Posts made in February, 2018

Colonel Lewis Millett–Born to Fight

Posted on Feb 3, 2018

Commanding General National Training Command (NTC) Brigadier General (BGEN) James D. Thurman presents a commemorative photograph to Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel (COL) Lewis Millet, USA, (Retired) a veteran of WWII, The Korean War, and Vietnam during the US Army’s 226th Birthday Celebration held at Fort Irwin, CA.

By John Bryan Dudek
11/18/2009 • HistoryNet Interviews, Interviews, Vietnam Extra

Colonel Lewis Lee Millett is a combat-decorated veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. On February 7, 1951, then Captain Millett earned the Medal of Honor for leading two platoons in a desperate and savage bayonet charge to the top of a windswept, fortified Chinese-held hill in Korea. He made five combat paratroop jumps in his career and is the first officer ever to rappel from a hovering helicopter. He is the founder of the Army’s Recondo Schools.

His family has fought in many of this nation’s wars and ­conflicts, going back to 1675 when an ­ancestor died during an Indian ­massacre in Massachusetts Bay Colony and up to 1985 when his youngest son was among 347 Mideast peacekeepers killed in a plane crash in Newfoundland.

Lewis Millett joined the National Guard in 1938 while still in high school, because he wanted to fight. When war broke out in Europe in 1939 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “No American boys would be sent to fight in any European wars,” Millett deserted and joined the Canadian Army. He was sent to Britain, where he received intensive commando training that would later prove pivotal to his career. When the United States entered the war in 1941, Millett went to the U.S. Embassy in London and rejoined the United States Army. He served with distinction in the 1st Armored Division in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. When his court-martial papers for desertion finally caught up with him, he had already earned a battlefield commission and several decorations for bravery. The papers were quickly torn up and forgotten. When World War II ended, Millett temporarily left active duty, only to rejoin the National Guard.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, Millett was transferred to the 25th Infantry Division’s 27th Infantry Regiment, the “Wolf­hounds,” where the wheels were set in motion that would lead to the Battle of Bayonet Hill and the awarding of his Medal of Honor. During that action, the Chinese soldiers were routed by American troops using seemingly outmoded bayonet-fixed rifles. Even though he was wound­ed during the assault, Millett refused to be evacuated until the hill had been made secure.

Colonel Millett went to Vietnam in 1960 and set up Ranger schools there. After graduating from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College, he returned to Vietnam in 1970 as adviser to the II Corps Phoenix Program.

Millett retired from the U.S. Army in 1973. Now 86 years old, he recently spoke to Vietnam Magazine about his experiences in three wars.

Vietnam Magazine: On that hill in Korea in 1951, of all the weapons to use in a close assault upon a fortified enemy position, why use fixed bayonets?

Lewis Millett: The Chinese said that we Americans were afraid to use the bayonet, so I said, “I’ll show them!” I had the local Korean women sharpen our bayonets razor sharp on their grinding wheels, and we practiced bayonet drill techniques and hand-to-hand combat several times a day. I told the men that the next time we went into battle, we’d be attacking using fixed bayonets, and we did.

VM: What was your estimation of General William Westmoreland as a combat leader?

LM: I think he was a fine general. It was General Westmoreland who wanted me to organize the Recondo School after observing a raid that I led while still Stateside during a field training exercise. The idea was to provide advanced training to give the average soldier the knowledge to perform in the field at a level far above what they had learned in basic training and infantry school. Westmoreland said that most platoons didn’t know how to patrol correctly, so we started training the squad leaders first and then moved on from there. That’s how Recondo School got started.

VM: How did you get to Vietnam after your stint at the Recondo School, and what were your duties there?

LM: The Army needed men to go to Vietnam and I volunteered to go there. The Army wanted me to start a ­Recondo School for the South Vietnamese and Laotian troops. They wanted their training to incorpor­ate the same tactics and principles that had been taught to our 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. Initially I was based in Thailand and I later trained the Laotian commandos there.

VM: Did you accompany the ARVN Rangers on their combat patrols in the field and ever engage in any firefights against the Viet Cong?

LM: Yes, I oftentimes went out on patrol with the ARVN troops. The patrols usually lasted about three or four hours. We had some firefights, but I don’t recall any [details] offhand. [Laughs.] It was so long ago that I’ve forgotten.

