The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The famous bayonet charge during the Korean War.

 When I was in basic training and the drill sergeants talked to us about bayonet fighting and how to use it, they talked about the Korean War when a couple of American Army platoons routed a large group of Chinese off a hill with just the bayonet.  They told us that the Chinese had circulated a piece around their army that the Americans were afraid of the bayonet and hand to hand combat.  Colonel Millett was attacked in 1951 and rather than bunker in, he and his men fixed bayonets and totally routed the Chinese.  The Drill sergeants also told us that we need to know how to use the bayonet, because if we run out of ammo, we will need to know how to fight with the bayonet to survive or if we die, to at least take a couple more with us.  So we trained and trained with the bayonet.  We were the first cycle of trainees in the 80's to get the bayonet training after it was removed in the 70's due to congressional and public pressure.  We always had the bayonet on our rifles, they had the scabbards on them, but they were fixed.

  We got used to the weight and got pretty good with the bayonet, from block and parry to high, medium and low strike or the ever popular buttstock smash.
 Even now once and a while I will affix a bayonet on my rifle and go through the motions.   I honestly believe some people will get real careful if they have to worry about somebody sticking them with a bayonet and swishing things around.
     Well anyway it took a bit of time for me to find the story about that the famous bayonet charge was that the Drill Sergeants were referring to, and here it is.

The grizzled-looking redhead, complete with a handlebar mustache, charged with his men. Their enemy did not stand a chance as they had very sophisticated weapons – the bayonet.
Lewis Lee Millett Sr. was born on December 15, 1920, in Mechanic Falls, Maine. His grandfather had served in the American Civil War, while an uncle had fought with the 101st Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard during WWI. Millett joined the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938 while he was still in High School, enlisting in his uncle’s regiment.
The following year, Germany invaded Poland, ushering in WWII. By 1940 Millett was in gunnery school with the US Army Air Corps. In 1941, frustrated by America’s reluctance to enter the war and eager to fight, he deserted. He and a friend hitchhiked across the border and joined the Canadian Army. They assigned him to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery where the training was quite unlike any he had in the US
“The Canadian infantry was always doing bayonet training,” he later recalled. “Stabbing straw-filled dummies, parry, thrust, shouting. It made an impression on me.”
Sent to Britain Millett underwent commando training. He was also trained as an anti-aircraft radar operator and was stationed in London during the Blitz – the German carpet bombing of British cities between September 1940 and May 1941.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, America entered the war. No longer stimulated by radar work, Millett went to the US Embassy in London and rejoined the US Army. He became an anti-tank gunner with the 27th Armored Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division.

Shermans disembarking from LST at Anzio.
Millett served in Tunisia in North Africa where he became a hero when his group came under fire, and a half-track truck filled with ammunition burst into flames. He jumped into the vehicle and drove it away from Allied soldiers then leaped off before it exploded. He was awarded the Silver Star – the third highest military decoration.
He later shot down a German Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter plane with a half-track mounted machine gun. Millett, by then a sergeant, took part in the Allied invasion of Italy and saw combat at the Battle of Anzio (January – June 1944) that led to the capture of Rome.
While he was serving in Italy, the Army found out about his desertion. Despite Millett’s achievements, heroism, and medals, the army did not take kindly to deserters. He was court martialed, convicted, ordered to pay a fine of $52 ($810 in 2017 values), and denied leave.
Just a few weeks later he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and given a battlefield commission. Fortunately, he survived the war and returned home to a hero’s welcome. Millett then went to college. In June 1950 while in his third year, the Korean War broke out and he was called up.
By 1951 Millett was in Korea as a captain and commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.
On February 7, his company was in the province of Chungchongbuk-Do, South Korea near the village of Soam-ni. Their goal was the top of Hill 180 where today the Osan Air Base is located.

In the ferocious fighting of early 1951, Millett recalled reading a document that said the Chinese believed American soldiers dreaded hand-to-hand combat, and were fearful of “cold steel

“We’ll see about that, you sons of bitches,” he muttered. At a feature called Hill 180, under grenade and rifle fire, he led two platoons in a bayonet charge up the hill.

