Claude Egbert Milam Jr (1923 - 1997) -"Uncle Dix"

My favorite uncle, Claude Egbert Milam Jr, was born 24 JUN 1923. His father, my grandfather Claude E. Milam Sr., nick-named him “Dix”. My father, Freer Milam, his older brother, had another nick-name for him, “ridge-runner”, because, Dad said, Dix would leave the house early of a morning, be gone all day and no one knew what adventure he might be up to, like swimming across the Ohio River or climbing across it on the very top of the massive railroad trestle bridge! You may view a photo of the Ohio River and trestle bridge here (link) .

Uncle Dix & my father, Freer 1940             Dix with 155mm Howitzer, Germany 1945       Uncle Dix & Aunt Helen Wedding Cake 1947
Uncle Dix and My Dad Dix with Howitzer Uncle Dix and Aunt Helen

You may click on each picture for a large image.

My first memory of Uncle Dix was his return from France and Germany in December 1945 after World War II. I was only four years old but, living near my Milam grandparents, I knew of the great anticipation and happiness that he would be returning - but also of the their concern for Dix because it had been a very brutal war. The first months they said he was “so thin”, the war had “changed him” and he seemed “nervous”.

Some months later I spent the weekend with my grandparents and Uncle Dix was there. He had an Erector Set filled with brightly colored metal pieces and screws and nuts to make things. Following the construction plans, Uncle Dix helped me put together a pickup truck. But sadly I had to take it apart and put everything back in the metal box.

Erector Set and Diagram for Truck
Erector Set Erector Set Truck Plan

The next day Grandma Milam said I could play with Dix's Erector Set so I put the truck together again. Well, almost. There was one portion I couldn’t figure out having to do with how to install the electric motor. Uncle Dix returned that evening and was impressed that I had assembled it. Then he showed me how to mount the motor properly. From then on he was my favorite Uncle.

I always looked up to Uncle Dix because he was so physically fit - square jawed, broad shoulders and narrow waist - was attending college and seemed so smart and knowledgeable. It didn’t hurt that he was straight forward, down to earth and kind to us. Dix was fond of my father, Freer, who was his much older brother. Uncle Dix and my Aunt Martha once told me that Freer was “like a father to them" growing up. Freer and Dix seemed to enjoy each other’s company: my Dad was a good listener and Uncle Dix told fascinating stories with an ironic sense of humor.

Uncle Dix helped me make my first balsa wood model airplane. Still living in the tiny apartment we had in Steubenville, I could not have been more than six years old. My Mom had sent me to a local store a couple blocks away to get a loaf of bread but they were out of bread. Mom had given me a quarter and the model airplane kit, which I had been eyeing, cost exactly a quarter so I bought it. Surprisingly they let me keep the kit. I asked my Dad to help me put it together and he said: “I don’t know anything about such things; ask your Uncle Dix.” So I did and Dix showed me how to place the thin strips of balsa wood on the plan and hold them in their curved position with sewing pins!

Some ten years later Uncle Dix would teach me how to parallel park a car after my Dad became frustrated with me. Dix had an organized, scientific mind I always thought. Uncle Dix had the parking procedure down to four steps: 1,2,3,4. I think that earlier that day he must have taken the time to analyze his own parking method so that he could instruct me as simply as possible. I appreciated that he made a special effort to make it easy for me to understand. Once again Uncle Dix proved to be someone for me to admire.

Specialized Training Patch After graduating high school in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1941, Uncle Dix attended Morris Harvey College in Charleston, WV, for 1 ½ years studying pre-med courses which pleased his mother, Girtha Fisher Milam, "no end". Dix voluntarily entered the U. S. Army on 12 FEB 1943 at Camp McCain in Mississippi for eight weeks of basic training. { Incredibly, I found dozens of photographs of Camp McCain boot camp from the Spring of 1943 here (link). } He qualified for the Army Specialized Training Program at the Pennsylvania Military College in Chester and began classes on 14 JUN 1943, completing three college terms by 3 MAR 1944. You may read more about Dix at the Pennsylvania Military College here (link) . On 11 APR 1944 he was assigned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for Artillery Training with Battery B of the 215th Field Artillery Battalion. He would remain with that same unit throughout combat in Europe during World War II although his battalion would be "attached" to different Divisions over time.

