Robert C. Miller -- UPI war correspondent

By United Press International

Robert C. Miller, who died in Hawaii this week at the age of 89, turned up frequently on the battlefields of the world during 45 years as a correspondent for United Press International.

Miller, known as "Baldy" to scores of soldiers, sailors and Marines from the lowest rank to the highest, roamed both the Pacific and Europe during World War II, and in the years to come his byline appeared on stories of conflict from the Middle East, Greece, India, Indochina, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere in the world.


"I have covered wars on every continent except Latin America," he said in a letter in 1982, requesting that he be sent to the Falkland Islands during the war between Great Britain and Argentina. Since only British reporters were permitted in the first contingent of journalists to land after the British victory, Miller's request could not be granted.


Miller died at his home in Hilo. He also had a home near Whitmore, Calif., where he often spent his summers. Miller's sister, Shirley McKee, said he had suffered several strokes since December and was seriously ill in the weeks before his death.

No funeral was scheduled. McKee said his ashes would be spread at sea off Hilo.

The Big Island Press Club presents a journalism scholarship each year in Miller's name.

UPI Senior Editor Bruce Cook worked with Miller in Honolulu and they stayed in touch over the years.

"Bob Miller was a hero to me and other young reporters in Hawaii in the '60s," Cook said. "Bob had assignments most reporters only dream about. He was a colorful writer and a great storyteller."

In between the battlefront assignments, Miller served in a number of bureaus as reporter and manager, including Honolulu, Los Angeles, Fresno, Phoenix, Alaska, Sydney and Tokyo, where he was named manager for North Asia in 1981.

"My god, there wasn't a place he couldn't go without knowing everybody," Gordon Sakamoto, a UPI colleague, told the Honolulu Advertiser. "Everything he did was at top speed. He was a great newsman."

In addition to wars, Miller also covered the Panmunjom peace talks that brought an end to the Korean War and the 1970 Paris talks seeking to end the Indochina war.


Miller seemed amused by the contrast between the North Korean negotiators at Panmunjom and the North Vietnamese at Paris.

"Reporters who have been cold-shouldered by the Communists for years are being welcomed like lawyers bearing inheritance checks," Miller wrote from Paris in a special dispatch requested by Editor & Publisher magazine. "Whereas the North Koreans strode in and out of the Kaesong and Panmunjom talks with scowling, frozen faces the North Vietnamese are hand-wavers and wide-smilers. No used car salesman has ever done a better job of selling nothing for something."

Miller was born, on June 10, 1915, in Bound Brook, N.J.

He joined the then United Press in Fresno in 1938, moving to San Diego five months later as the manager.

Two years later he was reporting on Hollywood stars from Los Angeles, then moved to Honolulu in early 1942 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and as United Press built up its force of reporters throughout the Pacific theater.

Miller covered the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, then returned to the United States in 1943 with injuries.

He went ashore on Guadalcanal with the Marines and covered the operation from the beginning and took part in the capture of the first Japanese prisoner on the island.


"I was scared out of 10 years's growth doing it," Miller said shortly afterward. "The rest of the patrol had drifted off and I was wandering around alone. I stuck my head inside a tent and saw a Japanese who wore only a pair of shorts. I shouted that I had discovered another dead Japanese, only to find that he was very much alive. The yell awakened him and he raised up and looked at me surprised and bewildered. I managed another yell, 'He ain't dead.'"

Marines rushed over and took the Japanese prisoner to the rear.

By June of 1944 he was covering the invasion of Europe by Allied forces, including the liberation of Paris. Miller rode into Paris on the handlebars of a French civilian's bicycle. He was wounded again in September, 1944, and received the Purple Heart as a civilian. He returned to Europe in October, 1945, to cover the Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals, but was forced to return to the United States because of wound complications.

Miller was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard during l946 and 1947.

Before 1947 was over, he was in Palestine, Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, plus assignments to the war in Greece and the skirmishes between India and Pakistan.


Asia was his next battleground, with on-scene reports from the war in China in 1950, and later the Korean War.

During the 1960s, Miller spent more time at his home, accepting special assignments for UPI mostly in Alaska and the islands of Micronesia.

He went to Paris in 1970 for the Indochina peace talks, then moved on to the batttlefronts in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

After the Vietnam War, he was manager in Honolulu for almost four years, moved to Sydney in 1979 as Australia manager, then to Tokyo in 1981.

On the eve of his retirement from 45 years with UPI, Miller gave this advice to newcomers to the news service:

"A reporter must never forget he is merely an observer, a recorder of facts, a heliograph dedicated to relaying as accurately, vividly and as graphically as his talents allow, the events he is privileged to witness. The millions who rely upon him for their knowledge cover the entire spectrum of society. He is their eyes, ears, yeah, even their nose, but never their adrenal glands.

"If a reporter is unable to view this crazy, idiotic, exciting wonderful world from this detached observatory, let him become an editorial writer, politician or pundit. His days as a reliable Unipresser are over."


Latest Headlines