Tech Sgt. Harvey B. Miller, a decorated World War II airman who was dubbed “The Jinx of the 15th Air Force” by The New York Times, died on Dec. 12 of a lung ailment. He was 84.
A native of Lititz, Pa., Miller enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941. He soon grew tired of working as a file clerk and volunteered to fly. Miller earned his unlucky moniker while serving as a combat photographer and door gunner on Consolidated B-24 “Liberators.” His first mission involved flying over Vienna on a Friday the 13th. The plane landed safely, but returned to base with 75 bullet holes. Miller was eventually shot down six times — twice on his first four bombing missions — and suffered two flak wounds.
Stories quickly spread about Miller’s close calls. Upon learning his identity, several crew captains refused to fly with him. Planes with no brakes, no hydraulics and leaking gasoline that were forced to land on the Isle of Vis, just off the German-occupied Yugoslav coast, were called “Miller Specials.”
After completing 27 missions, Miller moved back to his hometown and put his war experiences behind him. He earned a dozen medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Purple Hearts, but gave them all away. Pictures from his time in the service were also destroyed.
Miller spent 31 years working for the Defense Department and retired as a logistical management officer. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ethel Miller, three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.