In 1944 Artillery Training was 12 - 16 weeks depending on one’s specialty. By 12 SEP his battalion had taken a train to New York City and by 26 SEP were "Somewhere at Sea". Paul Niemi of Battery C of the 215th wrote:

"....The Red Cross has been pretty good. They gave us coffee and doughnuts at the port and a bag with writing paper and a carton of Cigg....We’re in a pretty big Convoy with lots of different boats around us.” [704]

The 215th was apparently based near Bristol (link), Gloucestershire, England around 29 SEP 1944. Dix dated his first letter from England on Tuesday, 3 OCT 1944, when he wrote:

“....I don’t think we will be here too long. I hope not anyhow.... Well this is about all of the uncensorable things I can think of.”

Ten days later Dix sent home a change of address form with a new APO address; this was most likely just before he shipped out to France. From the official Order of Battle of the U.S. Army, World War II, European Theater of Operations, we learn that the 215th Field Artillery Battalion was part of the 177th Field Artillery Group which innitially was in the XII Corps of Lt Gen George S. Patton’s U.S. Third Army. [677] Since the 177th was assigned to the Corps itself, not to a specific Division, the 177th could be "attached" to any of the Divisions.

Lt Gen George S. Patton's US Third Army

The latter half of October was a time of rest and refitting for the Third Army in preparation for attacking across the Moselle River in France to take the fortress city of Metz and then the Saar River valley in far eastern France. For this battle the 177th was attached to the 4th Armored Division.

8 Nov 44 - 7 Dec 1944 with the 4th Armored Division: The 4th Armored Division (4AD) was to go directly to the Saar River and secure a crossing south of Saargemund while the 6th Armored Division was to secure the high ground east of Metz. [660] There was constant rain the first week of November such that the US Air Force could not make bombing raids prior to the attacks.

In spite of rain, floods and fog the offensive began on 8 NOV with a seven hundred cannon, hour long barrage. [661] The 4th AD attacked Viviers then cleared Bois de Serres on 12 NOV. Patton noted that trenchfoot was becoming "very acute" and ordered a pair of dry socks sent daily with each man's rations. [662] On the 13th Gens Patton and Bradley visited the 4th AD. Patton observed the mud was so deep that "Tanks actually bellied down when off the roads". [663] The 4th Armored advanced through Dieuze and crossed the Saar River on 21–22 NOV and established a bridgehead. Then the 4th Armored took Singling, Bining and Baerendorf on 24 November. [664] Patton wrote on 26 NOV:

"Averell Harriman, Ambassador to Russia, visited us and I took him to the 4th Armored Division to show him that the Russians were not the only people who had to contend against mud. On this drive we traversed four old and two new tank ditches, varying from 12 to 15 feet deep and from 25 to 35 feet in width. Also innumerable lines of trenches .... When we were with the 4th Armored, we crossed the Saar River and spat on the far bank.... I decorated a lieutenant who, in command of one of our Mark IV's, had put out five German Panther tanks." [664]

On 5 DEC the 4th Armored advanced seven miles and on 8 DEC it reached the Maginot Line, nine miles west of the German border. [665] The 4th AD was then relieved of heavy fighting for rest and “refitting”. The men of the division were exhausted after incessant fighting during the record-breaking November rains. The weather, the enemy and the mud combined to make conditions deplorable and had taken a serious toll on the men and their vehicles. As a whole, the Third Army's battle losses during the month were 23,000 killed, wounded and missing and the non-battle losses were 18,ooo. They were 11,000 short handed even with 30,000 replacements. [666]

