19 November 2012

A Marine with Thousand Yard Stare

Image size: 1392 x 1600 pixel. 351 KB
Date: Saturday, 19 February 1944
Place: USS Arthur Middleton, off Engebi, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshalls Islands
Photographer: Ray R. Platnick

United States Marine Corps Private Theodore James Miller (February 12, 1925 - March 24, 1944) of Hennepin County, Minnesota assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marine Independent Regiment returns to Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Arthur Middleton (APA-25) at 1400 Hours after two days of combat on Engebi. Engebi was the first of the Eniwetok Atoll to be invaded by American forces. In Operation "Fragile" the 1st and 2nd Battalions landed on February 18, 1944, with 3rd Battalion in reserve. Opposing the landing force was Colonel Toshio Yano and the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Mobile Shipborne Brigade, which numbered 736 officers and men, including 44 personnel from the 61st Keibitai (garrison) detachment. In addition to his men's rifles and sidearms, Yano had available two flame throwers, two 75mm mountain guns, three 20mm guns, two 120mm naval guns, two twin-mount 13mm AA machine guns, three light tanks and a variety of machine guns, mortars, and grenade dischargers. Because they themselves landed only six weeks before the American onslaught, the Japanese did not have time to prepare the kind of defenses encountered at Tarawa and Iwo Jima. Instead they prepared trenches covered with palm fronds and camouflage called "spider holes." Marines threw in smoke grenades, pinpointed the exits, and attacked with mortars, flamethrowers and explosives. In the attack on Engebi American losses were 78 killed, 166 wounded, and 7 missing, totaling 251 casualties. All of Engebi's defenders were killed, except for nineteen prisoners taken. Miller himself was killed during the invasion of Ebon Atoll a month later. 25 Japanese, including six civilians (two women and two children among them), put up a 20-minute fire-fight that left Miller and another Marine dead and eight others wounded. Seventeen Japanese, including one woman, were killed. Marshallese natives brought the children to safety behind American lines. Ebon was declared secure after the Japanese radio station was destroyed and all Japanese civilians killed or captured. Ebon was abandoned by American forces on March 25, 1944. This photo, widely distributed in the United States after Miller's death, was one of the few to openly portray the stress of combat to the American public. 

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)


  1. We have positive proof that the identity of this marine is NOT Theodore James Miller, not sure if anyone checks this blog, will leave contact information if someone responds to this.

  2. The anonymous commenter's statement made on May 21, 2013 is likely based on the caption found beneath the photo of Miller found at the National Archives website regarding the photo found here:


    The caption states that forensic artist and biometrics expert Lois Gibson analyzed the photograph and identified the Marine as being that of John Martin Harty. This study was done at the request of the Harty family who of course want confirmation that the photo is of Harty. I am not a forensic artist or biometric expert but am a researcher who can easily prove that the photo is not of Harty but is that of Miller whom the photo has long been attributed to. The caption on the photo states that the Marine has just returned from fighting at Eniwetok Atoll. Harty's USMC Muster Roll entries for the years 1943 and 1944 indicate that he was a member of the 19th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. The 3rd Marine Division never saw action at Eniwetok Atoll at any time during WWII. Wartime activity for the 3rd Marine Division took place at Bouganville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Based on those facts alone, the photo could not possibly be of Martin. Secondly, I have in my possession the service record of Pvt Theodore J Miller obtained directly for National Personnel Records Center that includes a very good photo of Miller upon his induction in 1943 and there is no doubt that the photo is of Miller. Miller has some very distinct facial features among them being his eyebrows and dark eyes. I provided this information and photo of Miller to the National Archives and received a reply that they would be removing the statement stating that the photo is of Harty. Along with their reply they sent me the two page study performed by Lois Gibson showing a post war photo of Harty overlaid on the Miller photo and although there are some vague general similarities it is a real stretch to conclude that the photo is of Harty. I am sure that Ms Gibson provided her analysis without ever seeing a photo of Miller found in his service record. You can click on this link to see Miller's induction photo:


    I do not have a way to add the two page study performed by Ms Gibson but you can contact the National Archives from the webpage provided above and they will send you the Harty study. It should take you about two seconds to confirm that the photo is that of Pvt Theodore J Miller.

    Jeff Hall
    Layton, Utah