On this day in 1970, Franklin D. Miller, a Green Beret from the 5th SFG, who was assigned to MAC-V SOG was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions conducted as a long-range reconnaissance team member in Vietnam. He was decorated by President Nixon in the White House on June 15, 1971. Asked where he wanted to be assigned next, Miller replied “Vietnam.”
Miller served six tours of duty in Vietnam, a full six years of combat. Besides the Medal of Honor, Miller was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” device, six Purple Hearts, and the Air Medal.
Miller enlisted in the Army in February 1965. After Basic and AIT, he joined Special Forces and after graduation was shipped to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division after running afoul of his commander. But Miller stayed in Vietnam for two years with the Cav and then transferred to the 5th SFG which was then in Vietnam.
Miller later became a member of the elite and highly-secretive Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V SOG) which contained Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force Commandos and CIA operations personnel.
January 5, 1970: On the day of this particular mission, Miller was part of a seven-man long-range reconnaissance patrol of American Special Forces 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.
Wounded in the chest in the fighting, Miller along with every member of the patriot was now wounded. In an interview done much later, he said he felt like he was drowning. Miller then had what classified as a “religious experience.” His mentor, SSG Roy Bumgarner, who led Miller with the 1st Cav, appeared to him and told to 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 single-handedly repelled two attacks by a platoon-sized enemy element, crawling to an exposed position and engaging the enemy, after rescue helicopters were driven off by heavy ground fire. 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 and by nightfall, was nearly out of ammunition. Finally, a relief patrol was able to reach him and the other two survivors and they were able to get out safely.
The President gave Miller his wish and he returned to Vietnam for another tour. He returned from Vietnam and 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 survive 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.
Miller’s attention to detail, combined with his moral and physical courage, made him the ideal soldier, he added. “Doug Miller epitomized that,” Shelton said. “He will be sorely missed.”
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION:
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 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.
Photos: US Army