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Harry C. Miller
25 Oct 1944 | China
Harry C. Miller enlisted in the Army Air Corps on 13 December 1940 from Roanoke County, Virginia. Served as an aircraft mechanic on B-18 and B-17 bombers at Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico. Subsequent assignments were to the Panama Canal Zone and the Galapagos Islands; receiving maintenance training on LB-30, B-24, and B-26 aircraft.
In June 1943, he underwent B-29 aircraft transition and Crew Chief maintenance training at Pratt Army Air Field, Kansas. The maintenance training, which also included several dozen contractors working to get the aircraft's Wright R-3350 engine in reliable condition, became known as the "Battle of Kansas."
In April 1944, he deployed to the China-Burma-India theatre and was assigned to 20th Air Force, XX Bomber Command, 58th Bomb Wing, 40th Bombardment Group, 45th Bomb Squadron stationed at Chakulia Airdrome in the Bengal Province of India. He received recognition for his extensive technical knowledge of all systems on the B-29 by being placed on flying status as a Flight Engineer.
On 15 June 1944, he participated in the first American Air Force attack on the Japanese Home Islands since the Doolittle raid in 1942. The target that date was the Yawata Iron and Steel Works ("the Pittsburgh of Japan"). As part of Operation Matterhorn to bomb Japan, his B-29 aircraft flew over the Himalaya Mountain Range and logistically staged bombing missions through Hsinching Airfield (A-1) near Chengdu, China. It took six "HUMP" trips to get enough gas and supplies to the staging bases to fly one combat mission from the Chengdu Valley.
On 25 October 1944, he flew as the Flight Engineer aboard a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed "20th Century Unlimited" (Serial #42-6281). It was one of 78 aircraft launched in a multi-group formation to bombard the Aircraft Plant near Omura, Japan. While over the target area, his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter plane and he was mortally wounded. Running low on fuel during the return trip, the aircrew was forced to bail out of the disabled B-29 over the mountains of central China, approximately 50 miles southeast of Laohokow. The pilot, who was also wounded, bailed out with Harry in a compassionate effort to accompany him to the ground. However, he died soon after reaching the ground. The aircrew buried him in a Christian cemetery at Fenghsien in Hupeh Province, China.