I know: the ultimate sacrifice Chris paid was far too devastating, in all its many aspects, to go unheralded.
My first contact with Chris Miller came at the time assignments were made to regular companies upon conclusion of Beast Barracks which saw us at the beginning of the academic year of 1951. My first bond with Chris was, as plebes, while playing intramural football for Company I-1 in September and October.
The rotation of roommates every three months threw Chris, Bill Peters and yours truly together for the second three months of that academic year. We, like most of our classmates, were able to "hang in there" by cooperating amongst ourselves. Our shared experiences came with all the normal trappings of the fourth class that resulted in furthered friendship and increased respect for each other.
Then, for the final three months of plebe year, Chris and I roomed with Bill Benassi. As I recall we "drove around"
[went on calls, that is] to the room of three members of the Class of 1953; Cadets Curtis Brewer, Howard Matson and James F. Bleecker. They did a good job of keeping us on our toes for those final months of what we considered a truly long year! Again, these circumstances reinforced my camaraderie with, and, added to my esteem for Chris Miller.
During that term our environment was greatly enhanced since Chris was the owner of a record player. How we got the LP albums is long since forgotten, but it seems likely that we each contributed by individual purchases. There were many good memories for the three of us from hearing songs such as Bolero, Clare de Lune, a Doris Day album titled, Three Little Words, and other artists' albums. Hearing Bolero or Clare de Lune these days still evokes fond memories of those times. Plebe life was certainly made more bearable as we came to the end of such an eventful year.
The two intervening years, as Yearlings and Cows, were successfully accomplished even though we found other classmates to room with for those two years. This likely was the policy which required goats
[slower learners] to be paired with hives
[the scholarly set], for academic reasons, especially during Cow year. Still the companionship was steadfast, even improved, by virtue of all of us getting to know our other company-mates better. Then, at last, with the first three years behind us, along with our I-1 cohorts we reached that grand and final year.
As First Classmen, Chris, Bill Peters and I were reunited as roommates. Once more, there were many memorable shared times and events. One particular memory from that year still stands out in my mind.
Chris and I made a trip to the Post Exchange, probably in March of 1955, to purchase a special LP album that we had seen reviewed in the New York Times. It was quite special
[to us] and was entitled, The Confederacy. It was presented by Columbia Records and based on Music of the South During the Years 1861-65. This album was performed by the National Gallery Orchestra and conducted by Mr. Richard Bales.
General Lee's farewell to his troops at Appomattox was rendered by his kinsman, Reverend Edward Jennings Lee. For us, this, as well as the music, made it an essential purchase. Some of the songs it contained that we particularly liked were: All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight, The Yellow Rose of Texas and Dixie's Land With Quickstep and Interlude. Sure enough, we listened to the entire album many times afterward.
We shared the purchase price of the album and then entered into an agreement that was later honored. We were to throw knives
[and did] to see who would own the album after Graduation. Chris won. Thanks to Maggie, Chris's widow, that special and treasured album is now in my possession. I am, indeed, thankful for her generosity and thoughtfulness.
A short time after that purchase, Graduation Week was upon us so that Chris and I were together even more than usual. We double-dated during that week as both of us had invited our future brides to West Point for the occasion. We visited Flirtation Walk with our ladies, took pictures, dined at cafes in Central Valley and attended the many functions and festivities that were scheduled, and, enjoyed those final days of cadet life.
Our careers commenced with "donning the Army Blue." That very night, with new Second Lieutenant's bars pinned on crisp, newly tailored summer uniforms, we planned to duly celebrate the day and our accomplishments. Chris and I, with our young ladies, went into New York City from Millington, New Jersey for a dinner and evening to remember.
We chose the Stork Club, a setting that was perfect for such an evening; excellent drinks, a grand meal and dancing. Our foursome, on this particularly memorable occasion, was photographed by the club's resident photographer. To this day, that picture brings back truly excellent, fond memories.
After an overnight at my aunt's home in Millington we drove to Westminster, Maryland for a visit with Chris and his family, during which time our families became better acquainted. The highlights of that gathering were meals at Chris' mom's home and the visit we all made to Gettysburg. No better guide to such an important battlefield could have been found than Chris. Since he had grown up so close by and had visited it often we were given an excellent tour. Not long after that we were on our way with fond farewells and loads of memories.
In the latter part of 1963 my family, having been notified of an upcoming assignment to Alaska, decided to buy a Volkswagen camper
[bus]. We planned a trip to Alabama for the purchase and stopped for a visit at Fort Benning with the C.J. Miller family. Afterward they, Chris and family came over to Montgomery and visited with us at my wife's parents home. Since it was an overnight stay for them we decided to have a reuniting dinner and drinks at Maxwell AFB that evening.
Pegg was alarmed when baby-sitting arrangements were made but finally reconciled the fears when she finally knew the details; in fact, she was impressed with how young Beverly's grandmother was at the time. The evening was a rousing renewal and we were finally thrown out of the MAFB Officer's Club about three in the morning! It wasn't long after that we learned of Chris getting orders assigning him to Fort Greeley, Alaska.
That knowledge allowed us to plan for a stop on our way to Fort Wainwright during the month of August 1964. As this plan came to pass, we stayed overnight with them and renewed connections and made family comparisons. The children of both families, alas, were too young to remember the occasion but we adults certainly enjoyed having our families together once again.