The Battle of the Bulge 

For this battle, the Third Army assigned the 177th Field Artillery Group to the 6th Armored Division. In mid-December, the Third Army was preparing for a combined air and ground attack to smash through the German defenses east of the Saar River set for 19 DEC. [667] On the evening of the 16th Lt General Bradley informed Patton of a German counter offensive in the Ardennes Forest north of them in Luxembourg and Belgium. Creating that bulge which surrounded the US 101st Airborne Division trapped at Bastogne was one of the greatest German concentrations since the war began. On 19 DEC Gen Patton met with Gens. Eisenhower and Bradley at Verdun, France, to discuss the grave situation faced by the First Army’s VIII Corps. The Third Army was ordered to come to their aid. Patton immediately stopped the XII Corps planned attack for the following day and ordered the 4th Armored Division and the 26th and 80th Infantry Divisions to be transferred to Luxembourg. [668] Over the next few days a major part of the Third Army undertook a 90 degree turn to the north while the US Sixth Army moved north to cover their positions. [669] (See map below)

Order of Battle December 18 to 25, 1944. 6th Armored Division (6AD) near Metz, France.
Map Battle of the Bulge 20 December

With only those three divisions, on 22 DEC at 0600 Patton began the Third Army's counterattack against the Germans from north of Arlon, Luxembourg, to gain the advantage of surprise. They were able to advance north for seven miles the first day. [670] At Bastogne the 101st Airborne Division was surrounded and the airdrop of supplies was often hindered by the weather. Beginning on 24 DEC there were violent German counterattacks all along the Third Army’s new front. [671] The 6th Armored Division was ordered to move north to relieve the 10th Armored Division north of Luxembourg City. [678]

The conditions were atrocious with relentless cold, snow and sleet and continuous German attacks. By the evening of the 26th one Combat Command of the 4th Armored Division broke through and made contact with the "battling bastards" of Bastogne. [678] On the 27 DEC, Maj. Gen. Robert Grow's 6th Armored Division was sent under the cover of darkness to just south of Bastogne to join the offensive. [672]

On 30 DEC 1944 Uncle Dix wrote:

“How was Christmas back home? It was white and cold over here. I am sleeping in fox holes now but they are not as bad as you might think.... If you can find anything to keep my feet warm I wish that you would send it."

Years later Dix spoke more frankly on a morning walk with his daughter, Melanie:

"You don't know what cold is until you awake in the morning with your clothes frozen to the ground."

29 DEC 19 - 27 JAN 1945 with the 6th Armored Division: Gen Patton ordered an offense for the 30th of December from the Bastogne area: the 11th Armored would attack north toward Houffalize and on New Year's Eve the 6th Armored Division would attack through the 101st Airborne's line at Bastogne toward St Vith to the northeast. [673] At midnight, as a greeting to the Germans on New Year's Eve, all the guns of the Third Army fired rapidly on enemy targets for 20 minutes! The 6th Armored was able to advance 2 1/2 miles the first day to Longvilly. [679] The 6th AD quickly learned something from the Germans - white camouflage. The 6th AD soldiers draped themselves in white sheets from Belgium bedrooms. 2 JAN was a day of hard fighting for the Super Sixth. Their attack made headway in a few places but they were thrown back in others. [674, 679] On 4 JAN the Germans counterattacked and were successfully blunted "largely by the sheer effort of massed artillery that cut into the German's assembly areas". Artillery battalions fired more than 3200 rounds that day! It was generally agreed that the Bastogne corridor was held open by mainly artillery concentrations.

"Between 1 JAN and 8 JAN, one of the great artillery battles of the war was fought....the Division Artillery fought ceaselessly day and night, without rest or respite, in bitterly cold weather....On 3 JAN the 6th Armored Division artillery fired sixteen missions on call from the 101st Airborne Division in repulsing counterattacks in their zone. Two days later 11,655 rounds were fired in support of the 6th AD. "At night, the whole horizon lit up and artillery came down like fire rain. The sky blows up with noise and as the artillery lifts, the German infantry is on you screaming and hollering...Oh Lord!." Between 1 and 7 JAN the same group fired 53,054 rounds indicating the extent of the reliance placed in the artillery to stop the Germans." [680]

On 8 JAN 1945 Dix wrote:

"The snow here is almost a foot deep, but we sleep part of the time in a barn."

