Lewis Lee Millett, Sr.
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)• Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
Lewis Lee Millett, Sr.
The Early Years
Lewis Lee Millett was born on 15 December 1920, in Mechanic Falls, ME. He grew up in South Dartmouth, MA, having moved there with his mother after his parents divorced and his mother remarried. His great-grandfather had served in the American Civil War and an uncle fought in World War I with the 101st Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
While still attending high school in Dartmouth, he enlisted in the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938 and joined his uncle's old regiment, the 101st Field Artillery. In 1940, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and entered Gunnery School. When it appeared that the U.S. would not enter World War II, Millett, eager to fight, deserted in mid-1941. With a friend who had received a bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Millett hitchhiked to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Army. Assigned to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, he was sent to the United Kingdom, where he served as an anti-aircraft radar operator in London during the Blitz. By the time he arrived in the United Kingdom, the U.S. had entered the war; Millett transferred to the U.S. Army in 1942.
World War II
Assigned to the 27th Armored Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Millett served in Tunisia as an anti-tank gunner. During an engagement there, he drove a burning ammunition-filled half-track away from Allied soldiers, jumping to safety just before it exploded. For this action, he was awarded the U.S. military's third-highest award for valor, the Silver Star Medal. He later shot down a Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter plane using half-track mounted machine guns.
Millett, by then a Sergeant, next took part in the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno and the subsequent Battle of Anzio. It was at this time that the U.S. Army discovered Millet's 1941 desertion; he was court-martialed, convicted, ordered to pay a $52 fine, and stripped of his leave privileges. Only weeks later, he was given a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant.
After World War II, Millett attended Bates College in Lewiston, ME, for three years before being called up to serve in Korea. Over a decade later, in the 1960s, he earned a bachelor's degree from Park College (now known as Park University) in Missouri.
On 7 February 1951, Millett was serving in Korea as a Captain and Commander of Company E of the 27th Infantry Regiment. On that day, near Soam-Ni, he led his company in an assault on an enemy position atop Hill 180. When one platoon became pinned down by heavy fire, Millett took another platoon forward, joined the two groups, and led them up the hill. Wielding his bayonet and throwing hand grenades, Millett yelled encouragement to his soldiers throughout the hand-to-hand fight. Upon reaching the top of the hill, his men stormed the enemy position and forced the opposing soldiers to withdraw. Although wounded in the shin by grenade fragments, Millett refused to be evacuated until the position was secured. Historian S.L.A. Marshall described the attack as "the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor."
Medal of Honor
Capt. 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. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 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 Capt. 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 Capt. 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.
The Medal was formally presented to him by President Harry S. Truman in July 1951. He was also awarded the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, for leading another bayonet charge in the same month.
After the Korean War, Millett attended Ranger School at Fort Benning, GA. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an intelligence officer and later served in Vietnam as a Military Advisor to the controversial Phoenix Program, which aimed to root out and kill Viet Cong sympathizers. He also helped found a "Recondo" (reconnaissance-commando) school to train small units for service in Vietnam. In the mid-1960s, he commanded the Army Security Agency Training Center at Fort Devens, MA.
Millett retired from the military in 1973 at the rank of Colonel. He later stated that he retired because he felt the U.S. had "quit" in Vietnam.
The Post-War Years and Family
After his military career, Millett worked as a deputy sheriff in Trenton, TN. He eventually moved to Idyllwild, CA, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He regularly appeared at events celebrating veterans, both in the Riverside County area and elsewhere around the country.
Millett's first marriage, to Virginia Young, ended in divorce. During the festivities surrounding his Medal of Honor award in 1951, he met Winona Williams. The two were later married and had four children: Lewis Lee Jr., Timothy, John, and Elizabeth. By the time of Winona Millett's death in 1993, the couple had been married over 40 years. Millett's son John, an Army Staff Sergeant [Honoree Record ID 309098], was among the 248 U.S. military members killed in 1985 when their airplane, Arrow Air Flight 1285, crashed in Gander, Newfoundland, while carrying them home from peacekeeping duty in the Sinai Peninsula.
Medals,Awards, Badges & Tabs
Medal of Honor
At Osan Air Base in South Korea, Millett Road, runs up Hill 180, the hill where Millett led the legendary bayonet charge.
In 2009, a park in San Jacinto, CA, was named in honor of Millett.
Death and Burial
Millett died of congestive heart failure on 14 November 2009, one month short of his 89th birthday. He died at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, CA, after being hospitalized four days earlier. He had experienced various health problems over the last few years of his life, including diabetes.
Colonel Lewis Lee Millett, Sr. was buried on 5 December 2009 at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA, and his grave can be found in Section 2, Grave #1910.
|Honoree ID: 88||Created by: MHOH|