Harry J. Miller-Where's Harry?
Updated: Feb 19
Explore the rest of this website about my dad's B-17 crew: www.rumboogiecrew.com
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Where's Waldo? is a series of children's books created by the English illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of a series of detailed double-page illustrations depicting dozens of people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location during a certain time period. Readers are challenged to find the character named Waldo hidden somewhere in the group. Waldo's distinctive red and white striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses make him slightly easier to recognize, but many of the illustrations contain red herrings involving the deceptive use of red and white striped objects. As the series has progressed over the years, Waldo himself has been made harder to find by reducing his size on the page (from .99 sq. cm to .17 sq. cm) and surrounding him with more characters (from 225 characters to 850 characters). Finding Waldo is difficult - and that's what my search to find living relatives for Rumboogiecrew's Harry J. Miller ended up being.
CAN YOU FIND WALDO?
One thing that complicates any search for information on World War II veterans is that all the paperwork was hand typed on manual typewriters by clerks who probably had little typing training. The "h" "j" and "l" keys seem to have been particularly troublesome, probably since they are in the same horizontal row on the keyboard. I came across this problem many times when looking at official documents, and it made some of my searches for living relatives harder than they already were. For example, on the "CONFIDENTIAL" Air Transport Command list for the 337th Squadron (Rum Boogie's group), Harry Miller's middle initial is listed as "L" instead of "J".
Since I didn't know if I was looking for Harry J. Miller or Harry L. Miller, finding a living relative for him proved to be quite a job. All I knew was that he was from Chicago (I had a document from my friend Berk that listed all the Rum Boogie Crew birthplaces). But even that document listed Harry J. on one page and Harry L. on another.
I tried sending lots of letters to random Harry Miller's in Chicago; all of them came back "Return to Sender". The results of quick internet searches I tried yielded thousands of results. My daughter, Jessi, poured over enlistment records for Harry Miller's from Chicago for days. Then she tried Chicago birth certificates from 1918 to 1922 or so. There were just too many Harry Millers; we couldn't catch a break. I would stare at the picture I had of Harry over and over for inspiration - his name, minus the middle initial, had been written on the back by my mom. I contacted Geoff Ward, the 96th Bomb Group Historian in England, and Dale Budde, the 96th Bomb Group Newsletter editor so many times I'm surprised they didn't block me.
Finally, I contacted Dale Budde one last time, during a giant snowstorm on February 25th, 2017. I asked him about one of the other crew members in this particular communique, but the list of names and addresses he finally sent me, with the added caveat "this is all I can tell you" (in other words, don't ask me again) included HARRY "J" MILLER, Navigator 337th, and a 1994 address in Palm Desert, California. A few days later, I had my relative: his daughter Christine.