Francis Miner is used to long waits for the medals he earned as an Army corporal in World War II combat.
Miner also received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for valor decades late, 45 years after World War II ended. He didn’t know he was entitled to those combat medals until 1993, when he read a book that included a list of soldiers who earned medals while serving with the 3rd Infantry Division. Congressman Gerald B.H. Solomon, now deceased, helped prompt the Army to finally award Miner those medals.
Any member of the armed forces held captive by an enemy of the United States after April 5, 1917, is entitled to a Prisoner of War Medal. The POW Medal was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 8, 1985.
His journey to earn the medals began in 1943 “when I was ordered to report to Glens Falls for my physical, and since my body was warm, I was told to report to Albany on December 9th, 1943, for induction into the Army,” Miner wrote in his recollections.
After basic and advance infantry training, he boarded the troop ship Crystallball for transport to Naples, Italy.
In August 1944, Miner and thousands of other soldiers were assigned to Operation Anvil for the invasion of Southern France. His 3rd Infantry and several other divisions landed on the beaches of southern France.
“I went ashore at night and I don’t mind telling you that stepping off that gangplank into black water with a 40-pound pack, rifle and ammo was scarier than the sound of the battle from the beach,” he said.
Months of intense combat followed.
He said the Germans put up one of the hardest- fought resistances of the war in the Colmar Region.
“In particular, Hill 616 was where we would drive them off only to be driven off ourselves,” Miner said. “This happened three times before we could hold the hill, which overlooked their main escape route and our route to advance.”
Miner’s unit moved forward and reached a small river on Jan. 24, 1945, where a temporary bridge was built to allow troops and support tanks to cross.
“My platoon led the way and got across but the tanks did not,” he said. “This was the day that I and five others from my platoon found ourselves out of ammo and decided to hide, hoping that our support would come through. I and one other crawled into hay but were found and were taken prisoners.”
Miner and other American POWs were taken across the Rhine River to a German POW camp. As American troops advanced, the Germans packed American POWs into box cars and eventually moved them to a barn in a village.
“On April 27, 1945, American tanks opened fire on the village where we were, with bullets ripping through the barn we were in, our guards took off,” Miner wrote. “We came out waving anything we could. The next few minutes were a blur but within an hour we were being given food and drink.” Two days later, they were flown to Rheims, France, where they were treated before returning to the U.S.
After the war, Miner worked at General Electric for 39 years before retiring.
“In 1993, I realized that my memory of the details of World War II was fading,” he said. “So, when my wife asked what I would like for my birthday, I said a history book on the 3rd Infantry would be nice.”
In reading that history book, “I found a list of names of those who had been awarded the Bronze Star, and there was my name. The next list was of the Silver Star recipients, and once again my name was listed.”
He contacted Solomon.
The medals came with citations that read:
Bronze Star with V for Valor, Missing in Action: “Francis H. Miner 32 948 547, Private First Class (then Private), Infantry, Company “I”, 30th Infantry Regiment; For Valorous Conduct in Action against the enemy on 23 November 1944 in France.
Silver Star: “Private First Class (then Private), Infantry, Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment. For gallantry in action. From a position on his platoon’s flank, (then) Private First Class Miner sighted an enemy machine gun harassing the left flank of his company’s attack on Hill 616 on the afternoon on 8 January 1945. As he crawled toward the enemy emplacement, 50 yards away, fire from a second machine gun was directed at him. Despite bullets, which kicked up snow inches from him, he crawled 35 yards up the steep slope to a point that placed him almost directly below the enemy emplacement. There he threw two grenades, which silenced the gun, but received such a volume of fire from the supporting machine gun that he was forced to lie prone until it in turn was knocked out by other elements of his platoon. Then he crawled up into the emplacement and captured the third and only live member of the enemy crew.”