Legendary bayonet charge honored on 60th anniversary
February 8, 2011
- The 8th Army commander honored the Soldiers who fixed bayonets and charged up hill into withering gun fire 60 years ago.
- Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson spoke at the 60th anniversary ceremony for the Battle of Hill 180.
- Johnson said Korean and American troops serving in Korea uphold Company E's legacy of defending freedom.
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea - The 8th Army commanding general honored the fighting spirit of the Soldiers who fixed bayonets and charged up hill into withering gun fire here 60 years ago.
Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson was the guest speaker at the 60th anniversary ceremony for the Battle of Hill 180 Feb. 8 at the site where the legendary Korean War bayonet charge took place.
Sponsored by the 3rd Battlefield Coordination Detachment-Korea, the ceremony was attended by many senior South Korean and American military officials. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Girl Scouts, Republic of Korea Air Force Band and 51st Fighter Wing Color Guard took part in the ceremony.
"Today we recognize history, celebrate service and bravery and honor the memory of some true heroes of the Korean War," said Col. David Danikowski, commander of the 3rd BCD-Korea.
The 27th Infantry Regiment's Company E, led by then-Capt. Lewis Millett, was on point near Osan during Operation Thunderbolt on Feb. 7, 1951, when it came under heavy machine gun fire from Communist Chinese forces on Hill 180. Millett, who received a battlefield commission during World War II, had previously read a translated enemy document that claimed American troops were unwilling to engage in close combat. Millett and his company proved this wrong.
Under intense enemy machine gun fire, Millett yelled, "Fix bayonets. Everyone goes with me!"
In the fierce exchange of cold steel and hot lead that followed, Company E defeated the enemy and took the hill.
From that battle, Company E earned the nickname "Cold Steel Easy" and Millett earned the Medal of Honor. Hill 180 is called "Bayonet Hill" today and Millett Road runs up it through Osan Air Base, home to the U.S. Air Force's 7th Air Force and 51st Fighter Wing.
Although injured by a hand grenade during the battle, Millett would go on to serve with distinction in the Vietnam War and retire from the U.S. Army as a colonel.
Johnson said he heard Millett's personal account of the battle when he was a student at the Army War College in 2000.
"When they came to this fight, he saw the opportunity and realized that probably the only thing that was going to shock the enemy and cause him to give up this hill was the use of the bayonet," said Johnson. "That's why he fixed bayonets, ordered the charge and personally led by example up the hill bringing his Soldiers behind him."
The 8th Army commanding general said Korean and American troops serving in Korea today uphold Company E's legacy of defending freedom.
"It's a real honor for me to be with you here today, to speak to all of you, to stand on this ground and commemorate what they did 60 years ago," said Johnson. "But most importantly for us to remember why they did it."
Johnson said the same bravery that Company E demonstrated on Hill 180 is what continues to keep the U.S. military and ROK-U.S. Alliance strong and ready.
"We see that around the world with Soldiers today. We saw it with the Korean naval team that took down the [Somali] pirates," said Johnson. "We see it with Soldiers, both Korean and American, in Iraq, now in Afghanistan and other places around the world. That's the true legacy of the Soldiers who charged up the hill that day 60 years ago."
"Our legacy is there," said Johnson. "That American Soldiers and Korean Soldiers stand ready to execute acts exactly like that again to defend this country."