A NATIVE OF Osceola, Iowa, Loren George Millis worked at several businesses in Cedar Rapids, before moving to Sheridan in about 1914. He was a bookkeeper for the Sheridan National Bank in 1915 and 1916, getting a job as an assistant cashier at the First National Bank of Shoshoni in early 1917.
At the age of twenty-eight, Millis was possibly the oldest Sheridan area man to join the Navy during the war; most others were in their teens and early twenties. Despite his age, however, Millis made an able seaman, quickly rising to the rank of Electrician 2nd Class/Radioman on the USS Calhoun.
On New Year's Day 1919, after eighteen months or so of ferrying troop ships back and forth across the Atlantic, the Calhoun found herself answering a distress call: the massive passenger-liner-turned-troopship Northern Pacific had ran aground near Fire Island with nearly 2,500 men stranded aboard.
Millis' description of the evacuation and its aftermath was published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on January 10, 1919.
State Historic Site
Dear Mother: We came up the North River and anchored with the fleet on New Year’s Eve about 11:30 p.m. About 4:00 o’clock in the morning we heard the Northern Pacific sending out S. O. S. and a short while later we were making 34 knots an hour at the head of a bunch of destroyers. When we reached the Northern Pacific, we found her high up on the beach with waves splashing up high as her stacks. The sea was very rough and was pounding her unmercifully. It was so rough that we could not come very close, and all we could do was spread thousands of gallons of oil. The sea calmed down last night so that the small boats took off nearly all the passengers today, and we brought in 200 this afternoon. It is about 60 or 70 miles, I think,
They landed some on Fire Island yesterday by breeches buoy and lifeboats. There are still over 100 stretcher cases (badly wounded) on board, but they will soon be off. There were something like eighteen or nineteen hundred wounded soldiers on board and several hundred able-bodied men just being brought back from France. There were a lot that were in straight jackets and in pitiful condition, and they had to be handled with great care.
Many of those we brought in this afternoon had been wounded, but were convalescent. Several of them had the Croix de Guerre which they had received for bravery on the battlefield. I enjoyed the trip in with them. They were a good bunch of fellows and were happy to be back where they could see “The Old Lady” (Statue of Liberty).
The Liboney (a big transport) came in just as we did, and there were whistles blowing and a big tug came out with a band which played "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Home Sweet Home." Another band was at the pier to meet us. It was great to see the people waving and cheering those fellows. You see, people were quite anxious about all those men on board the N. P. and were tickled to death to see them coming in. Believe me, it was a happy bunch of men too. The Liboney is a whopper and was brown with soldiers whom she brought direct from France. We convoyed her across several times during the war.
You remember the Northern Pacific is the big liner which I rode from Portland to Frisco during the fair in 1915. She is the fastest transport we have and made many trips across during the war, carrying thousands and thousands of soldiers. I sure hope they can get her off the beach soon [she was refloated on January 18].
We landed the troops on the pier next to the Leviathan today over in Hoboken. You know she used to be the Vaterland. The fleet is anchored in a line reaching as far up the river as I can see.
I must close now. Love to you and the folks.
P.S.—We will leave New York Jan. 2 for Cuba where we will spend the winter with the fleet. Guantamala [Guantanamo] is the fleet winter drill grounds where we will hold torpedo and gun practice, as well as drills of all kinds.