“I always had my men fix bayonets,” he said. “I never forgot the Canadian training. We didn’t do much bayonet drill in those days, but I gotta say, those Chinese didn’t know what hit them when we charged.”
Captain Millett ordered his men to attach their bayonets and attack. He shouted encouragement to his men throughout the hand to hand fight. When they reached the top, they stormed the enemy position despite heavy fire.
Millett was in the lead when they charged an anti-tank rifle crew. The gunner did not stand a chance as Millett’s bayonet dove into his stomach. Another enemy soldier reached for a machine pistol just as Millett’s blade sliced through his throat. The third was another matter. In his hands was a cocked and loaded submachine gun which he aimed at the crazy redhead making a beeline toward him.
Millett’s face matched the color of his red handlebar mustache as he screamed and hurtled toward the enemy soldier who stood frozen with shock – possibly wondering what a Viking was doing so far from home. Millett’s bayonet claimed its third victim.
“The bayonet went into his forehead,” Millett later said. “With the adrenaline flowing you’re strong as a bull. It was like going into a watermelon.”
The battle continued, and although Millett sustained grenade fragments to his leg, he refused to be evacuated. They routed the Chinese and secured the hill.
“I never forgot the Canadian training,” he proudly said. “We didn’t do much bayonet drill in those days, but I gotta say, those Chinese didn’t know what hit them when we charged.”
He was right. In the aftermath of their attack, some 50 enemy soldiers lay dead – 20 from bayonets. Military historian, Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, described it as “the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor” – which happened during the American Civil War in 1864.
SLA Marshall
Millett led the way and routed the Chinese. His Medal of Honor 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.”

In the Vietnam war, Millett was involved in a clandestine intelligence program aimed at subverting and killing Viet Cong in the countryside. He retired in 1973 when he felt the U.S. was abandoning South Vietnam.
He once told an interviewer: “I believe deeply in freedom. I’ve fought in three wars, and volunteered for all of them . . . I believe as a free man it is your duty to help those under the attack of tyranny. It’s as simple as that.”
Lewis Millett, old soldier, died on Nov. 14, age 89:

Millett’s impressive military awards include the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, four Purple Hearts, and three Air Medals. In 1973 he retired from the military as a colonel.


  1. The bayonet made more sense when rifles were long, and the bayonets long as well - sticking out seven, eight or even more from the barrel's end. Bayonets on an M-4 or a short barreled AR variant seem more an oddity, especially if the blade only protrudes another couple of inches from the barrel's end.

    1. Hey Doug;

      True, but even a short rifle with a bayonet was better than nothing. We used M16A1 then M16A2's and they were longer than the M-4 variants.

  2. In my first outing to Hohenfels, because we were tankers in an infantry division (1ID-FWD), we taped bayonets to the muzzles of the tank barrels. At that time, the main gun was even a rifle!

    The commanding General said, "cute, but better take them off."

    1. Hey Angus,

      So were you at Panzer Kasern or Cooke Barracks. I also was in 1st Division FWD in 1986 to 1987 Small world

    2. Hey Angus;

      LOL that was funny, I was at Cooke Barracks from 1986 to 1987 with 1 INF Div(Fwd) 101 MI det-1, and my second tour was at Stuttgart Army Airfield. I visited every kaserne around Stuttgart while I was there, would go to Patch barracks to rent VHS movies if memory serves and there was a restaurant in there that had some real good subs. And I still miss Stuttgarter Hofbrau.

  3. Thanks for telling the tale of Millet's bayonet charge - I hadn't heard of it before and that was quite a feat indeed.

    Funnily, I was always told if you butt-stroke someone with an M16 you'll likely be left holding parts of your rifle afterwards, and it was not recommended.

    1. Hey Aaron;

      With the original M16 and the older M16A1, the plastic buttstock was more fragile. We used the later M16A1 that had better plastic and the M16A2 had a much stronger plastic and it worked quite well.

  4. Oh I loved that! I learn so much about history here. I would not want to attempt any bayonet action unless it was a battle of the Vikings. I think I prefer gun powder and lead. But, they were necessary things back in the day. An extra tool, perhaps. I think I would prefer to strap on a pistola instead.

    1. Hey Momma Fargo;

      We couldn't carry pistols, we just carried extra ammo for our rifles. We still trained with the bayonet because there is always the possibility however small of running out of ammo and there were times that killing someone silently was preferred.


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