Hugh B Miller was a U.S. Naval officer who demonstrated unparalleled heroism during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

After a shipwreck left him presumed dead behind enemy lines, Miller battled the Japanese forces on his own for several weeks until his eventual rescue.

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Early Life Of Hugh B. Miller

Hugh B. Miller was born on January 10, 1910 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
During his college years, Miller took on the role of quarterback for the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team.

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His standout performance in the 1931 Rose Bowl led his shipmates to affectionately dub him “Rose Bowl.”

As World War II erupted, Miller received an Officer’s commission and was subsequently deployed to the Pacific.

Miller found himself aboard the USS Strong (DD-467).

USS Strong in July 1943.

Tragedy Strikes

On the fateful night of July 4–5, 1943, in the Solomon Islands, a Japanese torpedo assailed the ship. The devastating aftermath left Miller and 22 crew members battling the overwhelming waves of the vast Pacific.

In the chaotic post-attack scenario, Miller, despite his critical injuries, along with three shipmates, managed to find refuge on the shores of Arundel Island. The days that followed posed a formidable challenge, with the enemy lurking in proximity.

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His condition worsened, prompting him to make the decision of urging his comrades to leave him behind and proceed towards U.S. territory. The fate of these three men remains a mystery to this day.

Miller – The Lone Warrior

After spending days recovering, Miller found the washed up body of Japanese soldier and took his bayonet and grenades. He first employed the Japanese hand grenades to ambush and neutralize several enemy soldiers who ventured too near his concealed position.

He then methodically targeted Japanese machine gun positions, typically manned by squads of five, relying solely on these hand grenades. While isolated and on his own, Miller managed to eliminate over 20 soldiers, using only the salvaged grenades and a bayonet, without the aid of a rifle or handgun.

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Forty-three days post the torpedo assault, he caught the attention of a U.S. aircraft overhead. By day’s end, a U.S. Navy J2F Duck float plane came to his rescue.

Legacy

Following his harrowing experience, Miller received numerous awards in a distinguished ceremony graced by Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady at the time, and Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey. His remarkable tale of valor quickly catapulted him to fame.

Major newspapers, comic books, esteemed magazines like LIFE Magazine, and television broadcasts highlighted his story. Notably, his narrative was featured on the weekly TV program “This Is Your Life,” presented by the would-be U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, as well as the show “Navy Log.”

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Although he was put forward for the Medal of Honor on two occasions, it remained elusive. Nonetheless, his bravery was commemorated with the Navy Cross, 2 Silver Stars, 6 Bronze Stars, 2 Purple Hearts, and an additional 27 distinct individual and unit awards.