VM: Were the ARVN Rangers effective soldiers?

LM: They were very good soldiers. They needed a lot of training, but they were very good soldiers once they went into action. You’d get them, train them and then send them off. I trained ARVN Rangers in their Recondo School for more than a year and spent seven years in Southeast Asia on and off between 1960 and 1972.

VM: Were they as good as their American counterparts?

The ones I trained acquitted themselves very well in the field and were every bit as effective as American troops.

VM: What sort of weapons did the ARVN Rangers carry?

LM: I carried an M-1 Garand [rifle] and a .45-caliber automatic pistol in the field. The ARVN Rangers carried a lot of Thompson submachine guns, M-1s and some carbines.

VM: Is the M-1 Garand a superior weapon to the M-14 or the M-16?

LM: I’m an M-1 man. The M-1 Garand is a great rifle, much better and more reliable than the M-16. I’ve still got an M-1 Garand.

VM: What was your opinion of the Army retiring the tried and true .45-caliber auto­matic pistol in favor of the 9mm M-9?

LM: The .45 pistol is a fine weapon, and the Army never should have gotten rid of it. I carried one throughout my time in Vietnam and never had any problems with mine.

VM: The CIA Phoenix Program has been derided as being nothing more than “CIA assassination teams,” whereas it was a highly effective tool that helped to crush the infrastructure of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. How did you become involved in that program and what were your duties?

LM: The Army needed guys for the Phoenix Program, so I volunteered. I did a year with them. My primary role was in the gathering of intelligence. As a result [of the intelligence], we set up many ambushes and killed a lot of Viet Cong. What we would do is to put out ambushes to capture or kill the Viet Cong operatives as they left their village to make contact with other guerrillas. It was a very effective way of eliminating the enemy. We gathered intelligence through the use of interrogation. No torture!

VM: Did you find the CIA operatives competent and effective?

LM: The CIA operatives we worked with were very competent and effective officers who knew their stuff. They were good men. The Phoenix Program was a good program. It worked very well, and it never should have been stopped.

VM: In what area or province of Vietnam were you based?

LM: I was in the Central Highlands, from Dalat up to Pleiku and Kontum. I went out on patrols with the men [of the Phoenix Program teams]. We set up a lot of ambushes and killed a lot of VC.

VM: Later in the war, how was it that you agreed to offer yourself as a hostage during negotiations over the surrender of an entire NVA combat unit?

LM: They needed a volunteer to act as a hostage while negotiations were going on toward the surrender of an NVA battalion. They probably figured that they were going to be killed anyway, so they were eager to surrender. I only spent one day with them before they gave up, and more than 100 of them laid down their arms, along with their commanding officer.

VM: What happened to them?

LM: Many of them were later involved in the “Chieu-Hoi” (Open-Arms) program as Vietnamese scouts. We used them and treated them well. They proved to be good soldiers.

VM: What was your opinion of the quality of the Vietnam-era American soldier?

LM: The quality of the Vietnam War soldier was every bit as good as the men I served with in Korea or during World War II. They were great guys! Bottom line is, it all depends on leadership. If you can kick ass and take names and if you have good officers, you’re going to have good soldiers. It’s just that simple. And if you were an officer, if you did a good job, nobody bothered you. The only time I was reprimanded was when I was told to stop using fixed bayonets in Korea, and I got a medal for that.

VM: What does the Medal of Honor mean to you?

LM: That medal is more indicative of the men that I led into battle than about me.

VM: Do you think that it was necessary to commit our troops to Vietnam, or should we have just tried to train and build up the ARVN forces to fight in that guerrilla war?

LM: We should have committed our troops against the Communists in Vietnam while doing everything that we could to build up the ARVN forces to a higher standard of fighting proficiency. That was no guerrilla war. They wanted to destroy Vietnam and they wanted to destroy America. My greatest regret was that we didn’t win in Vietnam. You don’t go to war to lose. I don’t! When the Communists violated that treaty in 1975, we should have kicked their ass and bombed them back into the Stone Age.

VM: What is your opinion about the treatment that returning Vietnam War veterans received when they returned home to the United States?

LM: I thought it was horrible how badly Vietnam War soldiers were treated by their fellow Americans after returning back to the States. Just terrible! The American public wants you to go out and die for them, but they don’t do anything for you when you return.

