Edward Weston Millward
Left to right: Picture approximately dated 1928 in front of their home in Plano, Idaho:
Weston Millward 5 yrs. old: Army Air Corp-South Pacific/Solomon Islands: Rear B-24 Aerial Gunner-45 Combat Missions November 1943 to July 1945
Duane Millward 7 yrs. old: Patton’s’ 3rd Armored Division: D-Day June 6, 1944 to Germanys’ Surrender May 2, 1945. Wounded twice.
Clark Millward 9 yrs. old: US Army 1st Infantry Division Invasion of Luzon, Philippines Jan 9, 1945 through the Occupation of Japan-July 1946. Wounded twice, once severely.
Ruth Millward 11 yrs. Old. Sister Leah is with her Grandparents. Kirma Millward is born 3 years later.
Marden Millward 13 yrs. old US Army Clerical Staff 1941-1946 Solomon Islands/South Pacific Theatre
Hyrum Harrison Millward Father 50 yrs old in 1928 (1884-1947)
1923 – 1934
Edward W. Millward was known as Wes or Weston in his youth and as a young man. He was born in Plano, Idaho, the 6th of 7 children, on August 1, 1923. Learning at a very early age that hard work equated to putting food on the table, his 3 brothers and 3 sisters worked with their parents to produce a profitable farm.
9 Millward’s lived in a 1,000 sq ft log cabin with a loft on 400 acres with farm animals. During the winter, the boys would slide out the attic window, and down the roof, to dig out the front door from the snow, sometimes 8-12 ft deep.
Their log cabin had no inside toilets, running water, electricity, forced heating, AC, TV, Radio, Phone, Computers, Cell Phones, GPS, wristwatches, typewriters…no modern conveniences of any type.
Instead, they had a Hand Pumped Well, outside Privy, Kerosene Lamps, and a Wood Stove in the Kitchen and a Belly stove in the next room.
The boys slept 4 to a bed, the girls 3 to a bed. They took a bath once every 2 weeks in a galvanized tub heated on Sunday, with water from the wood stove. Girls first, boys second, oldest to youngest, Dad was always last.
Dad, in his late seventies, told me the greatest Christmas gift he ever received was in 1928, he was 5. His father took a ripe orange out of his pocket & gave it to him. How did he get an Orange in the middle of winter in Idaho? Compare that to our Christmases today.
Dad had 1 pair of Levis, 1 coveralls, 2 pairs of socks, 2 shirts, 2 pairs of underwear, 1 pair of boots, all were hand my downs, older than he was.
The 3 girls and my Grandmother, cooked, cleaned, sewed, and canned, while the men worked in the fields in 12 hour shifts, taking care of the animals and planted crops. Hard, Hard, work.
The 2 room School house was 2-miles away. They walked. Missing school was common. The number one goal was to fill that root cellar for the winter. Work came first, school 2nd.
Hyrum, Dads father, would walk ½ mile to turn on and off the large irrigation water valve, that they shared with their neighbors.
In 1928, there was NO FEMA, No free Federal checks or cell phones, No Social Security, no Food stamps. No ambulances, no Med Flights, no hospital in town; NO nothing. If you came up short with food storage, help was hard to come by; the neighbors had enough food for their large families, not yours.
Life was hard, but no one complained. The good news? No rolling blackouts, crowded freeways, increased utility bills, “Smart towns & cities”, railroad strikes, & having to pay hundreds of different taxes that exist today.
Having planted 400 acres of potatoes, the best price was 6 cents per hundred pounds, sorted and sacked, ready for shipping. Only #1 Russets were acceptable. The cost to harvest and prepare for sale, was far greater than the selling price.
In the fall of 1934, in the middle of the great depression, the Millwards’ moved to Rexburg, Idaho, losing their farm. Hyrum had taken a loan out for seed the prior spring, and could not repay it. After 20 years of hard labor, they left the potatoes rot in the ground. Grandfather was financially broken; he never recovered from this loss. He was 50 yrs. old. The Bank walked in, took the farm, including over 20 years of improvements. The loan was much smaller than the value of the farm.
Dad graduated from Madison High in May, 1941. A few days later he left Idaho to find work in California. Hitch hiking with $5.00 in his pocket, he stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not having eaten in 2 days, he sat down at the lunch counter at a Casino-Hotel, asking the cook if he could wash dishes for a meal. The large, well-built cook said sure, fed him steak and eggs for dinner. Dad fell asleep on the counter after eating. The cook woke him up and said he could sleep in the storage room, then wash the dishes in the morning. Using potato & flour sacks as his bed, he conked out and awoke to the sound of dishes. He got up, helped with the dishes and other chores as promised. Before leaving, the cook gave him a hearty bacon, egg & potato breakfast with milk. Dad said that cook was one of the nicest men he had ever met. Bidding him goodbye, he continued on with his journey.
