The last major bayonet charge in American military history took place in Korea on February 7, 1951. The charge was carried out by the men of Easy Company, 27th Infantry “Wolfhounds,” during the Battle of Bayonet Hill. The soldiers were led by Cpt. Lewis Millett, who had been awarded the Silver Star during World War II. Millett’s actions in Korea would lead to an even higher award.
In early February 1951, Millett led Company E through a rice paddy into an attack against Chinese and Korean forces, around Hill 180 near Soam-Ni, Korea.
After two days of battle, Millett and his men were pushed back to the base of the hill and again were facing heavy enemy fire. He knew he needed to get his men to higher ground.
READ MORE from Soldier of Fortune about courage under fire.
On Feb. 7, one of the company’s platoons got pinned down by heavy fire. Millett had read a translated enemy report that claimed U.S. troops weren’t willing to engage in close combat, and that was something he wanted to prove wrong.
Millett turned to his men.
“We’re going up the hill,” he yelled. “Fix bayonets. Charge! Everyone goes with me!”
Millett ordered the other two platoons forward and, putting himself at the head of the charge, fixed his bayonet onto his rifle. He then ordered everyone to do the same and follow him up the hill in a close-combat assault that became the last major American bayonet charge in military history.
During the fierce fight, Millett stabbed two enemy soldiers with his bayonet, threw a bunch of grenades, then clubbed and bayonetted his way through more enemy fighters as he urged his men forward.
On the way up the hill, Millett ran ahead of his soldiers having to dodge both enemy and friendly grenades. He was able to dodge eight of them, but the ninth left shrapnel in his legs and back.
Millett continued to the top, and signaled to his men that the hill was theirs. Nine soldiers and approximately 100 enemy soldiers were killed during the battle.
Millett refused to be evacuated for his wounds until the hill was firmly secured.
For his bravery and leadership, Millett received the Medal of Honor on July 5, 1951, from President Harry S. Truman during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Three other soldiers — Col. Raymond Harvey, Master Sgt. Stanley Adams, and Sgt. Einar Ingman — also received the high honor that day.
Millett continued with his military career. He went to Ranger School and eventually ran a 101st Airborne Division school for reconnaissance training. He served in several special operations advisory roles during the Vietnam War, and helped found the Royal Thai Army Ranger School.
Millett retired from the Army in 1973. He went on to serve for more than 15 years as the honorary colonel of the 27th Infantry Regiment Association. He died Nov. 14, 2009.
Reported by Katie Lange, who writes stories of military heroism for DoD News.