VM: How would you sum up your colorful career?

LM: I had a hell of a good time during my career. I did a lot of things. I traveled a lot and went to many different countries. I met a lot of good people. I had fun and pretty much did whatever I wanted to do. It was exciting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Vietnam Magazine. Colonel Millett died in a veteran’s hosptial in Loma Linda, California, Nov. 14, 2009. Another interview with Colonel Millett appeared in the February 2002 issue of Military History magazine.

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Frank Reasoner

Posted on Feb 3, 2018



First Lieutenant

United States Marine Corps


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as CommandingOfficer, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3d Marine Division in action against hostile Viet Cong forces near Danang, Vietnam on 12 July 1965. The reconnaissance patrol led by First Lieutenant Reasoner had deeply penetrated heavily controlled enemy territory when it came under extremely heavy fire from an estimated 50 to 100 Viet Cong insurgents.

Accompanying the advance party and the point that consisted of five men, he immediately deployed his men for an assault after the Viet Cong had opened fire from numerous concealed positions. Boldly shouting encouragement, and virtually isolated from the main body, he organized a base of fire for an assault on the enemy positions. The slashing fury of the Viet Cong machine gun and automatic weapons fire made it impossible for the main body to move forward. Repeatedly exposing himself to the devastating attack, he skillfully provided covering fire, killing at least two Viet Cong and effectively silencing an automatic weapons position in a valiant attempt to effect evacuation of a wounded man.

As casualties began to mount, his radio operator was wounded and First Lieutenant Reasoner immediately moved to his side and tended his wounds. When the radio operator was hit a second time while attempting to reach a covered position, First Lieutenant Reasoner, courageously running to his aid through the grazing machine gun fire, fell mortally wounded. His indomitable fighting spirit, valiant leadership, and unflinching devotion to duty provided the inspiration that was to enable the patrol to complete its mission without further casualties. In the face of almost certain death, he gallantly gave his life in the service of his country. His actions upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

President of the United States

First Lieutenant Frank S. Reasoner, former enlisted Marine and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, was the second Marine recipient of the Nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for heroism in Vietnam in July 1965. The Medal was presented to his widow on 31 January 1967 by Navy Secretary Paul H. Nitze, in ceremonies held at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Frank Stanley Reasoner was born in Spokane, Washington, 16 September 1937, and moved with his parents to Kellogg, Idaho, in 1948. Graduating from Kellogg High School in June 1955, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps three months before his 18th birthday.

Promoted to private first class after recruit training at the San Diego Recruit Depot in August, he went on to advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California. He was designated an Airborne Radio Operator in 1956 upon completing Airman School, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Jacksonville, Florida, and the Communication Electronics School at San Diego. He was next assigned to Marine Wing Service Group 37, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, El Toro, California, and while there was promoted to corporal.

He was transferred to the Naval Academy Preparatory School, Bainbridge, Maryland, in 1957, then served as a guard at Marine Barracks, Annapolis, Maryland. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1958, prior to receiving Congressional appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, sponsored by Senator Henry C. Dvorshak of Idaho.

Successfully completing the Academy’s entrance examinations in June 1958, Sgt Reasoner was transferred to the inactive Marine Corps Reserve and enrolled as a cadet. While at the Military Academy, he lettered in baseball and wrestling winning an unprecedented four straight Brigade boxing championships in four different weight classes. Upon graduation, 6 June 1962, he was awarded a BS degree and returned to the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. He was promoted to first lieutenant in December of the following year.

First Lieutenant Reasoner completed Officers Basic School at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, in January 1963, then embarked for a three-year tour of duty with the Fleet Marine Force in the Pacific area

During his entire overseas tour, he served with the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion. Assigned initially to the 1st Marine Brigade, at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, he served with Company B, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marines, and moved with his organization to Vietnam in April 1965. On 20 June 1965, he was designated Commanding Officer, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3d Marine Division, the unit he was with when he was mortally wounded.

A Marine Corps camp in Vietnam was named “Camp Reasoner” and dedicated to his memory. The hand-lettered sign near the gates of Camp Reasoner read: “…First Lieutenant Reasoner sacrificed his life to save one of his wounded Marines. ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’.”

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