Military books donated to Legion Post 1

WHEELING – A book about American military efforts in Europe during World War II has found its way back to its original owner – American Legion Post 1 in Wheeling – through two local veterans of the conflict.

William Miller and Tony Fiorilli, both 92 and of Wheeling, recently visited Post 1 on 16th Street and told of the days when they were young soldiers serving overseas during WWII.

Memories of the time came racing back after reading the book “Omaha Beachhead” and others found by a mutual friend of theirs who discovered a cache of military-related writings as he remodeled a home.

“Omaha Beachhead,” part of a series called “American Forces In Action,” is the first of a number of narratives dealing with U.S. military operations in France, according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History. It details the happenings in France between June 6 and June 13, 1944 – the days after allied forces landed on the beaches at Normandy.

According to notations, the book was prepared in the field by the 2nd Information and Historical Service, attached to the 1st Army, and by the Historical Section, European Theater of Operations. It is based on complete unit reports and records and on available enemy records. It was first published in September 1945.

But what caught the veterans’ eyes was a stamp inside the front cover of the book noting it was the property of American Legion Post 1. The veterans and their friend decided “Omaha Beachhead” should be returned to Post 1, and that the other writings should be donated there as well. The friend wanted to remain anonymous in the donation to instead let the attention shine on the veterans.

Among the other books donated were:

– “The Century War Book,” a Civil War book published in 1894;

– “Heroes All,” a comprehensive list of the names of American soldiers, private citizens and allies receiving commendation from the American government during World War I;

– “History of the 89th Division,” published in 1920, which details the history of the 89th Division from its organization in 1917, its operations during WWI and demobilization in 1919; and

– “ONI 204: German Naval Vessels,” an identification manual on the German Navy featuring line drawings.

All are now on display at the American Legion Post 1 hall, located at 86 16th St. in downtown Wheeling.

Miller noted today’s warfare is different from what he saw as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps and the “Flying Tigers” more than 70 years ago. He was a member of the 73rd Fighter Squadron support group that flew out of the Dum-Dum Air Base in Calcutta, India.

The unit was credited was shooting down 23 aircraft, he said.

“Back then we threw hand grenades,” he said. “There’s more technology today. Now they just shoot them.”

Fiorilli served in the U.S. Army and was a member of the 556th Anti-Aircraft Battalion that landed in Normandy following the invasion there.

Miller acknowledged the emotion he felt after reading through the books detailing military battles, especially those about WWII.

“Everything brings back memories,” he said.

But Fiorilli added that not all of them were bad. Fiorilli met his future wife in Belgium while serving in the military. Overall, he said he was thankful for his military service.

Miller, though, noted his experience was not one he would want to repeat.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We left a lot of men over there.”