1941 Las Vegas
A few years later, before being deployed to the South Pacific, in the U.S. Army Air Corp, Dad visited Las Vegas and dropped by to see the Cook. He was saddened to hear that he too, had been drafted and had left a few months prior to his arrival. Because of the cooks caring nature, Dad wanted to thank him again for his help.
1941 – 1942
During the next 2 days Dad successfully completed hitch-hiking to Ocean Park, Calif., renting a room for $1.00 per day. He worked at Newberry Drug as a soda jerk for 25 cents per hour; 10 hours per day. After work, he attended night school at Santa Monica Tech learning to be a riveter for 3-hours. On weekends he put in 12-hour days to make ends meet.
He graduated from riveting school and landed a job at North American Aviation for .40 cents per hour; Time and a half over forty hours; double time over 60 hours per week. He averaged 80 hours per week.
January 1942, Dad landed a job at the Long Beach Shipyards. He welded new Liberty Cargo ships. The pay, was an inconceivable, astronomical 80-cents per hour to start. Time and a half for hours worked over forty, double time for hours worked over 60.
He worked 80 hours per week, 7 days per week, until the day he was drafted. Sending money back home, so his family could move out to Calif. He made more money in 1 day, then 2.5 weeks running a tractor in Idaho at age 11. They were building 3 complete, seaworthy Liberty ships, every 2 days, for the duration of the war.
In July, 1942, Dad’s parents and siblings had moved to California; and the family was again reunited. Dad told me several times that being with his family was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He was 19.
Army Air Corp
Dad was drafted into the Army Artillery in Feb 1943. He hated it. In the Artillery, you were in for the duration of the war. While in Amarillo, Texas, he read an article on a billboard asking for enlistments into the Army Air Corp. In the Air Corp, you served overseas for a certain number of combat missions, then were shipped home. He thought that was the way to go. He signed up, passed the physical and mental exams, then went into Cadet Training School in Laredo, Texas. Six weeks at gunnery school, he qualified for advanced training. He could then strip a Browning 50 caliber machine gun blindfolded and reassemble it in record time. He could aim and shoot the double fifties at strafing targets on the ground, towed sleeves behind the AT-6 plane; without hitting the plane! He was a good shot. So, they assigned him as a rear gunner in a B-24 Heavy Bomber.
1943 EWM In Uniform
With his new crew at Edwards, they flew practice bomb runs over Muroc Dry Lake Bed, practiced more strafing runs, now flying at 225 miles per hour, and spent hours shooting at towed sleeves. They flew over, in and around the Grand Canyon many times because of the wide wind fluctuations it created.
When finally sent overseas in the fall of 1943, the crew was well trained in the art of war.
Then a miracle happened, he was re-assigned from Texas, to Edwards AF Base in California, only 1 hour away from his family in Santa Monica, Ca. When on leave, he could now drive home and be with his family.
1943-EWM Bottom Row Middle Edwards Air Force Base Calif
South Pacific Theatre
Nov 1943 – Aug 1945
In the fall of 1943, they flew one B-24 at a time, to their first base in the Solomons. They left 1 at a time, so if the lead Navigator lost his way, they would only lose 1 plane, instead of 10.
First stop was Hawaii, then Christmas Island, only 2 miles long, with 1 Palm Tree and a large supply of aviation fuel. Guadalcanal was next, then Townsville, Australia, arriving at Nadzab, New Guinea, their first combat base, in late November, 1943. All was done by celestial navigation and compass. These islands were dots on a map. A few degrees mistake and you ran out of fuel in the middle of the vast Pacific & crashed.
After a month of combat missions, Dad was called back to Hawaii, his mom was critically ill. He Island hopped to Hawaii. Upon arrival, they told him to return to base, she had appendix surgery and was fine.
Unknown to him, upon arriving back at Nadzab, he was told his first crew had been shot down by enemy flak the previous week with no survivors. That trip to Hawaii had saved his life.
He interviewed and set up with a new crew in which he would fly the rest of his combat missions with. The picture below with informal uniforms is the crew he flew through the duration of his deployment.
1944 EWM Bottom Row Middle Nadzab Island
My father had many stories which defy logic as to why he and his crew survived the war; I call it divine intervention. I will not go into detail about the experiences he told me about; but I thought this was an interesting one.
When someone was sick, crew members would trade spots on different Bombers to keep as many planes in the air as possible. Dad was sitting in the rear turret of another plane, subbing in for a gunner that was sick. After getting situated, the back door of the turret was opened and the guy told him to go back to his plane, he was ok. Dad didn’t want to leave since he was all hooked up, but the guy insisted. Dad unhooked everything, dropped out of the plane, ran to his B-24 & hooked up with his regular crew.
