Franklin Miller's Medal of Honor
19 December 2005
While Capt. Vaughan Ross and other members of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company were in the air and responding to the Prairie Fire distress call, everything on the ground had gone to s**t for Recon Team Vermont (code name Cole Slaw).
The team's primary mission had been to gather intel on a suspected enemy base camp in the tri-boarder area of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. A secondary mission was to search for a friendly jet aircraft which had been downed the day before in their AO. Franklin Miller, RT Vermont's team leader, recalled in his book, Reflections of a Warrior
, the team considered their added tasking to be “no sweat.”
However, when RT Vermont found the plane, they also found a platoon of NVA soldiers who were guarding their prize. Undetected by the enemy force, RT Vermont skirted the crash site and headed back for their primary target. They never reached it. Shortly after crossing a stream, they tripped a mine, and then were immediately ambushed by a large NVA element.
RT Vermont's situation was critical. Five members of the team were seriously wounded. Miller and one of the Montagnards had escaped injury in the initial action. They dragged the wounded to temporary safety and radioed in a tactical emergency. Soon afterwards, the NVA returned in force and attacked Miller's team. One of the Montagnards had meanwhile died of his wounds.
The team withdrew under cover of CS and White Phosphorous grenades. Again the NVA attacked, this time killing the Montagnard who had thus far been unscathed. Miller the sole team member who was not yet KIA or WIA, moved forward to engage the enemy single-handedly while the four wounded team members hid as best they could. Miller shot up an approaching NVA squad before a grenade knocked him to the ground. He recovered in time to shoot two more NVA and then made plans to lead his team to a bomb crater 200 metres away.
Returning to the team after reconnoitring the bomb crater, Miller was struck in the chest by an enemy round, which dropped him in his tracks. He recovered from the initial shock and bandaged the chest wound. Four NVA, assuming Miller was dad, walked towards him. To their surprise, Miller raised his rifle and shot three of them, while the fourth ran away into the bush.
Despite his serious chest wound, Miller returned to his teammates and, one by one, managed to drag them to the bomb crater. The NVA renewed its assault on the team, but just when things looked blackest, a Huey gunship from the 57th
Cougars came into view. The Huey was taken under immediate and overwhelming fire by the enemy surrounding the bomb crater and was driven off.
Abandoning the tenuous safety of the bomb crater, Miller crawled back into the jungle to ambush the enemy, whom he believed would mass for another assault. He opened up on the advancing force, killing or wounding a number of NVA before they withdrew.
Returning to the bomb crater, Miller and the other wounded fought off yet another NVA assault. The team leader was again wounded, this time in the arm. Several of the other team members received additional wounds as well.
Down to their last magazines, and with darkness closing in fast, what was left of RT Vermont huddled together for the final enemy assault. It never came. What did come was a friendly Hatchet Force, a platoon size reaction unit which beat back the enemy, allowing the 57th
AHC slicks to extract the team.
Miller, one other American and a Montagnard survived the mission. One of the American team members and three Montagnards were KIA.
For Franklin Miller, the war should have been over. He was flown to Camp Zama, Japan for convalescence. With the seriousness of his wounds, he was to be shipped back to the States. But Miller was no ordinary soldier. He obtained a dummy set of orders back to his unit in Kontum, and returned there for another tour.
In June 1971, Franklin Miller received the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon in a White House ceremony.Franklin Miller served six tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded six Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars with V for valour, an Air Medal, the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor.
Miller's book, Reflections of a Warrior
, was published in 1991 by Presidio Press.
This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.
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