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April 8, 2011

The Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee has lost another of its long time members. Darwin “Darby” Miller, or should I say Petty Officer Darwin Miller of WWII and Korea he served his country well. He was on a farm early on when WWII started his father was soon taken away by the government to the west coast as he was an expert in manufacturing of aluminum, leaving young Darby behind to sell the farm and then come to the west where he went to High School in Santa Cruz, coincidently, going to school with Lynn’s mother’s best friend Patty. Well, Darby couldn’t wait to serve his country and at 17 got his father to let him go. Reluctantly, as Darby’s brother was also serving in many dangerous places and later lost his arm in battle. So off Darby went to the Navy. Soon, as he told me, just a young kid on a ship full of Marines and others headed for the Philippines. Seems he told me the trip took 19 days. They dropped off the Marines on one of those Pacific Islands that our brave young fighting men had already captured to prepare for the fight further north. Darby’s ship ended up in the Philippine Island ( I have to come back to finish this story later as something has got in both my eyes and its hard to see what I’m writing) I’m back. It's Sunday afternoon. Sadly, Darby and his wife Gerry’s spot in the Pew at the right in front of Lynn and I was empty.Darby told me once on the shore of one of the Islands a sailor came up to the men there asking if anyone could type, Darby said yes, so they took him out to one of the ships to type the dispatches etc. That night on shore the Japanese attacked the beach and killed many of his Friends. Another time Darby just missed death he was to be stationed on a minesweeper and just as he saluted and asked permission to come aboard the ship blew up. For some unsolved reason. Darby was drowning in the water, and rescued just in time as he was knocked unconscious and badly injured. Darby used to come up to Oroville during the 60’s with his family and stayed with friends and watched the dam grow and then when he retired he moved to Kelly Ridge I met him years ago at our Methodist Church, were he met his wife Gerry and married about 8 years ago. Close to the end of WWII Darby, after recuperating from his injuries, was stationed where they brought in the rescued American’s that had been taken Prisoner by the Japanese at the fall of Corregidor. They survived the Bataan Death March 1942, after four months of hard fighting, giving up only after total exhaustion and no food or ammo. Some were so ill from years of mistreatment Darby said they died in the next few days, Darby could not tell this story without breaking up. We members of the Oroville Veterans Memorial Park for all of Butte County will move forward, we must strive to get it done and we will. The work of the 8 founding committee members all WWII men who have passed on will not go in vain. The loss of the Private Industry Council’s plan to build our Memorial, although a big blow, will not stop us to quote a Korean War slogan “We’ll just attack in a different direction”. Darby is survived by three kids now grown, Mark, Luke and Doreen. Mark among other things is a diver for San Diego County and recently helped bring up a WWII airplane that had sunk in the water district lake. Luke has a Solar Co. up around Placerville and Doreen is a Medical Care Giver and going to school to become better at it. The story below is what young Darby witnessed when the Bataan Survivors were first rescued.Oroville

Mercury Register – Aug 4 1945
Three Years of Japanese Cruelty Fatal for Bataan Survivor- By Frank Lacoke – Fort Worth, Tex.

The Japanese had succeeded today after more than three years in killing Cpl Newman. Cpl Jim, emaciated survivor of the Bataan death march and three years in filth-ridden Japanese prison camps, died last night in the little white cottage of his parents. He died in his sleep. His father stood near him. His “mom” was resting in another room when death came to her courageous son. He died a month and a day after he was taken home from an army hospital after physicians had given up hope for his life. “Sheer exhaustion caused his death,” physician said. But everyone knew that the Japanese started killing Cpl. Jim – James E. Newman—on the infamous march of death and made sure of their victim with three years of imprisonment in their disease filled prison camps. “God wanted him and took him.” Marie, a sister said. “It’s hard to believe that he’s gone. We all tried and prayed so hard to keep him alive and get well.” The memory of Cpl. Jim will remain alive, however, with thousands of American fighting men and civilians. Thousands of letters of encouragement poured into his parents’ home during his fight to live.