Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Hero of three wars

Col. Lewis Lee Millett: A great American hero of three wars

I recently received an e-mail from Jerry Beckett, commander of American Legion Post 330. The e-mail forwarded some information about a man who served his country in three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. His name is Lewis Lee Millett, Col., USA, Retired. He lives in California.

Intrigued by the e-mail, I decided to see what I could find about the service of Col. Millett. The following is a brief digest of his service to God and country.

He was born in Mechanic Falls, Maine, on Dec. 15, 1920. In 1938, he joined the Maine National Guard. In 1940 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

When President Roosevelt declared that the United States would not become involved in the conflict in Europe, Millett deserted and went to Canada, where he joined the Canadian Army. He was sent to England, and when the United States became involved in the war he was permitted to transfer to the U.S. Army.

In November 1942, he was a part of the invasion force landing in North Africa. A short time later at Medjez-el-Bab, Tunisia, he was in combat, where he received the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in action.

After action at Stuka Valley, Kasserine Pass and Tebessa (where he shot down a Messerschmitt Me-109 with a machine gun from the ground), his unit was sent to Italy. Now a sergeant, it was at Naples where his past (desertion) caught up with him. His executive officer advised him that he had been court-martialed and given 30 days at hard labor (suspended). Shortly thereafter, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

When fighting ended in Italy on April 29, 1945, he was sent home and later that year received his honorable discharge from the Army. He again joined the Maine National Guard and was subsequently sent to Osaka, Japan, and assigned to the Eighth Field Artillery.

When the Korean War (some call it a police action — a United Nations term) broke out, he served as a forward observation officer. Millett was now a captain and in a fight at Ipsok, Korea, in November, he was wounded.

After recovering, he transferred to the infantry and as a company commander put two Browning Automatic Rifles in each squad (usually there was only one) and had each man carry four to six grenades (usually only two), and he instructed his men in the use of the bayonet. A short time later, his company assaulted a hill and one of his platoon lieutenants was wounded. Under fire, he rescued the lieutenant and was awarded the Silver Star.

Three days later, his company was assigned the task of attacking Hill 180. In hand-to-hand combat, Millett bayoneted several Chinese and again suffered wounds.

His company took Hill 180, and he quickly regrouped in defensive position. Capt. Millett was sent back to the states, and it was there that he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

After being promoted to major, he served as an adviser to the Greek army and later was assigned to the 101st Airborne. He first went to Vietnam in 1960 to set up Ranger schools. After graduating from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College, he returned to Vietnam as a colonel serving with distinction.

Credit for much of this information must be given to John M. Glenn and the Military History magazine.

Bayne’s column runs every Sunday on the editorial page.

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