A Downtown plaque for a soldier who died at sea

It’s a simple marker inside the dog run at Stuyvesant Square, the leafy park on either side of Second Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets.

“In honor and memory of Pvt. Moses Miller, who died at sea January 26, 1944.” The plaque was dedicated in 1946, it says.

The dog run is currently closed, unfortunately, but a photo of the plaque, taken by Larry Gertner, is on the Historical Markers Database—a site that keeps track of markers and memorials across the country.

Who was Moses Miller? His exact fate remains a mystery, but the Brooklyn Eagle in March 1944 included him on a list of men from Brooklyn and Queens who were deemed missing in action by the War Department.

Private Miller’s address was listed as 417 South Fifth Street, making him a Williamsburg resident. He was lost at sea in the Mediterranean, according to the Eagle.

New York City has many elaborate war memorials. But sometimes it’s the simple plaques in out-of-the-way spots that really hit home what it means to die for your country.

[Photos: Larry Gertner/Historical Markers Database]

Tags: , , , , , ,

20 Responses to “A Downtown plaque for a soldier who died at sea”

  1. Joe Fliel Says:

    Pvt. Miller was assigned to the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion as a mortarman, which was a support element of 6615th Ranger Force (Darby’s Rangers) U.S. VI Corps, formed specially for use in the Anzio landings, codenamed “Operation Shingle”, which were initiated on 22 January 1944. The 6615th was part of Ranger Group, assigned to attack the port of Anzio. The 6615th landed at Peter Beach in the port of Anzio on 22 January 1944, suffering very few casualties. Unfortunately, Pvt. Miller was one of them. He was aboard USS LCI(L)-32, a LCI-1 Class Landing Craft Infantry (Large), when it was lost to enemy action on 26 January 1944.

    • Bob Says:

      Pvt Moses Miller
      Birth unknown
      Death 26 Jan 1944
      Burial Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial
      Nettuno, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
      Plot Tablets of the Missing
      Memorial ID 56312258

      https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56312258

    • Bob Says:

      “Rounds Away
      Two Years of Combat with the 83d Chemical Mortar Battalion
      by Robert Brimm

      […]

      “Introduction

      The 83d played an important role in the campaigns through the Mediterranean Theater and the mainland of Europe, experiencing more than 500 hard and spectacular days in combat, beginning with the amphibious assault on Sicily and ending with the complete destruction of the German military forces. The 83d was activated at Camp Gordon, GA, on 6-10-42, and after intensive training departed from the U.S. on 4-29-43 for overseas duty. On 5-11-43, the battalion (Bn) debarked at Oran, Algiers, and moved directly to “Goat Hill”, a rocky hill infested with flies, mosquitoes, Arabs and cactus. Some days later, the unit began intensive amphibious training and prepared for immediate combat.

      “The 83d took part in the Sicilian Campaign and remained in continuous combat during the invasion of the Italian mainland and the crossing of the Volturno; followed by the battle for the approaches to San Pietro and Cassino and the Anzio beachhead, with the subsequent fall of Rome. The Bn took part in the amphibious and air assault of the Southern France campaign; and in the historic battle of the Vosges, when the enemy tried his last main efforts in the Colmar pocket and Alsace, the 83d was in the center of action; then, the unit played an important part in the final assault of Germany.”

      […]

      “Anzio Beachhead and Fall of Rome

      “The drive in Italy slowed to a halt as the Allied Forces encountered the formidable Gustav line and Cassino. In an effort to break the stalemate, the invasion of Anzio was planned to outflank both the Gustav and Adolf Hitler lines. The enemy expected such a move, but anticipated a landing much farther to the north. The Anzio landing was almost a complete surprise. A Ranger task force of the 1st, 3d and 4th Rangers, 509th Parachute Bn and Cos. A and B of the 83d landed in the city of Anzio at 0200 on 1-22-44. The mined beach was crossed and only a handful of enemy was encountered. By noon, enemy reconnaissance vehicles were making contact with the Ranger Force. Mortar fire caused them to withdraw. During the next several days, the force advanced rapidly along the main road to Rome. Mortar fire was coordinated with all attacks.”

