Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Earned in Blood

Earned in Blood

My Journey from Old-Breed Marine to the Most Dangerous Job in America

Thurman Miller; Foreword by Richard Frank

St. Martin's Press




Born in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia in 1919, Thurman Miller was the sixteenth of eighteen children in a family so poor, the local coal miner's kids looked down on them. His father was a subsistence farmer and it was rare for the Miller family to have enough food for everyone. But for Thurman, Appalachia was not just a region: it was a culture, a frame of mind, a being. Fighting, playing, and hiding in the hills would soon serve him well.

In 1940 he enlisted and served in World War II with the legendary unit K-3-5 of the First Marine Division. He was involved in some of the most horrific and famous battles in the Pacific Theater, including Guadalcanal and New Britain, where as Gunny Sergeant he sent men to their deaths and narrowly escaped it himself. From harrowing battlefield experiences to the loss of comrades, his powerful combat experiences would stay with him forever. Upon returning stateside, he taught at the prestigious Officer Candidate School at Camp Lejeune, preparing young officers for the horrific battles to come on Okinawa and Iwo Jima. After the war, suffering badly from the malaria and other diseases he contracted in the Pacific and unable to find work, Miller took a job in the coal mines in his home state of West Virginia, where he toiled in darkness for thirty-seven years. The blackness of the mines fed the terrors he lived with since the battlefield and the backbreaking labor ate away at his already compromised body. Bowed but unbroken, Miller survived because of his strength and lifelong devotion to his beloved wife of sixty-five years—a relationship that shines brightly in this distinctly American journey.

With uncommon wisdom, intelligence, and humility, this member of the Greatest Generation spins a gripping tale through peace and war, work and family, love and redemption across ten tumultuous decades.




Carving a life

BEING A UNITED STATES MARINE came to define my life, but Appalachia defined me first. My family has deep roots in southern West Virginia. My great-grandfather...


Praise for Earned in Blood

“A frontline view of a tough-as-nails life—by a man who came out the other end smiling . . . An impressive, riveting, and harrowing addition to the history of the Pacific Theater.” —The Charleston Gazette

“T.I. Miller is as fine a Marine as ever put on the uniform. In training and in combat, he was my mentor, my example, and my inspiration.” —R.V. Burgin, author of Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacifi

“At the end of this book I am left with a profound respect for this man, and filled with awe and gratitude. The levels of horror that he . . . endured in the name of service to country, home, and freedom is simply unimaginable.” —Marcus Brotherton, bestselling author of A Company of Heroes

“A dramatic and compelling story, one every American should read and ponder.” —Homer Hickam, author Rocket Boys and October Sky

“Thurman Miller brings alive the humanity of those who fight our wars and the inhumanity of the wars in which they fight.” —Lt. Col. Dick Renfro, U.S. Army, Ret.

“In Earned in Blood, Thurman Miller takes us through his hard but rich Appalachian boyhood, his harrowing experience as a Marine in the battles for Guadalcanal and New Britain, and his lifelong struggle with the aftereffects of all he gave to serve his country. In addition to recurring bouts of malaria, he suffered flashbacks so powerful that, when working as a coal miner, he saw his dead buddies piled up on the conveyor belt. Only the sheer strength of his spirit, the support of a loving family, and the reunion with his brother Marines made Mr. Miller's survival possible. His heart-searing story reminds us that a grateful nation is never grateful enough.” —George Ella Lyon

“Thurman Miller, now in his 90s, tells the iconic story of his generation: Living off the land on a hillside farm in West Virginia during the Great Depression, fighting in the South Pacific during World War II, returning home only to face the difficult life of a coal miner. But at the heart of this searing, honest book is the terrible combat on Guadalcanal and New Britain, and the Marines of K Company, locked in a primal struggle with their Japanese counterparts. Even as he documents the horror, Miller never loses sight of the humanity of all concerned.” —Denise Giardina, award-winning author of Storming Heaven and Emily’s Ghost

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Thurman Miller; Foreword by Richard Frank

THURMAN MILLER, a native of Otsego, West Virginia, served as Gunny Sergeant with the First Marine Division in World War II and was one of the first Marines ashore on Guadalcanal. He fought in several other historic South Pacific battles, including New Britain, and returned stateside to teach at the Officer Candidate School at Camp Lejeune before beginning a three-decade career in the coal mining industry. He formerly served as president of the West Virginia Chapter of the First Marine Division and lives near Beckley, West Virginia.

Thurman Miller

Richard Frank

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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