Submitted by: Thomas Philliips
This article is in honor of and in tribute to my father-in-law, George C. Mills, a member of the greatest generation. My father-in-law never talked about his service in the military. I knew that he had served in the navy during World War II, but when I asked my wife, his daughter, what he did during the war she said she had no idea because he refused to talk about it. One afternoon, while visiting with her Dad, I noticed that he was very upset by a news article questioning whether the U.S. should have used the atomic bomb to end the war. He said that he had survived D-Day and that could not imagine going through it for a second time. I was surprised that he was in D-Day and asked him to tell about the experience. This was during the Vietnam War and I was in the army at that time so I think he felt that he could talk to me about his experience and I would understand the trauma of war.
He said that he was assigned to small boats and on D-Day he was a coxswain who operated a Higgins boat transporting troops to Omaha Beach. He said the shelling from German artillery was fierce but he couldn't worry about that because he had to maneuver his boat around all of the German defenses and the bodies of dead soldiers floating in the surf. I asked him how he found the courage to keep going back in harm's way and he simply said that his men were counting on him and he had to do his duty. He said he wasn't sure how many round trips he made to his mother ship some 10-15 miles from the shore, but he remembered his boat floating with blood from all of the wounded soldiers he ferried back to the mother ship, And he specifically remembered one dying young man being cradled in another wounded soldier's arms crying for his mother. At that point my father-in-law stopped, tears welling up in his eyes, and that was the end of our discussion about D-Day.
We talked about his experiences in the war on many occasions after that, but never about D-Day.
After the war my father-in-law returned to his job as a machinist and tool and dye maker. His wife died young and he raised his daughter, my wife, by himself. He worked two jobs, a proud member of the steelworkers, and sent his daughter to college. He is now deceased, but to the very end he never shirked his duty. He never sought honor, but he certainly deserved it. It is too bad that we do not make men like him anymore.
About the author:
Thomas W. Phillips, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Served in the army from 1969 to 1973. American Legion Post 0136, 335 Grave Hill Road, Oneida, Tennessee 37841.