      “The night of Jan. 26, the follow up LST (landing ship tank or truck) loaded with Headquarters, C and D Cos., was sunk by enemy action. In the rough sea, there were many men lost. The survivors were sent back to Pozzuoli to reorganize, re-equip and train.”

      https://www.4point2.org/hist-83.htm

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you, Joe and Bob, for sharing your research about what happened to Pvt. Miller.

  2. Larry Gertner Says:

    Thank you both! I’ve been trying to find out about Pvt. Miller ever since my dog and I stumbled across the plaque more than 20 years ago.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks Larry for taking the photo years ago—I was unable to get into the dog run, which is closed right now.

  3. beth Says:

  4. danmcsweeney Says:

    Thank you. This was a particularly poignant post.

  5. countrypaul Says:

    Thank you for one of the best Memorial Day citations this year. Simple, direct, honest, not florid or cloying, just exactly what the holiday is about: we remember, then we go forward. Again, thank you.

  6. ironrailsironweights Says:

    Here is one of the very few burial at sea photos from World War II that the Navy ever allowed to be published:

    Peter

  7. Greg Says:

    This is a lovely Memorial Day tribute. Interested to see the mention of the Forton Club as well.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Yes, and I’m still not sure why the plaque is in this park. I’m hoping the mystery will unfold.

  8. Ty Says:

    Ancestry has US government records of about 230 people that died that one day, January 26, 1944, who were with the 83rd Chemical Battalion. That’s not “light casualties” when a mortar battalion had maybe 300 to 500 soldiers.

    This wasn’t some pictorial burial at sea but the result of multiple landing craft getting hit by enemy artillery shells because resistance was grossly underestimated by command. There were quiet transfers and demotions as a result of Anzio.

    My dad was an infantry combat (507 PIR) in France and Germany during that period in 1944. He said they often reported “missing” when they really meant in too many pieces or inconvenient to collect.

    Anyway, who was Moses?
    In 1940 Moses or Moe, 27, a clerk in a clothing store, lived at 417 South 5th Street with his father Calvin, 69, and two older siblings, Sam, 31, a retail furniture merchant and Pearl, 32, a “floor girl for wholesale novelties.” None of the children were married from what I could tell. Moe enlisted or was drafted at the age of 29.

    All of them were born in Lithuania. There were five other families in the building all of them born in Italy

    They don’t appear in the 1930 census or before and they weren’t at this address so I assume they arrived in the early 1930s.

    The plaque was placed by Forton Lodge, one of many organizations, that arrange for burials and markers for Jewish people who couldn’t afford their own. Their burials are in Beth Moses Cemetery out in Suffolk County .

    When his sister Pearl died in 1966 she lived nearby in Murray Hill so perhaps she had arranged for the plaque to honor her brother in the park 20 years earlier.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      His sister lived in Murray Hill, that could be the connection, indeed. Thanks Ty for digging into this.

  9. David H Lippman Says:

    Note that while the unit was a “chemical mortar” battalion, that doesn’t mean it fired poison gas.

    It would “stonk” the Germans with regular mortar fire from 81mm mortars, which are one of the few artillery pieces that can go close to the front and fire over hills and mountains, hitting the Germans with HE shells and airburst shrapnel.

    In addition, chemical mortar units could fire smoke (for cover) and colored smoke to indicate startlines for attacks or areas requiring air strikes or air support.

    Want more? Fool your friends….read the US Army’s three-volume official history of the Chemical Corps in WW2. The US Army official histories of WW2 use understated and highly researched prose to tell some fascinating stories. You can download them as .pdfs, so they only take up bandwidth.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/USA-in-WWII/

    I have 30 volumes of the New Zealand Official History, about 15 of the Australian, four of the Canadian, and 15 or so of the American. They’re all very well done. I do not have the British, never having found them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: