Franklin D. Miller was a Green Beret from the 5th SFG who served multiple tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” device, six Purple Hearts, and the Air Medal.
On this day in 1970, Miller would be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions conducted as a long-range reconnaissance team member in Vietnam. He would be decorated by President Nixon in the White House on June 15, 1971.
President Nixon told Miller that as a Medal of Honor recipient, he had the choice of his next assignment. Asked where he wanted to be transferred to next, Miller replied “Vietnam.”
Miller enlisted in the Army in February 1965. After Basic and AIT, he joined Special Forces. After graduation, he was shipped to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division. (He didn’t initially deploy with SF after having some issues with his commander.) But Miller stayed in Vietnam for two years with the Cavalry and then transferred to the 5th SFG which was in Vietnam at the time.
Miller later became a member of the elite and highly-secretive Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V SOG). The group was a Joint Special Operations command consisting of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force Commandos, and CIA operations personnel.
On January 5, 1970, Miller was part of a seven-man long-range reconnaissance patrol of American Green Berets and Montagnard tribesmen. After inserting in Laos, one of the Montagnards tripped a booby trap, which wounded five men in the patrol and brought down a much larger force of North Vietnamese troops.
“Suddenly, 25 to 30 NVA jumped up and began assaulting the ambush site where the blast had occurred,” Miller described later. “At first they weren’t aware of Hyuk [the point man] and me on their flank. We dropped empty magazines, jammed in full ones, and tried to stop the onslaught into the kill zone.”
Miller administered first aid to the wounded and then ordered the troops to a more secure location at the base of a hill across a stream bed. He soon saw what looked like an NVA platoon rapidly approaching his position. Immediately assessing the situation, Miller ordered the patrol to the top of the hill where it would be in a better defensible position.
“I wasn’t fooling myself,” Miller said. “My team wasn’t in any condition to move. Everyone was lying on the ground, shivering and gasping for breath… Two guys had gaping holes in their upper chests… It was a grim sight.”
Miller remained alone at the base of the hill and repulsed two separate NVA attacks. He then rejoined the patrol at the top of the hill. He established contact with a forward air controller (FAC) and called for 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’s location.
“Since I was the lone target,” he said, “they concentrated their fire on me. They threw rounds at me the likes of which I’d never experienced before.”
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 unleashed intense automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade attacks against the small perimeter and drove off the rescue helicopter.
Mille was wounded in the chest during the firefight. Every member of the patrol was now wounded. In an interview done several years later, he said he had felt like he was drowning. Miller then had had what classified as a “religious experience.” His mentor, SSG Roy Bumgarner, who led Miller with the 1st Cav., appeared to him and told him to calm down or his panic would lead him to go into shock.
“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 a tendency to scare you.”
Miller said, “I then calmed down and tried to figure out what I had to do.”
Miller then, single-handedly, drove back two further attacks by a platoon-sized NVA element, crawling to an exposed position and engaging the enemy, after the rescue helicopters were driven off. During the heavy fighting, four of the members of his patrol were killed.
Miller was the only man in the patrol that could continue to fight. By nightfall, he was nearly out of ammunition. Finally, a relief patrol, what MACSOG called a “Hatchet Force” was able to reach him and the other two survivors and they were able to get out safely.
Miller later recalled that he didn’t believe that he did anything special on that day. He was just doing his job.
President Nixon granted Miller his wish and Miller returned to Vietnam for another tour. After Vietnam, he remained in the Army, retiring in 1992 as a command sergeant major. He then went to work for the VA as a benefits counselor.
Miller would still occasionally visit Ft. Bragg and the Special Forces students at Camp Mackall where he would talk to the students about leadership and survival in combat. His message to the young SF troops? “Share your fears only with yourself, share your courage with others…and you will inspire people to do incredible things.”
Miller passed away from cancer on June 30, 2000, at the age of 55. Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke for Special Forces men everywhere. “We have lost an individual, I think, who served as an icon to what service in the armed forces is about,” Shelton said at the time.
Miller’s attention to detail, combined with his moral and physical courage, made him the ideal soldier, Shelton added. “Doug Miller epitomized that,” Shelton said. “He will be sorely missed.” His brother Walter, was also a retired sergeant major in Special Forces.
Miller was cremated, as per his wishes. He had his ashes scattered over New Mexico.
Medal of Honor Citation, Franklin D. Miller:
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Franklin Douglas Miller, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 5 January 1970.
Staff Sergeant Miller was serving as team leader of an American-Vietnamese long-range reconnaissance patrol operating deep within an enemy-controlled territory. Leaving the helicopter insertion point, the patrol moved forward on its mission. Suddenly, one of the team members tripped a hostile booby trap which wounded four soldiers.
Staff Sergeant 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, Staff Sergeant 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. Staff Sergeant Miller single-handedly repulsed two 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.
Staff Sergeant 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.
Staff Sergeant 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, Staff Sergeant Miller moved forward to again single-handedly meet the hostile attackers. From his forward exposed position, Staff Sergeant Miller gallantly repelled two attacks by the enemy before a friendly relief force reached the patrol location.
Staff Sergeant 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 United States Army.