Medal of Honor

 

 

MILLER, FRANKLIN D.

 

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces

 

Place and date: Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 5 January 1970

 

Entered service at: Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

Born: 27 January 1945, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

 

Citation:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Miller, 5th Special Forces Group, distinguished himself while serving as team leader of an American-Vietnamese long-range reconnaissance patrol operating deep within enemy controlled territory. Leaving the helicopter insertion point, the patrol moved forward on its mission. Suddenly, 1 of the team members tripped a hostile boobytrap which wounded 4 soldiers. S/Sgt. Miller, knowing that the explosion would alert the enemy, quickly administered first aid to the wounded and directed the team into positions across a small stream bed at the base of a steep hill. Within a few minutes, S/Sgt. Miller saw the lead element of what he estimated to be a platoon-size enemy force moving toward his location. Concerned for the safety of his men, he directed the small team to move up the hill to a more secure position. He remained alone, separated from the patrol, to meet the attack. S/Sgt. Miller singlehandedly repulsed 2 determined attacks by the numerically superior enemy force and caused them to withdraw in disorder. He rejoined his team, established contact with a forward air controller and arranged the evacuation of his patrol. However, the only suitable extraction location in the heavy jungle was a bomb crater some 150 meters from the team location. S/Sgt. Miller reconnoitered the route to the crater and led his men through the enemy controlled jungle to the extraction site. As the evacuation helicopter hovered over the crater to pick up the patrol, the enemy launched a savage automatic weapon and rocket-propelled grenade attack against the beleaguered team, driving off the rescue helicopter. S/Sgt. Miller led the team in a valiant defense which drove back the enemy in its attempt to overrun the small patrol. Although seriously wounded and with every man in his patrol a casualty, S/Sgt. Miller moved forward to again singlehandedly meet the hostile attackers. From his forward exposed position, S/Sgt. Miller gallantly repelled 2 attacks by the enemy before a friendly relief force reached the patrol location. S/Sgt. Miller's gallantry, intrepidity in action, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his comrades are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

 


 

 F.D. Miller, 55, Green Beret and Hero in Vietnam War

 

By Richard Goldstein, July 17, 2000

 

Franklin D. Miller, who won the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War for single-handedly repulsing an attack on his patrol after he had been shot in the chest, died June 30 in Florida. He was 55 and lived in St. Pete Beach, Fla.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, Mr. Miller was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal and six Purple Hearts in four years in combat, prompting Gen. Henry H. Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call him "an icon to what service in the armed forces is about."

But when Mr. Miller was sent to Vietnam in 1966, he hardly seemed destined to have his portrait hanging in the Hall of Heroes at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Mr. Miller, a native of Elizabeth City, N.C., was a private first class in training with the Special Forces, popularly known as the Green Berets, when he received his orders for Vietnam.

"One day I was the dining room orderly, and the night before I'd been running around all night, so when I thought no one would miss me, I went up to the barracks and I fell sound asleep," he recalled in an interview in 1998 with an Army publication at Fort Bragg.

"The first people to wake me up were the company commander and the first sergeant, who were inspecting the billets. The first sergeant said, 'You can take your punishment from me, or you can go see the old man.' I'd never been in trouble before so I said I'd go see the old man. I figured he would just chew me out. He said, 'We've got your reassignment orders to Vietnam.' "

Mr. Miller was sent to the First Cavalry Division as an infantryman, remained with the division in Vietnam for two years, then transferred back to the Green Berets. After a promotion to staff sergeant, he was assigned to the Fifth Special Forces Group in Kontum Province, South Vietnam, a staging point for patrols into Laos and Cambodia seeking intelligence on North Vietnamese troop movements.

On Jan. 5, 1970, while Sergeant Miller was leading a seven-man patrol of American soldiers and Montagnard tribesmen in Laos, a booby trap injured five of his men and alerted a North Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol, which opened fire and continued its attack throughout the day.

In the ensuing firefight, every man in the patrol was wounded, and then Sergeant Miller was hit in the chest.

"I felt like I was being drowned," he said and added that he was about to panic when "I had something of a religious experience."

The image of his mentor from his days in the First Cavalry Division -- Sgt. Roy Bumgarner, whom he regarded as a "Superman" soldier -- appeared to him.

As Sergeant Miller remembered, "Sergeant Bumgarner was right there, and he said, 'Calm down, otherwise you'll scare yourself into shock.' I tried to calm down and think about what I had to do."

What Sergeant Miller did was repel two attacks, firing from a solitary exposed position, after an evacuation helicopter had been driven off by enemy fire and he was the only member of the patrol able to keep fighting. Four of the seven patrol members were killed, but at nightfall, when Sergeant Miller was running out of ammunition, a relief patrol evacuated him and the other two survivors.

