Intermission Story (1) – A Castaway’s War Against the Japanese

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller w/ flag he retrieved from Arundel Island

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller w/ flag he retrieved from Arundel Island

In The Castaway’s War, Stephen Harding has fastened on one U.S. Navy officer’s amazing exploits in the South Pacific—an adventure much publicized during and immediately after World War II, but long forgotten since—and fleshed it out into a full-scale narrative not only of the episode itself, but of the moral and physical shaping of the man who accomplished it. Mining official records of the U.S. and Japanese navies, personal letters, and recollections, Harding creates a retelling that is not only gripping, but fully documented. [Harding is the editor of World War II’s sister publication, Military History.]

9780306823404

A Robinson Crusoe story set in wartime.

The feat that made a hero and news media darling of Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller Jr. began 43 minutes after midnight on July 5, 1943, off the coast of the Solomon Islands. A Japanese torpedo struck Miller’s destroyer, the USS Strong. Miller rescued many of his men, but before he could board the rescue ship that had arrived, it fled under enemy fire. The USS Strong went down, and Miller went into the water wearing a kapok life jacket. Seriously injured from the shock wave created as the Strong’s depth charges exploded, he was pulled onto a floater net holding three other survivors. The four men washed ashore three days later at Arundel, a small Japanese-occupied island just ten miles long and six miles wide.

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller aboard the USS Strong

Born on 19 January 1910, Hugh Miller became a star quarterback for the University of Alabama in the 1930 season.  He led the team to win the Rose Bowl game played on New years Day 1931.  The Crimson Tide crushed the Washington Cougars 24-0.

Adm. Halsey, Hugh Miller & Eleanor Roosevelt when Miller received the Navy Cross & Purple Heart

Miller’s incredible tale unfolds over the 38 days he remained stranded.  After suffering from near-fatal injuries and exposure to the elements, he ordered the enlisted men who had landed with him to leave him behind and make for an American-held island. However, he miraculously recovered. Using woodsman skills learned in his adolescence and grit inspired by his collegiate football coach, Miller managed not only to evade Japanese search parties, but to kill more than a half dozen Japanese soldiers. The sojourn on Arundel finally ended when Miller signaled a low-flying American TBM Avenger and the pilot sent a seaplane to rescue the lone castaway.

USS Strong, sunk at Kula Gulf

USS Strong, sunk at Kula Gulf

Harding, contemptuous of “the chest-thumping, testosterone-fueled prose” in which Miller’s episode was so often retold in pulp publications in the immediate postwar years, recounts Miller’s story in calm, precise detail, carefully correcting the myths and inaccuracies that adhered over the years. This is Miller’s entire life, sketching in his prewar years and how they forged the man who became the hero of Arundel, chronicling the Strong’s wartime missions and maneuverings, and following Miller through his postwar career as a navy lawyer and military court judge.

So while the heart of the book—the 90 pages covering the time from the torpedoing of the destroyer to Miller’s rescue from Arundel—is certainly the most riveting, the reader is able to put Miller’s experience into the perspective of the full life of a man who, while perhaps not extraordinary, did extraordinary things.

Hugh Barr Miller passed away 21 June 1978.

The Castaway’s War will be made into a full-length movie.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Celani Jr. – Lancaster, CA; US Navy, Naval Special Warfare Command, Lt. Comdr., pilot

Matthew ‘Hattie’ Hatfield – Everleigh, ENG; British Army, Royal Tank Reg., Cpl.

Darren Neilson – Blockburn, ENG; British Army, Royal Tank Regiment, Cpl.

Fred I. Sonnenfeld – Bronx, NY; US Army, Cpl.

George P. Teel Jr. – White Haven, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 8th Army, Cpl.

Robert J. York – Tamaqua, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, Lt. Col.

