Miller Xavier Aydell graduated from high school in French Settlement, Louisiana in 1937 and planned to go to college. But he decided to serve in the Navy first, enlisting on Oct. 7, 1937. He was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona — his first and only ship — by January 1938.
In joining the Navy, Mr. Aydell was following the path of a cousin from their village near Baton Rouge. Alvin Vincent Aydell also served on the Arizona, though it isn’t clear for how long. A muster roll for October 1939 reported his transfer to another ship. Alvin had been in the Navy since 1934 and finished his service in October 1940.
On Nov. 6, 1941, Miller wrote to Victor Joseph Aydell, another cousin serving in the Navy. Miller didn’t know his cousin’s whereabouts, but he guessed correctly in sending the letter to Norfolk, Virginia, home base for Victor’s ammunition ship, the U.S.S. Nitro.
Miller’s big news was that his four-year enlistment had ended on Oct. 7. He’d even shipped a trunk of belongings home. But he couldn’t leave the Arizona until she returned to the mainland United States, and in the fall of 1941 the battleship was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for repairs. On Oct. 22 the Arizona and the U.S.S. Oklahoma had collided at sea during an evening exercise.
Miller wrote with excitement about going home to what he termed God Country. “I’m just a civilian sailor. Boy oh Boy! Next time in the state and I’ll be a free man.”
He also wrote that his father said hunting was good back home. “He tells me all about his hunts, says Peach and Ray has a race to see who will kill the most squirrels. Must have a lot of em out there, because they kill three or four on every hunt they make. Wish I were there, don’t you?”
Miller Aydell never made it home to southeast Louisiana. He was a watertender and petty officer second class when he was killed on Dec. 7 in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
His cousin Victor survived the war, retiring as a chief petty officer.
Miller was born Oct. 2, 1919, to Theresa Vicknair Aydell, a homemaker, and Austin Aydell, a farmer. He had one sibling, a sister, Palmire, born in 1922. There’s a cenotaph for Miller Aydell at the Whitehall Community Cemetery in Whitehall, Louisiana, where his parents are buried. Some of his belongings are preserved at the Creole House Museum in French Settlement.