A surprise sailor's salute: WWII vet re-awarded lost medals
BETHALTO - When Clyde Miller returned from fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a signal and communications officer in the U.S. Navy, he had spent more than 27 months away from home.
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Miller found himself in San Diego Bay when he got word of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. He still remembers that day clearly, even at 92 years old. After he discovered the war had ended, he tossed his earned medals to the sea. He never thought he would see them again, but he was surprised by family, friends and two fellow Navy vets Saturday afternoon when those medals were returned to him.
"Did those come from the bottom of the sea?" Miller joked upon return of the medals.
Those medals included a Victory Medal, a Victory in the Philippines Medal with two stars and an Atlantic-Pacific Medal with three stars. They were re-awarded to him by Navy veteran Dave Herren, with whom Miller worked at Olin's fabrication plant.
"When we needed a part, he would have it," Herren said. "He took care of me good."
Wayne Able, of Alton VFW Post #1308's ritual team spoke on behalf of his own Navy service, saying he could not fully imagine the struggle Miller would have faced during his time in the service, adding Miller's ships did not have the advanced sonar and radar during intense battles with Japanese torpedoes, Zeros and even kamikaze planes.
"My ships had radar and sonar," Able said. "We could see something coming from 250 miles away. Clyde had to take them from 250 feet away."
Miller was joined by his friends, family and wife during the medal re-awarding at Cedarhurst, which was a surprise to him.
After he received the medals, Miller placed them in the care of his wife. He said that he had enjoyed seeing his family, and said he had fun both at his Illinois Navy veterans reunion as well as an Honor Flight he took to Washington, D.C. Miller said the flight left at 3:30 a.m., adding it reminded him of his time in the Navy.
Upon the presentation of the medals, Able advised Miller to "not throw them overboard."
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Reporter Cory Davenport can be reached via call or text at (618) 419-3046 or via email at [email protected].