FROM THE USS FITZGERALD

Shingo A. Douglass – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Yeoman 3rd Class

Noe Hernandez – Weslaco, TX; US Navy, Gunner’s mate 2nd Class

NgocT T. Huynh – Oakville, CT; US Navy, Sonar Tech 3rd Class

Alex Martin – Halethorpe. MD; Personnel Specialist 1st Class

Gary L. Rehm Jr. – Elyria, OH; Fire Controlman 1dt Class

Dakota Kyle Rigsby – Palmyra, VA; US Navy, Gunner’s mate Seaman

Carlosvictor G. Sibayan – Chula Vista, CA; Fire Controlman 2nd Class

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 19, 2017, in Book Reviews, Current News, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. Another amazing tale added to your enthralling chronicles. From your description, I love the way the book is presented. As has been said, one hopes the movie uses the same restraint and doesn’t ‘Hollywoodise’ it. After the Audie Murphy tale, I wondered what America had needed the rest of their army for.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Truth is often stranger – and more powerful – than fiction. No need to embellish this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as the post itself: the courage and heart of the WWII generation, the disappointing attitude of the Millennials, the tired casting choices of Hollywood and how they manage to turn incredible stories to drek, etc. Quite amusing.
    xx,
    mgh

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing great story dear

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bummer—Tom Hanks would’ve been great in the movie. Unless, perhaps, it starts with him reminiscing (classic old guy in the rocker on the porch, inquisitive downlines demanding the story…).

    (You posted another tale of a guy alone on a Jap infested island who held out too~?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • During the war a lot of pilots were downed near enemy-held islands and Coast Watchers were placed there purposely to report on the enemy. So it is quite possible this sounds like another story. Thank you for reading this one as well.
      Tom Hanks already had his castaway movie and I believe he’s too tall to play this part. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Favorite blogggger love uh

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What grit! An amazing story!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Love the military humor at the end of this post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Doc. Humor helps the morale of the troops and therefore very important. By adding that in the posts, I figure I not only put a little bit in there for everyone, but show how their lives are a variety of the good, the bad and the boring.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. OK, now I’m looking forward to the movie! I suspect it will focus pretty much on those 90 pages. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a fascinating story.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That is a good point well made….as well as heroes, these men and women all had many other chapters to their lives than the 90 most exciting pages. Thanks a lot for sharing this story. I had not come across it before.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure, John. There are so many stories, it is really difficult to keep up with them all. Pierre Lagace sure does a great job working at it though!!

      Like

  12. Great story! A lesson in courage, determination, and the fight for goodness.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. After going through what he went through it’s amazing that he managed to live to what we now regard as a young age, 68, We must only hope that Hollywood can find a new face to represent Lt Miller with respect; and not go for the money with that Tom Cruise creature

    Liked by 3 people

  14. He was a man’s man to use an old phrase.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. After reading this riveting post on Hugh Miller, I would really like to see the movie, when it comes out. What an incredible story!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I read his previous “Last Battle” which was a fascinating story. I’ll look forward to this one too!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. To be half that resourceful, brave and determined….

    Liked by 2 people

  18. What a book! I’m off to Amazon to check on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Compelling story that will make for a fantastic read/movie. These stories need not be forgotten…I thank you for keeping them alive and sharing with people like me who would not otherwise be exposed to them…or even think about them…ashamedly.
    Hope you are well and that the light shines on you ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Before I reached the end, I was thinking ‘This would make quite a film’

    Liked by 1 person

  21. What an amazing story. So many people in that generation fall into the category of “while perhaps not extraordinary, did extraordinary things”

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Reblogged this on Anna Cottage and commented:
    Yet again another fabulous Story of courage that must be read.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. What a Story. Reblogging, should be seen.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Another great story GP/

    Liked by 2 people

  25. The perseverance of the human spirit is so wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. A great story. I’ll be reading the book and look forward to the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. What an amazing story of heroism and courage. I will definitely look out for the book. Thanks for the post GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. This is amazing. I’m going to order the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. That story sounds perfect for a film adaptation. I just hope they don’t overdo it, and choose the right actor to play him.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

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