In that column I also told a little more, as much has been said in this space in the past, about US Colonel Lewis Millett. He was the colourful hero that served in the US National Guard, deserted and joined the Canadian Army whilst still enlisted with the US forces, went off to join the WW ll efforts in England and after the Pearl Harbour bombings, rejoined the US troops. He went on to earn many medels for bravery including the Distinguisehd Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.
While I was in California in December 2009 doing MOH research, I was invited by the Millett family to meet with them and also had the priviledge extended to attend the funeral of the late Colonel Millett. Whilst there I was very excited to have a most brief chat with another US Colonel... Tom Henry, who served with Millett in Vietnam. In fact he was the commander of an elite highly specialized and trained unit that had attachments from other countries...incuding 22 soldiers from Australia. One of these was Keith Payne.
Also with boots on the ground in Vietnam was Lewis Millett. By that time Lewis had already fought in WW ll, earned a Silver Star for bravery, made Cpl, then Sgt, then 2nd Lt, been court marshelled from deserting the US forces to join Canadian forces, charged, convicted and sentenced, fought in North Africa and Italy and came away with at least seven campaign ribbons.
At war's end he'd return to college, rejoined the National Guard and then the regular forces and sent of to Japan on staff of General MacArthur. Then came Korean, many battles and heroism and by the time that came to an end he was wearing a chest full of medals including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor for conducting three bayonet charges, the likes of which some historians claim, not having been seen since the famous battles of the Civil War (of which 50,000 Canadians fought and many shed their blood, and in plenty of cases, their lives.)
Lewis then returned to the reserves for awhile, then served in Greece and then back to the States where he ended up with the 101 Airborne where he put together some very tough training programs on recce duties. When on routine manouveres he took some of his specially trained men on a job... to capture the fake enemy HQ... It was actually the Division Headquarters. That got the attention of General Westmoreland, who asked Millett to put together some formal training programs on these tactics. This soon resulted in his being sent off to Vietnam to continue giving this training... and thus the meeting up with the likes of Colonel Tom Henry and Chief Warrant Officer Keith Payne.
In 1996 Colonel's Millett and Henry had received a formal invitation, no doubt based on their military connections in Vietnam with the Australians many years earlier. They were asked to attend the celebrations honouring the 75th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. The celebration would take place throughout the country with special activities on the country's Norfolk Island. The event would be a lead up to a later event commemorating the national holiday known as ANZAC Days. (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)
A coalition of French, Australian, Indian, New Zealand, UK and Newfoundland troops, consisting of 5 Full Divisions of military, about 1/2 million troops invaded the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey. It was hopen this would be secured and allowing for naval use to help the cause of capturing what, today is known as Istanbul. The invasion came up against only 315,000 of the enemy but well fortified and a battle of anticipated days or weeks lasted 8 months before the coalition had to evacuate. When all was said and done almost 1/2 million lost their lives, were wounded, captured or declared MIA. The ANZAC celebrations annually are in memory of those who fought or died in miltary actions, and in particular the horrific costs back at Gallipolli in May of 1915
Colonel Henry is shown at far left, above. At the extreme right in that picture is Colonel Millett. To Lewis' right is CWO Keith Payne and wife. The other man remains a mystery so far. Colonel Henry is also show reading a citation at far right. He is not then on march but in front of a special parade of the miltary.
In 1969 Keith Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross. At the time he was aslo recommended for the US Medal of Honor. But MOH rules required any nominee of the award to be actually in service of the United States. If America wanted to award a military medal to service members from other countries, the highest they could award is the Distinguished Service Cross. So the Payne MOH nomination was dropped down one rank, if you will, to that of the DSC.
But there was another flaw to be dealt with. Politics of the day in Australia had concerns about America and thus, the officials would not allow an Australian to be awarded any American medal.
Now lets jump forward to the 1996 celebrations in Australia, a country now under a different government. One that allowed US medals to be worn by Aussie troops. And thus, the citation about to be read in front of the parade in 1996, and being read above by Colonel Henry.
In a wonderful telephone call of a few days ago Tom Henry told me that there was quite a scramble to sort some stuff out when he and Lewis Millett arrived in Australia for the events above noted. They had learned that a government was then in place that thought differently, and that they believed the Payne nomination still stood. Contacting the US military officials stationed in Australia they asked what plans were in place to finally get the DSC to Payne. They were told it would be mailed.
Both Millett and Henry were livid. Surely any military man or woman knows that when such a high medal is awarded it is not done so, via the post office. A method that went out of style soon after the turn of the 20th century! The need to get a medal to Australia would take some time but then the military attache, Millett and Henry put their heads together and came up with a plan. One that CWO Payne would know nothing about till it happened.
Walla... there was a DSC in Australia. On Millett's chest!
Well, actually in his pocket on the day of the parade. When CWO Payne was called out in front of the troops, so was Colonel Millett..his friend and former companion of wars past. As Colonel Henry read the citation awarding the Distinguished Service Cross to Payne, who had tears running down his face from pride and no doubt incredible surprise, out came Millett's DSC from his pocket and as you see above, Millett then pinned it on Payne's chest.
And there folks is one of many connections between Colonel Lewis Millett, Colonel Tom Henry and Chief Warrant Officer Keith Payne.
Thanks ever so much to the Millett family and Mr. and Mrs Henry for sharing these details, and pictures with me and you for reading this story of these brave heroes.
See you next week.