Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Memorial

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.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Maine Guardsman Who Led Last Bayonet Charge Dies

Col. Millet, Maine Guardsman who led the last U.S. military bayonet charge. 
Retired Army Col. Lewis L. Millet wears his Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and other medals earned in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He served as honorary colonel of the 27th Infantry Regiment Association, and was active in veterans events almost to his death Nov. 14, 2009. (U.S. Army photo)
American Forces Press Service 
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2009 
Retired Army Col. Lewis L. Millett, who received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War for leading what reportedly was the last major American bayonet charge, died Nov 14. Millett, 88, died in Loma Linda, Calif., after serving for more than 15 years as the honorary colonel of the 27th Infantry Regiment Association.
Millet received the Medal of Honor for his actions Feb. 7, 1951. He led the 25th Infantry Division’s Company E, 27th Infantry, in a bayonet charge up Hill 180 near Soam-Ni, Korea. A captain at the time, Millet was leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position when he noticed that a platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire.
Millett placed himself at the head of two other platoons, ordered fixed bayonets, and led an assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge, Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
"Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill," the citation states. "His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder."
Millett was wounded by grenade fragments during the attack, but he refused evacuation until the objective was firmly secured. He recovered, and attended Ranger School after the war.
In the 1960s, he ran the 101st Airborne Division Recondo School for reconnaissance and commando training at Fort Campbell, Ky. He then served in a number of special operations advisory assignments in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He founded the Royal Thai Army Ranger School with help of the 46th Special Forces Company. This unit reportedly is the only one in the U.S. Army to simultaneously be designated as both Ranger and Special Forces.
Millet retired from the Army in 1973.
"I was very saddened to hear Colonel Millett passed away," said Army Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the current commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. "He was a rare breed -- a true patriot who never stopped serving his country. He was a role model for thousands of soldiers, and he will be missed."
Millet was born in Maine and first enlisted in 1940 in the Army Air Corps and served as a gunner. Soon after, when it appeared that the United States would not enter World War II, he left and joined the Canadian army.
In 1942, while Millet was serving in London, the United States entered the war. Millet turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy there and eventually was assigned to the 1st Armored Division. As an antitank gunner in Tunisia, Millet earned the Silver Star after he jumped into a burning halftrack filled with ammunition, drove it away from allied soldiers and jumped to safety just before the vehicle exploded. He later shot down a German fighter plane with a vehicle-mounted machine gun.
As a sergeant serving in Italy during the war, his desertion to join the Canadian forces caught up to him. He was court-martialed, fined $52 and denied leave. A few weeks later, he was awarded a battlefield commission. After the war, he joined the 103rd Infantry of the Maine National Guard, and he attended college until he was called back to active duty in 1949.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Millett earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit and four Purple Hearts during his 35-year military career. After his retirement, he remained active in both national and local veterans groups from his Idyllwild, Calif., home.
His son, Army Staff Sgt John Morton Millett, was a member of the 101st Airborne Division returning from duty in the Sinai on Dec. 12, 1985, when a charter plane crashed upon takeoff after stopping at Gander, Newfoundland. He was one of 256 soldiers killed in the crash.
On Feb. 7, 1994, Millet was honored with a ceremony on Hill 180, now located on Osan Air Base, South Korea. The ceremony became an annual one, and the road running up the hill was named "Millet Road."
In June 2000, Millet returned to Seoul, South Korea, and served as keynote speaker at the Army's 225th Birthday Ball at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. All eight of the then-living Korean War Medal of Honor recipients attended the event.
This year, Millet served as the grand marshal of a Salute to Veterans parade April 21 in Riverside, Calif. He died Nov. 14 at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Loma Linda, of congestive heart failure.
A memorial service for Millet is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 5 at the National Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery in California.