Oscar Miller was born in Franklin County on 25 October 1882, the third of eight children of AJ Miller and his wife. He spent his early childhood in Bryant (Saline County). After his father died when he was eight years old, Miller and four of his siblings—Ruth, Grace, Helen, and Bill—were raised by his paternal grandmother. In 1899, he left Arkansas for Texas looking for work; he worked briefly for a publishing house as a “printer’s devil,” where he set type and delivered newspapers. Later, he found a job as a waiter, which gave him a chance to learn to speak Spanish, a skill that helped him later in his career.
He quit his job as a waiter and joined the US Army in 1901. Before his three-year enlistment was complete, he served as a company clerk and interpreter for the Twenty-eighth US Infantry in the Philippines. Returning to the United States, he found himself facing unemployment. He eventually got a job as a clerk for the US Mail Service in Little Rock (Pulaski County). There, he began to show the impatient, individualistic streak that characterized his later career in the INS and as a soldier; he was often reprimanded for failing to observe the chain of command and for the bluntness with which he approached situations. These qualities, though a service in his future, were a source of conflict during his time in Little Rock.
In Little Rock, he met Anna Conrad, the daughter of a well-known city police chief, and soon married her. They had one child, Oscar Franklin Jr.
In 1907, the Millers left Arkansas and made their home in Laredo, Texas. For the next ten years he worked as an immigration officer for the INS in Texas, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California, patrolling the border and helping to apprehend undocumented migrants. Miller’s work was exciting and efficient; he was praised for his successful missions and given several pay raises. His effective use of patrol boats on U.S.–Mexico water routes resulted in his travel to Washington DC, where he convinced the Bureau of Immigration that the INS should have a greater supply of them.
In 1917, he left the INS and enrolled in reserve officers’ training in California. By the time he was called to active duty, he had performed so well that he was one of two students to be promoted to the rank of major for the 361st Infantry, 91st Division. Not long after this, at a family reunion in Arkansas, he was reported as saying, “There is no more glorious death than to die on the battlefield.”
Miller arrived in England, and then France, for more training in July 1918. By September of that same year, Miller’s divisions were moving around the pits and trenches in the Argonne Forest in France. On 27 September 1918, his Third Battalion arrived at the village of Epionville, where he was told he would be able to make “the next big attack.” The next day, an attack was made on German forces who were hiding in the trenches to counter the American attack with a barrage of bullets. Many of Miller’s men were wounded or killed very quickly, and Miller himself took a bullet in his right leg. Before being shot again, he managed to make it another fifty feet. A captain carried his body off the battlefield; he died in a dressing station at 0130 hrs on 29 September 1918.
For his actions on 28 September 1918 Major Oscar Franklin Miller was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:1
"After 2 days of intense physical and mental strain, during which Maj. Miller had led his battalion in the front line of the advance through the forest of Argonne, the enemy was met in a prepared position south of Gesnes. Though almost exhausted, he energetically reorganized his battalion and ordered an attack. Upon reaching open ground the advancing line began to waver in the face of machinegun fire from the front and flanks and direct artillery fire. Personally leading his command group forward between his front-line companies, Maj. Miller inspired his men by his personal courage, and they again pressed on toward the hostile position. As this officer led the renewed attack he was shot in the right leg, but he nevertheless staggered forward at the head of his command. Soon afterwards he was again shot in the right arm, but he continued the charge, personally cheering his troops on through the heavy machinegun fire. Just before the objective was reached he received a wound in the abdomen, which forced him to the ground, but he continued to urge his men on, telling them to push on to the next ridge and leave him where he lay. He died from his wounds a few days later."
Major Oscar F Miller is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, Plot F, Row 10, Grave 36.