By Wayne Grant
ORMOND BEACH - A typo is usually a bothersome mistake, but for Marvin Miller of Ormond Beach, a typo led to a reunion with old friends and memories of a small French town and a military base where he spent two memorable years of his youth while a private in the Army.
Years later, he tried to find information about the Army base in France where he was stationed in the 1950s, TFOD, which stood for Trois Fontaines Ordinance Depot.
He had no luck until one day he accidentally typed TFAD in a search engine, and a site dedicated to his base popped up. Unknown to Mr. Miller, the base had been renamed Trois Fontaines Ammo Depot, or TFAD.
The Web site, which was created by a Frenchman to honor Americans who served in France, lists soldiers who served at the base and contains contact information for many of them.
Mr. Miller posted his information and said he has received e-mails from all over the U.S. from men who served at the base.
He was surprised one day to be contacted by George Clark, who lives just a few miles away in Ormond-by-the-Sea.
"George said he had looked all over the United States for someone who served at the base," Mr. Miller said.
The two got together and shared photos and memories of the base and the nearby town of Bar le Duc.
"We served at different times but had fun talking about the town and the base," he said. "It's a big part of your life. You're still a teenager."
Mr. Miller was at TFAD from 1954 to 1956 and Mr. Clark, also a private, served from 1958 to 1960.
Mr. Clark said he has reunited with his old platoon.
"Three or four guys come down once a year and we go on a cruise," he said. "We have a great time. It's hard to explain to other people but these are guys you're with during an important part of your life. I hadn't seen these guys in 50 years."
Mr. Miller said he was able to tell Mr. Clark about one legendary event that occurred during his time at the base.
The enlisted men's club had some extra money so they decided to have a "major party" in town.
"About 400 GIs went into Bar le Duc," he said. "Everybody drank until the money was gone. We started parading through the town, just a bunch of GIs carrying on. The gendarmes (French police) tried to get us off the streets and we threw them into the canals."
Eventually, military police arrived and hauled the soldiers out of town on trucks and buses.
Mr. Miller said the town banned the soldiers for a couple of weeks, but then welcomed them back when they started getting tourists who wanted to see the site of the famous GI "riot."
Mr. Miller and Mr. Clark both speak fondly of the French people, especially Alain Baubat, the Frenchman who started the Web site as a tribute to Americans who served in the country in World War I, World War II and during the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s.
Mr. Clark said the people in Paris were a little aloof but those in the countryside were always friendly to the Americans and still are today. He said he visited Bar le Duc a couple of years ago and the people welcomed him into their homes.
"It's a shame the way French and American relations have deteriorated over the years," Ms. Clark said. "It's out of vogue to say anything good about the French, but they never forgot what we did for them. Every Memorial Day they still have ceremonies and put flowers on the Americans' graves."
Mr. Miller said he was touched by all that Mr. Baubat did in putting the Web site together.
"He just passed away and his wife is keeping the Web site together," he said. "I sent her a card to let her know how much we cared about Alain. He brought people together. George and I would never have known each other."
The Web site is webspawner.com/users/tfrobal. Click on the American flag at the bottom of the page.