As more Divisions arrived at their designated positions, Lt Gen Patton planned a major offense for 9 JAN. The order of battle from west to east in the VIII Corps was: 87th ID, 17th Airborne, 101st Airborne and 4th Armored; in the III Corps was the 6th Armored, 35th ID, 90th ID and 26th ID; and in the XII Corps was the 80th ID. The attack would be preceeded by a barrage of a thousand guns of 105 mm caliber or larger. When the 6th Armored hit the front, the 101st Airborne was on its left flank and the 35th Infantry Division was on the right. The 6th Armored Division helped repulse parts of eight German divisions in fighting at Neffe, Mageret, Longvilly, Bizory, and Arloncourt. [675] (see map below)

Order of Battle December 26 to January 25, 1945. The 4th and 6th Armored Divisions (AD) attack at Bastogne.
Map Battle of Bulge December to January

"Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather provided the setting for one of the most difficult campaigns ever fought by American troops. Frozen tank turrets had to be chipped free of ice to regain traversing action. Iced canon breaches had to be manually operated. Semiautomatic M-1 rifles refused to function until their bolts were beaten back and forth. When escape hatches and tank doors stuck fast, they got the "blow torch" treatment. Ice formed in gas tanks and clogged fuel lines. And feet froze. Men became so cold they "burned." " [683]

"For 23 snowbound, freezing days, the "Super Sixth" and Nazis fought a see-saw battle. The Yanks took towns, lost them to numerically superior German forces, and later recaptured them. Slowly, the Germans relinquished their grip on the bulge. Waging strong rear-guard action, the Germans completed their 25-mile withdrawal back across the Our River into Germany and to the Siegfried Line by 26 JAN 1945." The reference for these quotes is here . [683]

You may view short videos of the battle here (link), here (link) and here (link) . On 30 JAN 1945 Dix wrote:

"I was at Bastogne for a while, I have been in Luxemburg and now I am back in Belgium.... Yes, it was cold over here. The snow is not too deep, 10 inches to a foot...."

The Battle of the Bulge was the largest land battle fought by the western allies during all of World War II. For the US Third Army it had cost 50,630 casualties: killed, wounded, missing in action and non battle related. [676] Twenty-five percent of the casualties were from frozen feet and trench foot. The 6th Armored Division lost nearly half of its tanks in the Bastogne offensive. [681] Maj. Gen. Grow strongly felt that after six months of combat the Super Sixth needed a month out of the line to rest, replenish and refit. On 2 FEB the Third Army went on "passive defense" for that very purpose. [682]

Later Lt Gen George Patton would remark to Brigadier Gen Anthony MacAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne's artillery at Bastogne:

"I don't have to tell you who won the war. You know our artillery did!"

On 19 FEB 1945 Uncle Dix wrote:

"I am back in a rest camp now for a couple days. We have been fighting on German soil for some time now.... I saw Ernie some time ago. It was certainly good to see him after two years."

Later on 19 APR 1945, he described the February weather:

"The days I saw Ernie were rainy ones (early February). It rained most of the time and the mud was deep all around."

Lt Gen William H. Simpson's US Ninth Army

During February Lt Gen Patton's Third Army was canabalized of a some units to build up Lt Gen William H. Simpson's Ninth Army which was going on the offense further north to cross the Roer River in central Germany. [682] Uncle Dix's unit, the 215th Field Artillery Battalion, was one of the units transferred.

Because the German's initial penetration through the Ardennes Forest had split Lt Gen Omar Bradley's Army Group, most of his First and Ninth Armies were on the north of the Bulge. Back on 20 DEC 1944 Gen Ike Eisenhower decided that they should be under the command of British Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group along with the British 2nd Army and the Canadian 1st Army who held the northern flank of the Allies front in Holland and Belgium.

