Saturday, November 14, 2009
MH: You returned to the States to receive the Medal of Honor. What did you do after that?
Millett: I was an aide-de-camp to General John R. Hodge. Then I went to Greece as an adviser to the Greek army, where I was promoted to major. Now I had never been to an Army school as an officer, so on my return from Greece I attended the Infantry Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, a school usually attended by young captains. After that, I went to Ranger school at Fort Benning. That would be in 1958. I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division after Ranger school.
MH: What did you do there?
Millett: At first I was assigned to the 506th Battle Group as S-2 [intelligence officer]. During a maneuver I led the 506th I & R [intelligence and reconnaissance] Platoon and captured the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division. This impressed the 101st commander, Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland, and he asked me to set up a school for small unit leaders. I formed the Recondo school based on what I had learned in Ranger school.
MH: You first went to Vietnam in 1960. What were your duties?
Millett: I set up Ranger schools in three areas. I started the Vietnamese Rangers with Vietnamese officers who had been through the American Ranger school. You know how I got things done? When I was running the Recondo school, 20th Century Fox made a 15-minute film, Rangers in the 101st. It showed the training, the death slide, all that stuff. When we started the Rangers in Vietnam, a Special Forces team was sent to set up the course. They weren’t Ranger qualified. I was supposed to be the adviser, but they were setting up the course! They had a big reputation, but when I showed that film, they bought everything I said.
MH: You graduated from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College. What did you do when you returned to Vietnam in 1970?
Millett: I had been in Laos in 1968 to 1970. My family was living in Bangkok, Thailand. Back in Vietnam, I was adviser to the II Corps Phoenix Program that was trying to disrupt Viet Cong infrastructure in towns and villages. You know the Phoenix Program got a lot of bad publicity about being murderers and so forth. I never saw any of that. We would get information about the comings and goings of Viet Cong leadership, and we would set up ambushes along routes to and from the villages. We were trying to capture Viet Cong leaders to find out more about them. But we did kill a lot of them when they wouldn’t surrender. Because I volunteered for two years, my family could visit. All my kids have been there. My son Lee went on patrols with me. My youngest son, John, lived with a Vietnamese family for three months. My wife was part Cherokee, and she thought there might be a Montagnard relationship with American Indians because of the designs on their cloths and other things. Well, we went visiting Montagnard villages in the mountains, sometimes at night in a vehicle with our lights on. And we never got shot at! This was 1972. We had won the war! Then we turned it over to the Vietnamese, and we came home. That’s when I got angry because we quit, and I got out of the Army.
Millett: They were 350 Montagnards who had been drafted by the Viet Cong. They wanted to quit fighting and came to negotiate with the Dalat province chief. They weren’t changing sides; they just wanted to go home. Their commander, Ha Rat Sin, feared that he would be arrested if he went to negotiate. I told him they could hold me as a hostage for his safe return. They eventually came in and I was released. I heard later that they were all executed after the North Vietnamese took over the country. One time in my life I got people to stop fighting and be free — if I’d let them keep on fighting, they’d still be alive today.
MH: Did you receive any awards in Vietnam?
Millett: I wouldn’t accept any American decorations. I wasn’t there for recognition for myself but to help win freedom for a people. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.
MH: Are you still involved with the Army?
Millett: I have been the Honorary Colonel of the 27th Regiment since 1985, and I travel to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, at least once a year in that capacity. [Retired Lt. Gen. John Foley became the Honorary Colonel in January 2001, the 100th anniversary of the regiment.] Also, at the request of the Army chief of staff, I went to Germany to welcome Oregon National Guardsmen back from duty in Bosnia. And I’ve been to Korea many times. I’m on the Riverside County Veterans Affairs Committee that makes recommendations to the board of supervisors on actions that affect veterans. I’m a past national commander of the Legion of Valor, and a former district director of the Medal of Honor Society. And I belong to many veterans’ organizations. I manage to keep busy.
This article was written by Korean War veteran John M. Glenn and originally published in the February 2002 issue of Military History magazine.