For my friend Bob Miller, a cloudy day has been more complicated for him than the rest of us. It has been that way since the 1940s.
Bob turns 98 this week and he still gets uneasy on cloudy days. That’s because he was a gunnery officer on the port side of the aircraft carrier USS Essex in the Pacific theater of WWII. He told me once that Japanese kamikaze pilots preferred the cloudy days, the strike from cover taking dead aim on the carrier he served on.
A kamikaze plane once hit below Miller’s 40-millimeter gun and threw him across the deck. He suffered a concussion among other injuries. He didn’t seek medical attention until he got his gun crew firing manually again. He was awarded a purple heart years later for his heroics.
While Miller was aboard the Essex, the ship withstood 357 Japanese air attacks and set—get this—a naval milestone by spending 79 consecutive days in combat. Miller put many holes in kamikaze planes and would later sail with the Essex triumphantly into Tokyo Bay.
Educated at Harvard and Notre Dame, he would later form Miller’s Vets, a drill team of selected homeless Veterans here in South Bend, where I have lived since 1988.
I have sat in on talks Miller has delivered, and heard him tell of atheists singing a whole new tune as a Japanese plane was dead set on crashing right into them. I also heard him get emotional when an audience member asked him if the atomic bombs were truly the way at the end of WWII. His voice cracking, he told it the way it was, that the Japanese would never have surrendered and would have put bombs on young people to prolong the war.
Miller still works at 98. A few years ago he invented a device called Pull Me Up, which helps the elderly be more mobile and is very active in getting that product to as many people as possible.
When I told a friend recently all about Bob Miller and how he is still active with the Pull Me Up, my friend paused for a bit and sized it up. “That is why,” he said, “the greatest generation is the greatest. They never stop helping others.”
Charlie Adams was born in Oxford in 1962. He was a 1980 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss. Following a television news career, Charlie has focused on delivering inspirational keynotes, seminars and writings. He can be reached at email@example.com.