Proximity of duty stations allowed us to visit the Miller's again later and then have them visit us for Founder's Day in March of 1965. In the latter part of November or early December of that same year I saw Chris for the very last time. Assigned to fly a mission to Fort Greeley, while there, I got together with Chris for a quite brief
[in retrospect] visit. I knew at the time I was being reassigned to Vietnam, but, as I recall, Chris had not yet gotten orders to leave Fort Greeley.
It was much later that I learned of Chris's death and so knew little of the harm done to his family. The time and circumstances under which I became aware of the loss is not recalled-- no matter how much I want remember.
I am confident that Chris's duties were performed with utmost competence and that he was ever guided by those principles and ideals instilled in all of us as members of the Long Gray Line: Duty, Honor, Country.
It was truly sad that his family was decimated by the abrupt and premature ending of his life. Chris's son had been born only a few months before he left for Vietnam, so his widow, Maggie, or, as some of us knew her, Pegg, was left with their two small daughters and a son of less than six months' age.
This modest effort to offer tribute will be concluded in this wise: Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr., USMA Class of 1955. "Be thou at Peace".
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr.
Just One of Our Fallen Heroes
As this Memorial Day approaches, the Vietnam War has been over for 35 years, and yet for many of us; the memories of lost friends, and loved ones is indelibly etched in our minds.
Hopefully, you and your friends, family and loved-ones will pause Monday to remember those men and women in uniform who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and our way of life.
Over 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam War. Of that number, 300,000 were wounded in action, and 75,000 were disabled. Of the 58,200 names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, 1,046 are Marylanders who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War.
Some we knew. Some we didn’t. But they were all someone’s son or father, daughter or mother, sister or brother or aunt or uncle – or a cherished childhood friend. Their faces have been silent for many years, but they all have a story to tell.
One of the stories is that of U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr., who died at the age of 34 on October 29, 1966, two months after he had arrived in Vietnam August 24, 1966.
He was killed while commanding the 1542 Infantry Unit of the 1st Cavalry Division in Binh Dinh Province in the II Corps Tactical Zone during Operation Irving, which took place from October 2 to 24, 1966.
Twenty-nine U.S. troops lost their lives during the 23-day duration of Operation Irving. The 1st Air Cavalry lost 5,310 troopers killed in action while serving in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972.
Binh Dinh Province, located along the coastline in the center of Vietnam, was at the time one of the most populated provinces in South Vietnam and had been firmly in the control of the communists for decades.
Although the purpose of Operation Irving was multi-tasked, it was in part, a response to the North Vietnamese “Winter Spring Campaign,” launched in August 1965 by North Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap and implemented, in part, by the Viet Cong field commander Gen. Chu Huy Man. The campaign was designed to split South Vietnam in two – from Pleiku in the Highlands to Qui Nhon, in Binh Dinh on the coast.
Historically the area was once part of the Kingdom of Champa, a traditionally non-Vietnamese section of the country that was not fully under the control of the Vietnamese until 1832. The loyalty of the population of the area was to anyone but the South Vietnamese and certainly not the Americans.
It was the capital of Communist Region 5, and from 1945 to 1954 the region was so dangerous that the French never set foot there during the French-Indochina War years. It was also the home of the renowned North Vietnamese Army 3 Yellow Stars Division and the Communist Region 5 Division.
Operation Irving involved combined elements from the 1st Cavalry Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. John Norton, with the 22nd Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, commanded by the famed then-Colonel Nguy?n Van Hi?u, and the Capital Division of the Republic of Korea units pitted against the 610th Division of the North Vietnamese Army.
It was in this context, arguably one of the most dangerous places in Vietnam at the time, in which Captain Miller had returned from two missions and was asleep in a rest tent when he was wounded by a sniper – a persistent hazard in the area – on October 20. He died October 29, 1966, from his wound.
In addition to his son Christopher, who was born less than three-weeks before he was deployed, Captain Miller was survived by two daughters, Susan and Sarah, his wife, the former Margaret (Peggy) Stewart, and his Mom, Mrs. Charles Kalten of Littlestown Road in Westminster.
According to a tribute written by West Point classmate Dick Baker for the May 1995 issue of Assembly and republished in “Tours of Duty: Carroll County and the Vietnam War,” compiled by Gary D. Jestes and Jay A. Graybeal; Captain Miller was born on the 4th of July, 1932, in Richmond VA.
His family subsequently moved to Washington, where he lived until he was 10 years old, when his family moved to Westminster. He graduated from Westminster High School in 1949 at the age of sixteen.
Before he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, Captain Miller spent two years preparing. First, he studied for one year at Western Maryland College and another year at Bullis Preparatory School before enrolling at West Point July 3, 1951, and “settling into Company I-1.”
After he graduated from The Point in June 1955, he was deployed to South Korea on May 3, 1956. On September 16, 1957, 16 days after he returned from Korea, he married Peggy Stewart.
After moving about the country in several different assignments, Captain Miller and his family went to Fort Greenley, AK, “with several good friends of long standing along with the fishing and hunting opportunities that are only available in Alaska,” continued Mr. Baker.
At this point Mr. Baker observes that Captain Miller could have had any number of “safe” assignments, but he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.
Mr. Baker also notes that Captain Miller's name is misspelled on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington – “Christopher J.J. Miller, Jr. – with an extra ‘J.’ “Chris would probably have found great humor in this, but – at the same time – he would have likely been intolerant of the mistake.”
Captain Miller was buried with full military honors at West Point. He may be found at Panel 11E Line 092, on the cold black granite Vietnam Memorial; but we will never forget his service and supreme sacrifice for our country – and forever hold him in a warm place in our hearts.
Kevin E. Dayhoff
May 26, 2010