Sgt. Tom Miller fought the North Koreans to a standstill on Arrowhead Ridge in ‘52

This is where Sgt. Tom Miller of Port Charlotte, Fla. set up his artillery spotting position north of the 38th Parallel that eventually divided North and South Korea. The position overlooked enemy troops. Photo provided

In Korea Sgt. Tom Miller was a forward artillery observer. It was a risky job because his observation outpost sat on the tallest hill in the area for all the world to see.

He was atop Arrowhead Ridge, north of the 38th Parallel, on Oct. 6, 1952 when they were attacked and overrun by North Korean and Chinese troops. Miller, who lives in Port Charlotte, Fla., was a member of the 2nd Regiment, 37th Field Artillery Battalion attached to the 2nd Division. During the 15 months he was in Korea he hardly got off the front line.

“About 4 p.m. on Oct. 3 we had our scopes going and all of a sudden we could see people coming over a ridge in front of us,” the 79-year-old local man said. “We counted 90 of them. We didn’t know if they were North Koreans or Chinese.

“On the second day we saw 90 more people late in the afternoon. The same thing happened on day three, another 90 people,” Miller explained. “That night they overran an outpost of American engineers right in front of our position. Only one man escaped alive.”

Fighting with the American 2nd Infantry Division, known as the Indian Head Division, was a battalion of French Foreign Legionnaires. They had no artillery supporting them, so they had to rely on Miller’s outfit to provide the heavy fire power with their 105 millimeter howitzers.

“The French were good people. They were fighters,” Miller said as he looked at a military map of the area they were fighting over more than half a century ago.

“When we got up there with a French company the enemy started firing mortar rounds at us on the hill. In a 13 hour period we were told they fired 2,000 rounds,” he said. “By the next morning there were only 60 of us left alive on the hill when they came and got us and took us off.”

After firing their mortars they charged the United Nations forces in waves. Successive waves of North Korean or Chinese troops would have no guns. They’d pick them up from fallen comrades on the battlefield as they came toward Miller’s position.

Before the fight was over that night, Lt. Wally Woods, his forward observer, called in the artillery on a sea of advancing enemy forces.

“Our lieutenant called back to the battery and got our guns all set up to fire. He also brought in a big spotlight that night. He opened up with 54 rounds of exploding 105 millimeter ammunition that was fired in the dark,” Miller said. “After he fired the rounds he turned on the light. There were at least 2,000 bodies all over the ground in front of us.”

During a staff briefing at the division’s command post, Gen. James Van Fleet said,” The artillery support during the attack on Hill 281 (Arrowhead Ridge) was the best I’ve ever seen. The artillery, with the expenditure of a relatively small amount of ammunition, was fired with accuracy and inflicted tremendous casualties.”

While all this was happening along the front line in Korea, Miller’s parents received a Telegram their son was “MISSING IN ACTION.” A while later a second Telegram arrived saying he had been located and was not captured or wounded.

A yellowed newspaper article about Miller’s heroism that night tells the story:

His citation notes:

“Sgt Miller carried ammunition to a machine gun (where a French gunner had been killed by the enemy.  Miller’s radio operator took over). Then Miller assumed an exposed position with his rifle to aid in the defense of the French infantry battalion. His valor was instrumental in the successful defense of the position.”

He received a Bronze Star medal with a “V” for Valor for his efforts that night on Arrowhead Ridge.

A short time later Miller, Lt. Woods and their radio operator found themselves on “Old Baldy Ridge,” along the front lines where they would serve as spotters once more.

Tom Miller of Port Charlotte, Fla looks at a military map of the Churon Valley, north of the 38th Parallel where he fought as a member of the 37th Artillery Battalion during the Korean War. Sun photo by Don Moore

“Old Baldy was located at the far end of a series of ridges. Arrowhead Ridge was on the far end. In between were: Alligator Jaw, T-Bone and Pork Chop Ridge, then Baldy,” the old soldier recalled.

“Every night the enemy would come after us on ‘Old Baldy’ and try and take it away. If they were successful, we’d take it from them the next day. We lost that ridge five or six times,” Miller said.

Lucky for him, he only spent fiver or six day fighting atop “Old Baldy.” Miller served 15 months in Korea. He returned home just before the armistice was signed in 1953.

Asked what he thought of Korea?

“I’d never go back,” he said with a grimace. “There are 8,000 American boys still missing from the Korean War that was all for nothing,” he said.

When Miller returned to the States he went to work for a New Jersey electric company until he retired. He and his wife, Betty, moved to Port Charlotte in 1999.

Miller’s File

Name: Thomas Miller
D.O.B:  August 10, 1930
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Current: Port Charlotte, Florida
Entered Service: 1951
Discharged: 1953
Rank: Sergeant
Unit: 2nd Regiment, 37th Field Artillery Battalion
Commendations: Bronze Star with V attachment for Valor, Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, United Nations Service Medal with a Bronze Star for Valor.
Married: Betty
Children:  Three daughters;  Susan, Barbara &  Nancy
Update: Sergeant Miller died unexpectedly of a heart attack within two weeks after this interview.

This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, October 8, 2009 and is republished with permission.

Thomas L. Miller, Jr., 79, of Port Charlotte, Florida passed away peacefully on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at his home in Port Charlotte.

Thomas was born August 10, 1930 in Newark, New Jersey and moved to Port Charlotte 10 years ago from Hillside, NJ. He was a Korean War veteran serving proudly for the US Army. He was an outstanding man with many skills using his hands. He will be missed dearly by all who loved and knew him.

He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Betty Ann Miller; three daughters, Susan A. (Walter John) Ilczyszyn of Cape Coral, FL, Barbara J. Miller of Bradenton Beach, FL and Nancy (Wayne) Skurjunis of Myakka City, FL; a sister, Ruth Anne Henry of Brick, NJ; a brother, John (Beatrice) Miller of Manahawkin, NJ; two grandchildren, Michael John and Christopher John; and two great-grandchildren, Yuriy John and Ashlin Rose. He was preceded in death by his loving sister, Laura Dierolf.

Visitation will be held 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM, Monday, October 26, 2009 at Roberson Funeral Home Port Charlotte Chapel. Graveside and interment with military honors will be held Tuesday 2:30PM, October 27, 2009 at the Sarasota National Cemetery.


  1. I was in the 503rd back in the 80’s ans as an Infantry guy I rated Korea as about the toughest terrain I worked in, so my hat is off to all the wartime heroes like SGT Miller. JOTC terrain was different, but about equally as hard.

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