Saturday, May 19, 2012

TFH 5/19: Captain Millard A. Peck, USA

Millard Arthur Peck was a member of the 1958 graduating class of the Cincinnati Country Day School. After graduating from Kenyon College, he entered the United States Army (likely in 1962) and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry branch.

He served three tours of duty fighting during the Vietnam War. In May 1968 he was serving as the commander of Company C, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment with the 9th Infantry Division. While leading his company in an airmobile assault on May 19 and 20, his command presence and personal courage was recognized with the Army's second-highest award for valor: the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Infantry) Millard A. Peck (ASN: OF-13260), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company C, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Captain Peck distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 19 and 20 May 1968 while commanding an infantry company in Dinh Tuong Province, Vietnam. As his unit began an air-mobile assault against a Viet Cong force, it came under intense fire in the landing zone. Captain Peck immediately led a ground attack against the enemy, overrunning their positions and single-handedly capturing a communist soldier who attempted to escape. During a sweep of the battle area his men were fired upon by two well concealed snipers. Captain Peck crawled forward of his company and killed both aggressors. Interrogating his prisoner he learned a battalion was planning to attack the town of Vinh Kim. Reinserted by air to protect the threatened village, he established his company in night defensive positions. As the enemy came within range, several Viet Cong made suicidal charges against the company. Captain Peck directed his men to hold their fire and use only hand grenade and claymore mines so that their position would remain undetected. Aided by his skillful direction of artillery, his troops were able to repulse the numerically superior force. He then led a night patrol in pursuit of the fleeing enemy and again called in artillery fire forcing the communists to break into small groups and disperse. Early the next morning, Captain Peck led an assault against an enemy bunker complex and totally defeated the Viet Cong. Captain Peck's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

After his Vietnam service, Peck taught at the United States Military Academy, West Point and served in a variety of positions in the Army through his retirement in 1991 at the rank of Colonel. According to his bio provided for his 50th high school reunion, he also was decorated three times with the Silver Star.

Colonel Peck's final post in uniform was as the chief of the Pentagon's Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. He resigned his post on March 28, 1991 in protest of what he believed to be the defense establishment's continued cover-up of POW-MIA issues from the Vietnam era (original letter). His resolve that all missing Americans receive a full accounting is to be commended. After leaving the Army he held positions with a number of security firms and private military contractors and served in those capacities in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I believe Colonel Peck is still living. The 9th Infantry Division was deactivated in 1991, but Peck's Vietnam-era unit - 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry - today prepares the Army's warriors of tomorrow as a Basic Combat Training unit that is part of Fort Jackson's 165th Infantry Brigade.

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