A son's pilgrimage fulfills a promise
Niskayuna-- Gregg Millett brings photos back to China, where his father helped heal wounds of war
Times Union, Saturday, May 22, 2004
Gregg Millett had simply planned to visit Kunming, China, to present a slide show of the photographs his father had taken there during WWII, but the trip soon expanded into a three-week exhibit.
Millett and his granddaughter, Krystal Garrison, went to Kunming earlier this month for the opening of an exhibition at the Yunnan Provincial Museum of 130 photographs taken by his father.
"It was absolutely heartwarming on one hand," said Millett,
a retired teacher and founder of Singles Outreach, an activities network
for unmarried people. "On the other hand, it was always fascinating
to be in this culture and constantly talking to people."
The photos, along with excerpts of letters written by Millett's father
describing the people and culture of Kunming, will be on display there
until May 29.
Clinton Millett was a lieutenant colonel in the Army and executive officer
of the 172nd General U.S. Army Hospital. In 1944, he helped move the hospital
from Ledo, India, to Kunming, where injured pilots and prisoners of war
The Chinese were fighting Japanese invasion when thousands of American
soldiers came to China to help. They fought alongside Chinese soldiers
in Yunnan, and Millett recorded the historical moment in pictures and
letters to his wife and children.
Gregg Millett had color prints made from the original slides. Because
color photography was relatively rare 60 years ago, the people of Kunming
were fascinated to see the history of their home in color.
"We knew we had a precious gift, but we didn't know how special,"
Garrison said. "A couple of people fainted at the exhibit because
it was so overwhelming."
Before he died in 1964, Clinton Millett asked his children to go to Kunming
one day with his pictures and take new photos at the same locations where
the originals were shot. He also asked them to try to find and visit old
friends he met in Kunming and their families.
Gregg Millett and his granddaughter were able to locate family members
of a doctor who practiced herbal medicine. He was the subject of one of
Clinton Millett's photos, a copy of which now hangs on a wall in Gregg
Millett's living room. The man's relatives shared stories of time Clinton
Millett and the doctor spent together.
On Thursday, a day after returning from his trip, Gregg Millett spent
the morning hanging pictures and sprucing up a mini-exhibit showcasing
some of the pictures, Chinese newspapers, and gifts he and Garrison brought
back from their trip. He plans to show the exhibit Sunday during a welcome-home
celebration at his home on Bobby Court.
Millett and Garrison came home with 700 new pictures, plus six CDs of
more photos and at least six hours of video.
But one of Millett's most memorable moments wasn't caught on film. Meeting
and talking with older people at the exhibition are what touched him most
because he realized how much the people valued his father and other Americans.
"Thank you very much for your father," a Buddhist monk said
through an interpreter on one of Millett's videos. "Your father left
the history of our temple. Thank you very much for bringing these special
pictures back to Kunming."
To view some of Clinton Millett's photos, visit www.greggmillett.com.