1944-EWM 2nd From Left
Miss Jolly Roger
As they were flying over the bombing area in the archipelago of the Solomons, heavy flak was coming up. Suddenly, Dad’s B-24 unknowingly lifted a hundred feet higher, making his stomach drop, as a massive explosion occurred in front of his plane. Metal was screaming past them, tearing the sides and wings with imbedded shrapnel. The plane was violently vibrating, making terrible noises as the flak just kept coming up. Dad thought for sure, they were going down; they had been hit. However, he immediately saw parts of another B-24 blow past them, and then saw a B-24 going down, totally on fire, one wing was gone. Dad told me he thought, “Poor bastards, glad that was not me.” Just then, Mac, the old man pilot at age 24, got on the com. He said, “Wes, that explosion that we just ran through was the lead plane getting a direct hit from flak. That was the plane you were on before you came back. Over and out.” Saved again. I know of a few others, but I am sure he told me the bare minimum. Heaven only knows what he, his crew, and the Jolly Roger Bomb Group really went through.
After flying 25 combat missions, the CO pulled them in, stating he did not have enough planes, parts & crews. They would have to fly for the duration of the war. They all thought they had been given their death sentence. The mortality rate at that time was 70%.
While overseas, Dad won 2 round robin double elimination boxing tournaments with hundreds of entries from the 90th Bomb Group. For his victories, he was awarded liberty for a 2-week period in Sidney & Melbourne, Australia. He stated, ”It was one hell of a good time.”
They bombed the Philippines, Borneo, other South Pacific Islands, including high-profile gasoline dumps, oil reserves, ships, and airbases of the Japanese. They strafed enemy soldiers occupying Islands that were being invaded by the Marines. On their last combat mission, they flew to Mindanao in the Philippines. The flight took 15 hours, almost double the average bombing run; while they endured 8 hours of unreleanting combat. Unbelievable.
Approaching the airfield, their B-24, now empty of fuel, ammo & oxygen, finally touched down. The crew was exhausted. As the giant 60,000-pound bomber rolled to a stop, one by one, each of the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Radial engines coughed and died from lack of fuel.
Estimating the Bomber flew an average of 280 miles per hour, multiplied by 15 hours, you come up with 4,200 miles….for one mission! It is a miracle they made it back, the toughest flight of their deployment; was their last.
1944-EWM Top Row 2nd from Right Jolly Roger Boxing Team-Biak Island
1944-EWM Jolly Roger Leather Coat
Ultimately flying 45 complete combat missions, they were called in after landing from the Mindanao mission, the CO telling them their combat days were over. It was bad luck to advise a crew before a mission that it would be their last one.
Much better to advise them after they were safely back at base. Dad would comment later about his experiences, “Hell son, I was just one of millions that served when our nation needed it… glad to have served.” These WW2 vets were all humble Americans, who just wanted to come back home.
Spring of 1945
1945-EWM Top Row Middle
With his combat service ending in the spring of 1945, he waited 6 weeks, to obtain transportation back home. His first leg of that journey was in an old, converted Cargo ship, which took another 6 weeks, instead of the 5 or 6 days of flying time, to arrive in Hawaii. From there he negotiated a ride back to San Francisco in a B-17. Each member of a crew got home separately from a list they signed back in the Solomons. Whatever was available, the next name took the boat, or flight to get out.
If you are interested in knowing exactly what it was like flying in combat aboard a Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bomber in the South Pacific with the Jolly Roger Heavy Bomb Group, during these turbulent years, read the explosive book, “The 90th Bomb Group-The Jolly Rogers / It wasn’t so Jolly” by Tom Baker.
This crew arrived a few months after my father and left a few months before. However, it explains in detail the pure hell these teenagers endured during this devastating war. After reading it, I finally understood why my father rarely talked about the war and would refuse to elaborate on much of the specific details of his service. He didn’t want to go there.
Upon arriving back in the States, Dad was then assigned the post of “Provost Marshall” in Santa Monica, Calif. He was responsible for taking care of the needs of notable Generals and high-profile military personnel arriving from overseas for leave or for high level military meetings. He arranged travel, sleeping quarters, food, and all necessities for these men while stationed there. At this time, he also was able to reunite with 2 of his 3 combat tested brothers, who also arrived in Santa Monica from their service overseas.
Being released from active duty in the summer of 1945, he was put into the Army Air Corp reserves. Luckily, the Japanese surrendered in August of that year. Therefore, he was not recalled for the invasion of Japan and was honorably discharged before the Korean War started. Dad then went to school at UCLA on the GI Bill. Bored, he quit after a few months. He did odd construction jobs for a few years with his 2 older brothers, Clark and Duane, before starting work at Liberty Mutual selling personal lines in downtown Los Angeles in 1947.
1945-EWM Santa Monica. Ca.