Operation Grenade: Crossing the Roer River 

By mid JAN 1945 Gens Eisenhower and Montgomery concluded the Allies must continue their offensive through the Winter to further weaken Germany and to prevent the enemy recovering. [684] The goal of Operation Grenade was to advance their armies to the Rhine River in preparation for a mobile Spring offense to capture the German industrial heartland, the Ruhr Valley. [685]

From the few details of the 215th Artillery Batallion's assignments (and a lot of reading), it became clear that Uncle Dix was assigned to the newly formed XVI Corps of the Ninth Army which was its northern most unit or "left wing". By 6 Feb the XVI Corps was operational; the 8th Amored Division joined the same day. The 75th Infantry Division joined on 17 FEB. Uncle Dix's artillery battalion is found with those division later in March for the Rhine River crossing. [686]

Beginning at 02:45 on the morning of 23 FEB there thundered a 45 minute artillery preparation during which over a thousand guns of the Ninth Army shook the earth and lit up the sky from Duren in Germany north to Roermond and Venlo in Holland. The Germans had opened dams on the Roer in mid February flooding the river which was still swollen and flowing swiftly when the infantry battalions set out in their assault boats. By midnight of the first day 28 battalions had crossed the Roer and seven Class 40 bridges had been completed. The infantry had enlarged the bridgehead to a depth of 2 miles. An excellent video of the Roer River crossing may be viewed here (link) . [687]

Uncle Dix's XVI Corps crossed on the evening of 25 FEB at Hilfarth and headed northwest toward Holland. [688] After slow going due to the destruction of bridges, 1 MAR was the breakout day for the 8th Armored Division and the 35th Infantry Division when they drove north all the way to Venlo, Holland - a bastion of the Seigfried Line and the impregnable Maas River fortress which were taken from the rear. The Roer River battle for the Ninth Army was essentially won. What remained was to destroy or capture the residual German forces West of the Rhine River to prevent their escape back East across the Rhine and to seize intact one of the Rhine River bridges if possible. [689]

On 1 MAR 1945 Uncle Dix wrote:

"We were with the Third Army all winter. But now we are with the Ninth Army. We hit it pretty good here at times. We are moving awful fast...."
Order of Battle for Operation Grenade. The Ninth Army's XVI Corps drove North to Venlo then Northeast to Rheinburg.
Map of Operation Grenade

Because of their rapid advance, new orders were issued on 2 MAR for the XVI Corps to continue their aggressive push northeast toward Rheinberg. On 5 MAR the 8th Armored Division and units of the 35th Infantry entered Rheinberg just three miles from the Rhine River. This completed Operation Grenade as it was originally designed; enemy resistance West of the Rhine was crushed by 10 MAR. The US First, Third and Ninth Armies had closed up to the Rhine River as envisioned. [690]

On 14 MAR 1945 Dix wrote:

"I think that I can tell you now that we crossed the Roer River.... PS: Here is some Belgium, German & Holland money."

Operation Plunder: Crossing the Rhine River 

These assignments for Dix's 215th Field Artillery Battalion are mentioned in the Order of Battle of the U.S. Army, World War II, Europe which are sufficient to place his battalion in the Ninth Army's XVI Corps:

12 MAR 45 - 18 MAR 45: 75 Infantry Division.

27 Mar 45 - 31 Mar 45: 8th Armored Division, which crossed the Rhine River on 26 MAR.

XVIII Airborne Patch Final instructions were issued by Field Marshall Montgomery for Operation Plunder on 9 MAR and Lt Gen Simpson issued his final orders on the 13th. In conjunction with Plunder, Operation Varsity was to airdrop the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps including the British 6th and the U.S. 17th Airborne Divisions along with 1000 glider planes north of the Lippe River close behind German lines east of Wesel - the road and rail center on the Rhine River. The XVI Corps was chosen to lead Enisted Glider Patch the assualt crossing of the Rhine which would consist of the 30th, 35th, 75th and 79th Infantry Divisions and the 8th Armored Division. Special attention was given to the complete concealment of the artillery weapons, ammunition and assualt boats build up in the zone behind the XVI Corps. Excellent videos of the preparations for the crossing are here (link) (first 4 min) and here (link) (first 10 min) . [691]

