This story is told by Major General Bob Scales and the time is when he was the Commandant of the Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He wrote up this little note on Sunday, 15 November 2009. What prompted this memoir was the recent death of Colonel Lew Millett, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for action in Korea.♠ The first lesson is about the diversity of the Army and the second is about asking the right questions .
I was commandant of the Army War College during the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. Every year each class did a painting of a particular event. This was pre 9/11 so most paintings depicted Civil War battles.Now that is a great story. And thanks to MG Scales for allowing me to share it on this blog.♣
So I thought we could really sell some paintings if we did one of a Korean War battle. One student suggested we do Lew Millett's famous bayonet charge. It was the last unit bayonet charge in American history. I knew we would make money on this one: mustachioed Lew leading the charge with a beautiful Korean winter scene in the background. So we commissioned Don Stivers and got the painting by Christmas.
Then the African American officers on the faculty and in the class reminded me rightfully that Korea was the first truly "integrated war" and that the painting should reflect that fact. I knew that by 1951 black units were broken up to fill the depleted ranks of all white infantry units. Millett was in the Wolfhounds, the 27th Infantry, and they were heavily depleted so it was logical that black soldiers were in the charge.
So what followed was a serious disagreement between my purist historians in the Military History Institute and my black officers. The historians adamantly refused to budge. The Wolfhounds were an all white unit, no blacks. My African American officers pushed back...
One day in the office while moderating a heated discussion I asked the contesting sides if any of them had talked to Millett. Well, no...
So I got on the phone and called Millett, then living in Arizona, and asked if he had any black soldiers in the charge.
"Oh, you mean Private Green?"
"Tell me about Green" I said.
Lew choked up on the phone a bit and recalled that Green had been transferred to the Wolfhounds from a logistical unit and was immediately wounded. Later he sent me a photo of Green sitting next to him on a frozen dike with a bandage on his head. Green was killed about two weeks after the charge. Millett put him in for a DSC.♥ Lew recalled with some anger that the request was "lost in the mail."
So next was a call to Stivers to "take out the turpentine."
Later GEN Tom Schwartz, then the commander in Korea, called to congratulate me on the painting and told me that Korean Army veterans were very interested in the painting and wanted to know if by chance the Wolfhounds had any KATUSAs♦ in the charge.
Back to the phone...
Millett answered: "Oh, you mean Private Chae. He was right behind Green..."
Back to Stivers and more turpentine.
As many of you know the painting was a huge success. And it taught me a lesson about our Army fifty years ago and something about asking the right questions.
The painting in question can be found at the 27th Infantry Regimental Historical Society, Inc. website.
Regards — Cliff
♠ The Medal of Honor Citation reads:
G.O. No.: 69, August 2, 1951.♥ The DSC—Distinguished Service Cross—is the second highest US Army award for bravery.
Capt. Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. 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. During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.
♦ The KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army) program is one where Korean nationals serve their time of military service with a US unit, rather than a Korean Army unit. A Wikipedia article can be found here. The program originated in July 1950 through an informal agreement between Korean President Synghman Rhee and US General Douglas MacArthur.
♣ When I asked him for permission I mentioned that I was a graduate of the Army War College, Class of 1983—Civil War Painting.