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Canova Vet Remembers Normandy

June 6, 2014, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Canova Vet Remembers Normandy
Duane Miller

CANOVA, SD -

A South Dakota World War II veteran is reflecting upon Friday's 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a bittersweet mixture of pride and pain. 

Duane Miller wasn't part of the first wave of Allied troops to storm Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.  Instead, Miller arrived just over a week later, yet the shoreline remained a very deadly no-man's land.

This 88-year-old war hero, in spite of his small physical stature, stood tall in the battlefields of France.

Miller stands all of 5'3" and goes by the descriptive nickname of "Stub."  70 years ago, he wished he had been a few inches taller as he got off the boat at Normandy 10 days after D-Day.

"I jumped over the side and said, 'Ooh, I shouldn't have done this because it come right up to my chin.'  And I jumped and jumped and jumped until I finally got to where I could walk there," Miller said.

The Allies were still taking heavy fire from German bunkers as the 18-year-old Private Miller and the rest of the 29th Infantry Division came ashore.

"Have you ever dodged a bullet?  You can hear them, but you can't see them," Miller said.

To this day, Miller is haunted by the blood-soaked landscape of Normandy.

"We used to cry a lot because things were so scary.  Jeepers, you couldn't, just had to believe what was going on," Miller said.

The country of France presented a medal to Miller for his service during a ceremony honoring the 68th anniversary of D-Day.  The historic significance of the mission wasn't lost on the young soldier 70 years ago.

"If we hadn't stepped in and some other countries stepped in, where would it have gone," Miller said.

The dwindling ranks of the so-called Greatest Generation have left fewer veterans like Miller to commemorate milestone anniversaries of D-Day.  That's why he hopes future generations will reflect upon the sacrifices of so many old soldiers before they too, fade away.

"Darn right I'm proud!  Darn right," Miller said.

Miller was wounded by a German hand-grenade blast less than two months after his arrival in France.  But he returned to action just weeks later. 

We introduced you to Miller during our coverage of the very first South Dakota Honor Flight that brought World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorial in their honor.

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