The assualt was supported by the bulk of the Ninth Army's artillery. Thus for the attack the XVI Corps would have its 19 battalions of divisional artillery plus 34 battalions of non-divisional artillery. The firing plan was divided into three phases: 1) shortly after mid-night an extremely heavy one hour preparation preceeding the assualt, 2) a three hour period of scheduled fires in support of the advancing divisions during darkness, and 3) fires to be deliverd on-call after day-light. Beginning ten days prior to the attack a smoke screen was maintained over the 20 mile front to hide their preparations whenever conditions required. [692]

At one o'clock on the morning of 24 MAR some 40,000 artillery men opened a horrorific hour-long bombardment of German positions opposite the XVI Corps. For 60 minutes, 2070 guns averaged more than 1000 rounds per minute. Some 1820 tons of artillery ammunntions struck the German defenses. In the first four hours of the attack, 131,450 rounds were fired - nearly 4000 tons! [693]

The 30th and 79th Infantry Divisions made their assault across the 1200 feet wide Rhine River near Rheinburg at 2 AM. By the end of the first day their bridgehead was 9 miles wide and 3 to 6 miles deep. On the 25 MAR the important town of Wesel was cleared so bridges could be built across the Rhine River at that important intersection. On 26 MAR the 8th Armored Division to which Uncle Dix's battalion was assigned entered the bridgehead and on the 27th completed its assembly just south of the Lippe River near Hunxe. [694]

On 26 MAR 1945 Uncle Dix wrote:

"Things have picked up over here in the last few days, but the war isn't over by a long shot."

The 8th Armored "passed through" the 30th Infantry Division on 28 MAR but ran into swampy terrain, anti-tank obsticals and tough German resistance. However on the 29th it pushed forward 2 to 4 miles and cleared Dorsten on the south bank of the Lippe River so bridging could begin. [695]

You may watch a detailed video about the Allied armies crossing the Rhine River here (link) .

Reduction of the Ruhr Pocket 

On Easter Sunday, the 1st of April, the encirclement of the Ruhr Valley was completed when units of the Ninth Army and the First Army linked up at Lippstadt, Germany - 70 miles east of the Rhine River. Now the Ninth Army engaged in two simultaneous operation: 1) the drive to the Elbe River by the XIII Corps and a major portion of the XIX Corps and 2) the reduction of the Ruhr Pocket by the XVI Corps and elements of the XIX Corps. The Ruhr Pocket encompassed an area of 4000 square miles between the Lippe River in the north and the Seig River in the south. This gave to the Ninth Army the densely populated, heavily built up, industial section north of the Ruhr River and gave the First Army the rugged terrain to the south. From 1 APR to 14 APR when the last Ninth Army objective in the Ruhr was taken, it was a grinding, slugging fight through the thickly populated, highly industrialized area: fighting from town to town, street to street and building to building. [696]

Later in MAY Uncle Dix would write:

"We helped clean up the Ruhr Pocket. It was there that my best pal was hit in five places and my next best friend was killed."

95th Infantry Division Patch On 31 MAR the 8th Armored Division and the 95th Infantry Division were positioned to strengthen the northeast and eastern wall of the pocket near Hamm in order to prevent a German breakout to the east as enemy forces were concentrating in the Lippstadt area. On 2 APR the 8th Armored first met the elite German 116th Panzer Division probing into the eastern wall looking for a weak point to smash through the trap. They would fight several tank battles. The 95th Infantry took up a position west of the 8th Armored to attack south into the pocket in conjunction with the 8th AD toward Soest. [697]

On 5 and 6 APR the 95th Infantry and 8th Armored converged on Soest from the northwest and northeast advancing from 5 to 11 miles. On the east flank of the pocket, the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, attached to the 8th Armored, drove south over the Mohne River to further thicken the eastern wall of the pocket. Also on the 6th, the 17th Airborne Division was transferred to the XVI Corps to strenthen the western flank. [698]

