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Story of 'Bayonet Hill,' Korean War turning point

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- In late January 1951, the 8th Army was ready to go on the offensive against the weakening North Koreans and Chinese enemy forces here. Gen. Matthew Ridgeway sent the 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds" to Osan to prepare for Operation Thunderbolt.

Army Capt. Lewis Millett commanded Easy Company, part of the 27th Infantry, through a frozen rice patty near Osan, Feb. 5, 1951, when they came under attack on both sides of a ridge by Chinese soldiers.

After his first platoon was unable to do anything but take cover from the assault, Captain Millet ordered his men to "Fix bayonets -- move left of the first." At the charge, both his first and second platoons made their way up the hill, shouting while following in Captain Millett's wake with their steel bayonets pointing up.

This bayonet charge was actually the first of two Captain Millett and his men would make in a 48-hour period.

On Feb. 7, 1951, two days after their initial assault, Easy Company came upon Hill 180. One of Captain Millett's men noticed movement near the top of the hill. As soon as he realized the Chinese were above them he ordered his tanks off the road.

After facing heavy enemy fire, Captain Millett knew he had to get his men to higher ground. He found the first platoon sergeant and yelled, "We're going up the hill. Fix bayonets. Charge! Everyone goes with me!"

Captain Millett led his men to rocky outcroppings where there were three knobs in the hill. He used all three for cover from enemy fire. After he placed his 3rd platoon in position, he gave the order, "Attack straight up the hill." Captain Millett took off running directly toward the enemy.

He ran so far in front of his men that he was forced to avoid grenades from both the enemy and his own men. He dodged eight grenades, but the ninth grenade left shrapnel in his legs and back.

Captain Millett continued to fight and kill enemy soldiers until he reached the top of Hill 180, signaling to all the men that the hill was theirs. Nine soldiers lost their lives charging the hill that day.

Nearly 100 enemy soldiers were killed that day trying to hold that ridge against the American and South Korean soldiers. Captain Millett was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him at the White House July 5, 1951.

Many consider the Battle of Bayonet Hill to be a turning point in the war; a time when the Americans and South Koreans needed a victory for the soldiers in Korea and their families at home.

(Hill 180 is located near the distinguished visitors quarters above the 51st Fighter Wing Headquarters, Bldg. 1097.)