Monday, November 16, 2009

America Lost One of Its True Heroes Saturday

Medal of Honor recipient Lewis Millett, hero of Battle of Bayonet Hill, passes

Capt. Louis L. Millett, 88, Medal of Honor recipient, passed away Nov. 14 in Loma Linda, Calif.[Photo from Crushing Chris} In 1940, Lewis L. "Red" Millett, a 17 year old native of Mechanic Falls, Maine, dropped out of high school and joined the Army Air Corps in order to fight the increasing fascist threat in Europe. But when President Roosevelt stated that the U.S. would not be entering the war, Millett decided to become a deserter and head to Canada - not to avoid combat, but to seek it out as part of the Canadian army. He was sent to London where he served as an anti-aircraft gunner during the Nazi's "Blitz" bombing campaign.

"I deeply believe that if you're a free man, then you should stand up and support freedom wherever it is," Millett said during an interview on the 2003 PBS documentary American Valor.

When the U.S. joined the war in 1942, Millet was able to transfer back to the American Army. Joining the 1st Armored Division, Millett earned the Silver Star - the nation's third-highest award for valor - for his actions in North Africa. He also fought at Salerno and Anzio, but the paperwork of his desertion caught up to Millett, who was court-martialed, demoted to private, and fined $52.

However following his punishment, Millett received a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant and a Bronze Star.

Then on Feb. 7, 1951 during the Korean War, Millett - who had been promoted to Captain - was leading an under-strength company of 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" against a strongly held enemy position on Hill 180, which is now part of Osan Air Base in South Korea.

"The Chinese had put out the word that we were afraid of bayonets," Millett told Stars and Stripes in a 1975 interview. "'Americans afraid of bayonets' is just ridiculous, I thought, so I intended to prove a point."

During the attack, one of Millett's platoons became pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and "buffalo gun" anti-tank fire. Millett ordered another platoon forward, telling his men to "Fix bayonets and follow me!"

Despite being wounded by a grenade blast, Millett charged forward - firing his rifle, throwing grenades, and striking enemies with his rifle and bayonet. When Millett reached a three-man buffalo gun emplacement, he killed all three with his bayonet. Once at the top of the hill, Millett waved his rifle over his head, encouraging his men by shouting "Grenades and cold steel!" - while still fighting the enemy.

Millett's charge was so effective that the remaining Communist forces fled, but not before 47 North Korean and Chinese soldiers lay dead, 18 of which had been killed by bayonets.
Capt. Millett was awarded the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest decoration for valor - for his actions on Hill 180, which came to be known as the Battle of Bayonet Hill.

"I was surprised, I never expected it," Millett told Stars and Stripes. "Of course, a lot of real fine people had to die so that a few might get decorated. There's an awful lot of men who lie buried over here, and the only recognition they received was the purple heart."

Lewis L. Millett, 88, passed away Saturday morning in Loma Linda, Calif. His passing means that only 93 living recipients of America's Medal of Honor remain.

In Sept. 2010, the Medal of Honor Society will hold its national convention in Charleston, S.C., giving Americans the opportunity to honor those like Lewis Millett who have given so much for this country.

PBS American Valor

Lewis MillettLewis Millett

Born: December 15, 1920
Mechanic Falls, Maine

War: Korea

Rank: Captain, US Army, Company E , 27th Infantry Regiment

Location of action: Vicinity of Soam-Ni Korea

Date of action: February 7, 1951

Medal received from: President Harry Truman July 15, 1951

Official Citation:
Captain Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Captain Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the two platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement.

Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. 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.

During this fierce onslaught Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Captain Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.

In 1940, Lewis Millet left high school at the end of his junior year to enlist in the Army. Increasingly upset with German aggression in Europe and the Nazis' treatment of jews and anxious to get into combat, he deserted the Army at the start of World War II and went to Canada to join the Canadian Army. Millet was fighting overseas with the Canadians when the United States entered the war. When American troops began arriving in England in 1942, Millet took advantage of a provision that allwoed American citizens serving with an allied country to transfer into the u.S. military.

Millet went the American Embassy and asked to be transferred back and was placed with the 1st Armored Division in North Africa. By the time his records caught up with him Millet had earned a silver star, a bronze star, was a buck sergeant, had spent six months in Africa, six months in Italy. Millett has served in three wars – WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He received the Medal of Honor for action during the Korean war.

Of Note:
Lewis Millett wrote the following poem in memory of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, especially his youngest son son, Sgt. John Millet., and the 247 people who were killed returning from a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai.

On December 12, 1985, Arrow Air flight 1285, a DC-8-63 charter carrying 248 passengers and a crew of eight crashed upon takeoff at Gander International Airport killing everyone on board. Most of the dead were members of the 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division; eleven were from other Forces Command units; and one was a CID agent from the Criminal Investigations Command. It was the largest one day loss in the 101st Airborne Division’s history. They were returning home to Fort Campbell, Kentucky from a six-month peacekeeping mission in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). The MFO’s mission was to implement security provisions contained in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The flight had left Cairo, Egypt and landed in Cologne, Germany. After a stopover there, it took off for Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, landing there to refuel.

A SOLDIER’S PRAYER - by Col. Lewis L. Millett

I’ve fought when others feared to serve.
I’ve gone where many failed to go.
I’ve lost friends in war and strife, who valued duty over the love of life.
I’ve shared the comradeship of pain
I’ve searched these lands for men that we’ve lost.
I’ve sons who’ve served our land of liberty who’d fight to see that other lands are free.
I’ve seen the weak forsake humanity.
I’ve heard fakers praise our enemy.
I’ve seen challenged men stand ever bolder.
I’ve seen the duty, the honor, the sacrifice of the soldier.
Now, I understand the meaning of all lives,
The lives of comrades of not so long ago.
So to you who answered duties siren call, may
God bless you my son, may God bless you all.