Essen, home of the great Krupp arms works, was captured and cleared on 10 APR by the XVI Corp. Dortmund was attached from the west by the 75th Infantry and from the east by the 95th Infantry on 11 APR with bitter house to house fighting as Dortmond was ordered to be defended as an escape route south across the Ruhr River. Road blocks, mines, artillery and mortar fire augmented heavy small arms fire by the city's defenders. On the 13th Dortmond fell as did Duisburg further to the west. All that remained in the Ninth Army's zone was mopping up of small pockets of resistance. The Ninth Army had completed its share of the reduction of the Ruhr Pocket. During the Ruhr campaign, artillery ammunition was not rationed. Over the 14 days of the battle, the XVI Corps field artillery battalions fired 259,000 rounds or about 7900 tons of ammunitions! [699]

Reduction of the Ruhr Pocket by Ninth and First Armies. Note the downward arrows at Hamm, Dortmond and Essen.
Map of Reduction of Ruhr Pocket

As portions of the Ninth, First and Third Armies rushed to the Elbe River junction with the Russians, the rear area east of the Rhine became so large and contained so many German prisoners and displaced persons that the XVI Corps was assigned responsibility for its security and governance. By midnight on 17 APR, the Ruhr Pocket was no more. [700]

19 APR 1945 Dix wrote:

“I cannot tell you what I am doing now but I can tell you to stop worrying...."

On 2 MAY, the Ninth Army's eastern front reached the agreed upon demarcation points with the Russians along the Elbe River and the advance ceased. On 8 MAY Victory in Europe Day, now known as V-E Day, was celebrated to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces. Uncle Dix and his buddies celebrated too:

9 MAY 1945 he wrote:

"Two of us went out hunting the night before last and shot one of Hitler’s deer."

19 MAY 1945 Uncle Dix shared more:

"I didn’t know how much I missed home until we finished fighting. Before I was too busy trying to stay alive. We are stationed in a town called Bielefeld, Germany. We helped clean up the Ruhr Pocket. It was there that my best pal was hit in five places and my next best friend was killed."
The retangular symbol beneath "Bielefeld" indicates that XVI Corps Artillery occupied the area.
Nineth Army Occupation Zones

The US Ninth Army then totaled over 650,000 troops. It occupied some 13,000 square miles of Germany - from the Rhine to the Elbe Rivers. The Ninth had liberated more than 200,000 Allied prisoners of war and captured 584,450 German soldiers. By mid May the Ninth Army was feeding ~1,700,000 persons each day including 924,000 displaced persons! [701]

On 11 JUN the British Army completed the take-over of the Ninth Army's zone of occupation. The Ninth Army and headquarters were transferred to Chantilly, France, in preparation for its return to the United States and possible transfer to the Pacific Theatre. Unfortunately Uncle Dix's battalion had not earned enough "points" so they were returned to Lt Gen Patton's Third Army. [702] The 215th Field Artillery Battalion was transferred even earlier since on 6 JUN Dix wrote:

"I have been moved to Austria now, down along the Danube River."

On 17 JUL 1945 Uncle Dix wrote:

"I am now with the 961st Field Artillery Battalion about five miles from Salzburg.  It looks like a pretty good outfit, but I can’t tell for sure yet."

On 25 JUL 1945 he wrote:

“I wrote you a long time ago that I am with the 3rd Army again. We went up and crossed the Roer and Rhine Rivers with the 9th {Army} then when they get ready to go home they throw us out. That is what I call gratitude.”

On 8 SEP 1945:

".... I am pretty sure that I will be home before Christmas. All I ask is to have some biscuits and some banana pudding when I get there."

On 14 SEP 1945:

".... I have had a lot of close calls. One time a German shell exploded within a few feet of me and tore a little book and some letters....out of my pocket. One inch closer and it would have torn my hip bone out.... Another time a 13 ton tractor turned over on me. Practically everyone else in it was either killed or seriously hurt. Again I was laying in my tent and a German shell exploded. A piece of shell tore a hole in the side of my tent 1 inch above my head. If I had been raised up the least bit, it would have tore my head off."

On 2 OCT 1945:

"Here I am sitting by the stove in my room. I have a pretty nice room to myself. It’s about 10 x 12 feet with a stove in one corner & a sink in the other with cold water.... You know, it will be three years this Christmas since I last saw Freer. I was only 19. That seems like it was an awful long time ago. I sure would like to get our family together again for a long bull session, or a game of cards.... It will be snowing here in a couple more weeks, and it doesn’t go away until the middle of April. The mountains here are awfully pretty. The most of them have snow on them all the year around."

