Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Papers of Harold B. "Min" Miller, 1915-1990

 

Finding Aid (PDF)

 

Biographical Note

Rear Admiral Harold B. “Min” Miller (ret.) was born on January 4, 1903 in Newton, Iowa.  He first experienced the power of the United States Navy in 1908, when his mother took him to San Pedro, California to view the Great White Fleet.  The experience left a lasting impression on Miller. In his teen years, with an education overseen by the headmaster of the Westlake School for Boys in Los Angeles, Miller began the process of competing for an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.  After two rounds of testing, Miller received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in 1920.  He graduated into an ensign commission in June 1924. 

The stories of Miller’s time in the United States Navy could fill volumes.  Following his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1924, he served for two years as a sailor aboard the battleship USS California (BB-44).  Then, in 1926, he reported for naval aviation school at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  After completing his training in 1927, Miller spent two years flying naval aircraft based on battleships and aircraft carriers.  From 1929-1932, he served as an instructor at the flight school at Pensacola.  In 1932, he was assigned to the Heavier-Than-Air (H.T.A.) unit attached to USS Akron (ZRS-4), a lighter-than-air (LTA) rigid airship.  Following the sinking of USS Akron in April 1933, he was assigned to the HTA unit attached to USS Macon (ZRS-5), another rigid airship.  He served in this position until USS Macon was lost in February 1935. 

Between early 1935 and 1940, Miller served in a number of billets as a naval aviator.  Then, in June 1940, he was assigned to the position of Aide & Flag Secretary to Rear Admiral Arthur L. Bristol.  Miller served in this position until February 1942.  For his performance in this position, Miller was awarded the Legion of Merit.  Following his time serving Rear Admiral Bristol, Miller worked in Washington D.C., where he organized and served as head of the Navy Department’s Training Literature Section in the Bureau of Aeronautics.  He served in that position until November 1943.  At that time, he was assigned to the American Embassy in London where he served as U.S. Naval Air Attaché and Assistant Naval Attaché.  During this period, December 1943 to August 1944, he also worked on the staff of the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe. 

In August 1944, Miller was handpicked by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to reform the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) public relations office and improve the relationship between the office and the working press. Admiral Nimitz was immediately impressed with his new public relations officer.  Over the next several months, under Miller’s leadership, the CINCPAC public relations office grew tremendously. New policies and programs instituted by Miller reshaped American perceptions of the Navy.  By March 1945, the CINCPAC public relations office was well prepared to handle quick and efficient press coverage of the Battle of Iwo Jima.  The role Miller played in this press coverage was highlighted in some unexpected places.  A small blurb, which appeared in the May 1945 issue of Boys’ Life magazine, said, “Few readers of Boys’ Life can know (unless we tell them) that an old friend and Boys’ Life author is given credit for the swift flow of news and news photographs of the invasion of Iwo Jima.  In 17 1/2 hours after the Marines landed on Iwo the first photographs were being published in the United States.  The man responsible for this quick transmission was Captain Harold B. (Min) Miller who, as press chief for Admiral Nimitz, set up a system for quick clearance and transmission of news materials from the battle front, for which he has been complimented.”1 For his service in the Pacific, Miller was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the second Legion of Merit. 

Due to Miller’s successes in the Pacific, Secretary of the Navy Forrestal appointed Miller to the position of Director of Public Relations for the entire Navy and ordered Miller to return to Washington D.C.  When he reported for duty in late April 1945, Miller was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral at the age of 42.  At the time, he was the youngest to ever hold the rank.  Following a year of service in Washington D.C. as the Director of Public Relations, and later the director of the Bureau of Naval Information – a position created specifically for Miller, he retired from active duty with the permanent rank of Rear Admiral in June 1946.

In the decades following his retirement from the Navy in 1946, Miller served in a number of high profile positions in the public and private sectors.  He worked as a vice president for Trans World Airlines (1946-1947), served as Executive Director of the Congressional Aviation Policy Board (1947-1948), and worked as the Director of Information for the American Petroleum Institute (1948-1957).  He served as Executive Director of the President’s Committee for Traffic Safety (1953-1957) and held two different high-level positions at Pan Am Airways (1957-1968).  After serving as Vice President for University Affairs at Hofstra University, Miller retired in 1974. 

During his time serving in the United States Navy and in the decades that followed, Miller spent much of his free time writing.  In 1937, his full-length work, Navy Wings, was published.  Navy Wings was one of the first works to detail the early history of aviation in the U.S. Navy.  In addition to Navy Wings, he also wrote numerous articles about naval aviation and the Navy’s use of airships.  Along with his first wife, Miller wrote short stories for Boys’ Life magazine.  He maintained correspondence with individuals who shared his passion for aviation.  Miller also worked to document the lives and stories of his classmates from the United States Naval Academy for Shipmate magazine. 

In addition to his service in the U.S. Navy, his professional forays following his retirement from active duty, and his writing pursuits, he was also a father and husband.  Miller and his first wife shared a daughter.  With his third wife, Miller had two sons.

Following a lifetime of contributions to the history of aviation and the history of the United States Navy, Miller died on May 15, 1992. 

1. “Honors For an Old Friend,” Boys’ Life Vol. 35 No. 5, page 42, May 1945.

 

Scope and Content Note

 

This collection contains materials created by and collected by Harold B. Miller.  The bulk of the materials are related to naval aviation.  The collection also has materials related to Miller’s time at the United States Naval Academy and his classmates. The collection has materials related to commercial and private aviation.

 

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Papers of Harold B. "Min" Miller, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.

 

Extent

3 Cubic Feet

Published: Wed Sep 09 10:20:13 EDT 2020