Sergeant Miller received the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon at the White House on June 15, 1971. He retired from the Army in 1992 as a command sergeant major, then became a benefits counselor for the Veterans Administration.

He is survived by a son, Joshua; a daughter, Danielle; and a brother, Walter, of Palmer, Alaska, who is also a retired command sergeant major of the Special Forces.

Mr. Miller occasionally visited Fort Bragg and spoke to Special Forces trainees.

His credo: "Share your fears with yourself and your courage with others. You will inspire people to do things that are incredible."

 


 

Army hero of Vietnam War dies at age 55

 

By George Coryell

 

When he was told six weeks ago that he had only a short time to live Franklin Douglas Miller didn't blanch."His concern was not for himself, but how to take care of his kids," said Jeff Barber, vice chairman of the Special Operations Memorial Foundation.

The retired Army Green Beret died at 9 AM on Friday, June 30, 2000 at age 55 of pancreatic cancer. His heroism during the Vietnam War remains vivid still in today's military.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said theloss was one that all in the military would feel. "We have lost an individual , I think, who served as an icon to what service in the armed forces is about," Shelton said.

Miller's attention to detail, combined with his moral and physical courage, made him the ideal soldier, he said. "Doug Miller epitomized that," Shelton said. "He will be sorely missed."

Miller was not widely known to the outside world; but within the small community of commandos, he was a legend. So much so, that when word spread that Miller had been diagnosed with cancer, Ross Perot, long a supporter of such missions, asked to check Miller's medical records.

"Ross Perot called personally," said retired Green Beret Col. Rod Nishimura of Valrico. "Perot's doctors looked at the medical record. Nothing could be done."

Miller spent 6 1/2 years in Vietnam in the secret Studies and Observations Group, which raided across the borders of Cambodia and Laos, attacking the North Vietnamese Army.

He joined the Green Berets partly to compete with his older brother, Walter,who was already in the force and now lives in Alaska. Miller went to Vietnam in March 1966 and left in November 1972. While leading Team Vermont, Miller took part in an action described as "the Vietnamese Alamo," which earned him the Medal of Honor.

On May 1, 1970, Miller led a seven-man group of Montagnards and Americans on a patrol into Laos. One of the men tripped a booby trap that wounded four soldiers. Others fell to enemy fire, until there was only Miller, shot through the chest, and still battling about 30 North Vietnamese troops.

"A voice told me to calm down or I was going to go into shock," Miller said in an earlier interview with the Tampa Tribune. The disembodied voice was one he recognized, that of Sgt. Roy Bumgardner, who had been his combat mentor in Vietnam.

"It was like a religious experience. I knew something had happened. I was actually falling and thinking, "Why am I falling?"

"When you see that much blood, and you know that it is yours, it has atendency to scare you."

He pulled himself to his feet and held off two more attacks before reinforcements arrived. Miller and two others survived, and he received the Medal of Honor from President Nixon. When asked by the president where he would like to be posted, Miller asked to go back to Vietnam.

"I liked being there. I was in my element," he said. "That's what all the training was for."

Miller's actions in Vietnam garnered not only the nation's highest combat award, but also six Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and an Air Medal.

Miller retired as a command sergeant major in 1992, and moved to St Pete Beach at the urging of friend Gary Littrell, who also is a Medal of Honor recipient.

Miller worked at Bay Pines as a benefits counselor until July 1999, when combat injuries forced him to retired.

In recent years his lung worsened from the AK-47 round that he took in the chest, but the cancer was unexpected. Miller had gone to Bay Pines Hospital for a routine checkup when he was told the news.

It came at a time when he was trying to sell his recently republished memoirs to raise money for his children Joshua, 18 and Danielle, 16, who lived with him. Another daughter, Melia, 12, lives with her mother in Hawaii.

Though he continued to teach occasionally at Fort Bragg, N.C., Miller's focus shifted from combat to his children. His face would light with joy at watching them accomplish something. "Actually I learn a lot from them every single day," Miller said last year. "Just life itself, seeing it from their point of view."

Miller believed you should be willing to see children through their learning experiences.

"You can't manufacture quality time with a kid. Quality time is those brief moments when they need you to answer those questions they have," he said. "They've got a chance to make decisions. If they made a bad decision, they see the results right there."

Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker, commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said Miller was an inspiration in life who remained courageous to the end.

"Doug Miller was an incredibly selfless person, a great soldier, friend and loving father who always put others before himself," Schoomaker said.

"He will be greatly missed by all of us in the special operations community," he said. "But his example of the warrior spirit will continue to inspire us to do our duty in the face of great odds."

CSM Miller requested cremation and that his ashes be scattered in his native New Mexico.

The lesson Miller most liked to pass on to inexperienced troops was one he lived.

"Share your fears with yourself and share your courage with others," he said. "You will inspire people to do things that are incredible, inspire them to do things beyond your wildest dreams."


 

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