And on 8 OCT 1945 Dix wrote:

"The last two days here have been beautiful with the trees on the mountain beginning to turn color. It is really beautiful, the bottom part of the mountain are all colors then comes a deep purple where there is nothing but rocks, and sometime a bush, then the tops are all white with snow. It is really pretty. I am getting so I love these mountains.... wish I was home today, we would all get in the car and drive for miles and miles.... It will soon be three years since I saw Freer, that is a long time..... Col. French wanted to put me in Officers Candidate School but I would not let him pull strings. Anyplace I get in this world will be the result of C. E. Jr & nobody else.... I would sure like to see you all. I would like to see Lakin."

The  961st Field Artillery Battalion was based near Obertrum am See, Austria. There are more photos of Obertrum region and more of Uncle Dix's comment's here (link) .

Obertrum am See is on the far side of the lake in this photo. Uncle Dix's camp was a couple miles closer to the mountains.
Obertrum am See, Austria

6 NOV 1945:

"I am Motor Sergeant now just like W. F. (Freer). I wonder how many vehicles he has? I have eleven now but getting more later. This is one job I love. I hate to see evenings come so I have to quit work.... I am fine but a little skinny."

19 DEC 1945:

"All I could ask for is to have a job like I have now back in the states; it keeps me busy as I can be but I love it. I have 13 vehicles now.... I have been all over Austria hauling men and supplies. You all won’t understand this but Freer will. Tell him I have the neatest looking Weapons Carrier in Salzburg.  I cut the cab from an old Heine truck and put it on, doors & all. It really is swell."

Uncle Dix returned home to his parents house in Wierton, WV, around Christmas 1945 as he had hoped. He re-entered college the following year. Uncle Dix and Helen Hines were married on 29 MAR 1947. Helen and Dix had dated before the war.

Dix graduated from Widener University in Pennsylvania on 2 FEB 1949. After working at Brush Beryllium and a fiberglass company, Uncle Dix settled into a long career at Cooper Tire and Rubber Company in Findlay, OH. He was in accounting and, in particular, budget accounting there. During his last years Uncle Dix was involved in Cooper's strategic planning.

His daughter, Melanie, who also worked at Cooper Tire in IT, recalled:

"When I started in Cooper in 1974 Dad was in accounting.  He later was moved out to Plant Engineering but that was to supervise the plant budgeting.  Dad loved going in early and walked through the plant to talk to the guys on the floor.  He always visited with all 3 shifts.  They were his ears on the ground.   He never “reported” directly to the CEO, but he had no issues going into his office and telling him what was going on with the business and/or when things were screwed up.   The CEO and Dad shared many beers together.  Dad was known as a straight shooter; he never sugar coated anything."

When I visited Uncle Dix after his retirement, he told me with a certain amount of pride about designing the equipment layout for the new plants in Cooper's ten year plan. Dix said:

"One day the CEO asked me to come by Cooper since he wanted to give me a tour of the new manufacturing facilities. The equipment layout was exactly as I had designed it! And they had completed the expansion in eight years instead of the planned ten!"

His son, Jeff, recalled:

"Other than being in the Battle of the Bulge, Dad rarely spoke about the war and never in any detail, but you always got the impression that it was the high point of his life..... He read a lot of books on WWII.  I remember once I bought him a book on the Battle of the Bulge, and he was excited to discover on one of the detail maps the town or village that his unit had been close to during the battle.  He said it was the first time he'd ever found it on a map."

My last memory of Uncle Dix was his funeral. Dix requested to be buried in his World War II Army uniform and he was. It was then I recalled that on our walk along the beach in Gulfport, he told me that half the men he started with in Battery B became casualties.

In addition to his immediate family and friends, almost all of his neices and nephews were there. We were all very fond of Uncle Dix. He was survived by his son, Jeffery Milam, and his daughter, Melanie Marie Milam Thomas.

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