‘Warrior’s spirit’: Army marks 72 years since its last major bayonet charge in Korean War
Stars and Stripes February 6, 2023
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Around 50 U.S. service members, veterans, and their families gathered atop a hill on this installation south of Seoul to remember a seasoned combat veteran who helped turn the tide of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The Thursday ceremony paid respects to the memory of Army Capt. Lewis Millett, who led the soldiers of Easy Company, 27th Infantry Regiment, in what the Army regards as its last major bayonet charge.
The charge took place at Osan on Feb. 5, 1951, according to the Army. Millett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.
The captain was leading his company against a strongly held Chinese Communist position when he noticed an Army platoon pinned down by small-arms, automatic and antitank fire, according to his 2009 Army obituary.
Millett, who received a battlefield commission during World War II, decided the only way to gain the upper hand was to take the hill.
“Fix bayonets,” Millett yelled as he and his men charged up the hill, according to an Eighth Army account of the charge.
Millett dodged eight grenades but a ninth left him with shrapnel in his legs and back, according to the account. He continued to fight until Easy Company was atop Hill 180, now known as “Bayonet Hill.” Millett, who retired a colonel, died Nov. 14, 2009, at Loma Linda, Calif., at age 88, according to his obituary.
Millett’s heroism was recalled once more during Thursday’s ceremony, hosted by the 3rd Battlefield Coordination Detachment-Korea. The guest speaker, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Holler, Eighth Army’s deputy commander for operations, recalled meeting Millett in 1996.
Millett’s deeds exemplify the Army’s fighting spirit, Holler said.
“I ask myself, would today’s soldiers be able to do the same thing? It wasn’t many years later that I got the answer,” he said. “During my combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, I can attest that the American fighting spirit is as strong today as it was 72 years ago.”
Holler laid a basket of flowers at the Hill 180 monument in memory of the battle’s fallen soldiers. He was joined by Col. Jeffrey Munn, commander of the battlefield detachment; South Korean army Col. Lee Hyun Gyu; and Ron Davis, former commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8180.
“We have to remember what occurred – educate those on what occurred so that we understand the purpose of why we’re here," Munn said. “Those who sacrifice before us to establish the freedoms and that peace that we enjoy today are the bedrock and foundation for why we’re here to preserve that same peace.”
Ernest Lee, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, said the retelling of the fight brought up many of emotions.
“A lot of us went through similar things in our time as active-duty members,” he told Stars and Stripes after the ceremony.
“This man was a warrior through and through,” Lee said. “While the character of the war may have changed over time, the nature of war remains the same. It will require leaders – young, mid-level and senior leaders – who have a warrior’s spirit and are willing to be bold and audacious when it counts.”