Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Hero Falls - Colonel Lewis Millett, U.S. Army (ret) - RIP

An American hero passed away this week.
Colonel Lewis Millett was so determined to fight the Nazis that he deserted the US Army as a teenager and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Artillery Regiment in 1940.

“He was mad because it didn’t look like the United States was going to go,’’ said his brother Albert of Mechanic Falls, Maine. “He went to Canada because he wanted to fight against Hitler.’’

Colonel Millett, a career Army officer who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1951 after leading a bayonet charge up a hill in Korea, said in a 2006 interview, “I must be the only regular Army colonel who has ever been court-martialed and convicted of desertion.’’

Colonel Millett, who grew up in Dartmouth, died Saturday of heart failure at a veterans hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., near his home in Idyllwild. He was 88.

President Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor, citing his actions in leading his men under heavy fire in a ferocious attack to take Hill 180 near the village of Soam-Ni on Feb. 7, 1951.

Colonel Millett, then a captain, had seen Chinese propaganda fliers saying that Americans were afraid of hand-to-hand combat. “When I read that, I thought, ‘I’ll show you,’’ he said in a 2006 interview with the journal Military History.

He trained his men in “cold steel’’ combat. After one of his platoons was pinned down, he ordered his men to fix bayonets. Despite being wounded in the leg by shrapnel, he led the charge while lobbing grenades and bayoneting and clubbing the enemy.

The official medal citation reads: “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.’’

The assault, according to historian S.L.A. Marshall, was “the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor,’’ a Civil War battle in 1864.
We owe more than we can understand to men like Colonel Millett. Greatest generation indeed.

(h/t CDR Salamander)

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