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Hill 180 Battle Exemplifies US Army's Pacific Legacy
by U.S. Army Walter Ham - February 26, 2014

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — American and South Korean military officials remembered the soldiers who fixed bayonets and charged up a mountain into withering enemy fire 63 years ago during the Battle of Hill 180.

During an anniversary ceremony on Osan Air Base on Feb. 7, 2014, military leaders and troops honored the heroics of the 27th Infantry Regiment's Company E at the site where the legendary Korean War bayonet charge took place.

February 7, 2014 - A memorial on Osan Air Base's Bayonet Hill commemorates the 27th Infantry Regiment Company E's bayonet charge during the Battle of Hill 180. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lee Ho-su, Eighth Army Public Affairs)
February 7, 2014 - A memorial on Osan Air Base's Bayonet Hill commemorates the 27th Infantry Regiment Company E's bayonet charge during the Battle of Hill 180. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lee Ho-su, Eighth Army Public Affairs)

American and South Korean military leaders attended the ceremony, including the senior U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force commanders in Korea, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux and 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas.

The 63rd anniversary ceremony for the Battle of Hill 180 was hosted by the 3rd Battlefield Coordination Detachment-Korea, commanded by Col. Joseph P. Gleichenhaus.

"While the faces change, the colors remain the same," said Gleichenhaus, a field artillery officer from El Paso, Texas. "The colors of our alliance do remain the same."

Republic of Korea Army Brig Gen. Bae Jong-gil, the chief of the Combined Forces Command (C3) Combined Joint Fires Element, was the guest speaker at the anniversary ceremony.

"We are here to remember Captain [Lewis] Millett and the soldiers of E Company," said Bae, adding that the American and South Korean soldiers and airmen assembled on the hill for the ceremony represented "sacrifice, freedom and hope."

"Today as we commemorate the noble battle that took place 63 years ago, the most important thing is to remember why they fought, what their legacy is and what they would want us to do," said Bae. "The indomitable will of the men of E Company, led by Capt. Millett of the 27th Regiment, 25th Division, Eighth U.S. Army, is what allowed Korea as we know it today to exist."

The battle occurred when Company E was on point near Osan during Operation Thunderbolt on Feb. 7, 1951. The soldiers came under heavy machine gun fire from Communist Chinese forces entrenched on top of Hill 180.

A combat veteran who earned a battlefield commission during World War II, Capt. Lewis Millett commanded Company E. Millett previously read a translated enemy report that claimed U.S. troops were unwilling to engage in close combat. He decided that Company E would prove this wrong.

Facing intense enemy fire, Millett yelled, "Fix bayonets. Everyone goes with me!"

With Millett leading from the front, Company E ran up the mountain. At times, Millett ran so far in front of his troops that he had to dodge grenades from both sides.

In the fierce close-quarters battle that followed, Company E defeated the enemy and took the hill.

For their heroic charge, Company E earned the nickname "Cold Steel Easy" and for his courageous battlefield leadership, Lewis Millett earned the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor.

February 7, 2014 - Many top U.S. and South Korean military leaders attend the ceremony, including the senior U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force commanders in Korea, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux (right) and 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas (left). (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lee Ho-su, Eighth Army Public Affairs)
February 7, 2014 - Many top U.S. and South Korean military leaders attend the ceremony, including the senior U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force commanders in Korea, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux (right) and 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas (left). (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lee Ho-su, Eighth Army Public Affairs)

One year later, Osan Air Base was built around the hill. Today, Hill 180 is called "Bayonet Hill" and Millett Road runs up the hill on the base, home to the 7th Air Force and 51st Fighter Wing.

Although injured during the charge, Millett would go on to serve with distinction in the Vietnam War and retire from the U.S. Army as a colonel.

Millett's bayonet is displayed outside of the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii-based office of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Bergman, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds."

"It reminds our soldiers and officers of the incredible legacy we share and one that we strive to honor every day as Wolfhounds," said Bergman, an infantry officer from Seattle. "I had the privilege and honor of meeting Colonel Lewis Millett in my earlier time as a company commander with the Wolfhounds from 2000 to 2002 when he was the honorary regimental commander. It was in this time that he turned over his M1 Garand bayonet to the regiment.

"Today we call the bayonet and its spirit of the attack 'Coldsteel,'" said Bergman. "His words and actions then and now epitomize the warrior spirit. We look to our past Wolfhounds and their actions as examples of what we dutifully maintain, respect and honor while striving to live up to.

"No Fear on Earth is our motto, Nec Aspera Terrent!" said Bergman. "Colonel Millett had no fear on that cold day. Today we move ahead and with no fear."

The Wolfhounds, who earned their name during World War I while they were protecting the Trans-Siberia Railroad, are part of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in the 25th Infantry Division.

Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux previously commanded the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" and 25th Infantry Division. Champoux said the bayonet charge is part of the U.S. Army's storied legacy of service and sacrifice in Korea.

"The Wolfhounds actions during the Battle of Hill 180 demonstrate the depth of our commitment to defending freedom on the Korean Peninsula," said Champoux. "We stand on the shoulders of giants in Korea, giants like Lew Millett, and we are proud to uphold their legacy on Freedom's Frontier."

By U.S. Army Walter Ham
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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