Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura
Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura began his life as the son of an immigrant coal mine worker in Gallup, New Mexico. He grew up in a family so typical for the Nisei before World War II. In 1944 Hershey entered the U.S. Army and served a short term with the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team just in time to return to Washington, D.C. for the ticker tape parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
At the outbreak of the Korea War, Hershey soon found himself in Korea with the 3rd Division all the way north to the Yalu River. The Chinese then entered the war and Hershey soon found himself pushed back to Pusan. On April 24, 1951, reversing the role and pushing the Chinese north beyond the South Korean Capital of Seoul, Hershey found himself in the thick of battle with the Chinese forces that had crossed the river below his perimeter. Outnumbered, SGT Miyamura who was the squad leader of the machine gun crew, order his men to retreat to the rear while he alone kept the enemy busy with his arsenal of machine gun, rifle, and a couple of cases of hand grenades. He, himself had to abandon his position when they began dropping phosphorous bombs on him.
By now, the Chinese soldiers had his position surrounded and Hershey found himself face-to-face with the enemy. The two Asian soldiers squared off, recognized each other as the enemy by their uniforms. Miyamura had prepared himself by fixing his bayonet onto his rifle and he attached the other soldier who had a concussion grenade. When Hershey withdrew his bayonet from the other man’s body, he fell flat on his back and at the same time, the enemy grenade hit his leg. Hershey immediately kicked it away but when it exploded, a piece of shrapnel became embedded in his body. Now wounded, Hershey struggled to get away from the enemy, but he could not. He decided to play possum and laid there hoping the enemy would leave him for dead. About an hour later at daybreak, someone spoke to him in English, "Get up! You are my prisoner. We have a lenient policy for our prisoners." SGT Miyamura was now a prisoner of war.
For nearly 28 months, Hershey suffered in the prisoner of war camp coping with dysentery and malnutrition. Malnutrition caused his hair to fall out in huge clumps and night blindness was another symptom caused by lack of a proper diet. Hershey was among the last groups to be released from the camp. On August 21, 1953, his group was placed on a truck which took them to the train station for the long awaited trip to Freedom Village located in Panmunjom, Korea.
At Freedom Village, after lengthy debriefing sessions and being checked physically, Hershey was informed of his being awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor. The Pentagon had known about his brave deeds in saving his squad while single-handedly fighting off the enemy until he was forced to retreat, and knew that his retreat came only after killing more than 50 Chinese soldiers. However, they did not disclose his actions for fear of retaliation while Hershey was being held as a prisoner of war.
Upon his return to the United States, Hershey was formally present the Medal of Honor by then President Dwight David Eisenhower in October of 1953. The ceremony took place at the White House with Hershey’s family, including his father, witnessing the impressive ceremony.
The Congressional Medal of Honor winner, retired in 1984 and devotes himself to visiting his four grandchildren, and fishing (he is an avid fresh water fisherman). As an avid member of the Gallup Lions Club, he visits schools and talks to students, asking them to remember the sacrifices of the men who served when duty called, especially those who never came back.
As a member of the elite Medal of Honor Society, his has been invited to Presidential inaugurations many times, and attends reunions and conventions of veterans whenever he can. We salute Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura for his courage, dedication and extreme valor during the War in Korea.
Hiroshi Miyamura is presented with the Medal of Honor by President Eisenhower. (Courtesy:Department of Defense)
Part of this bio is reprinted from the 50th Anniversary Korean War booklet published by the Japanese American Korean War Veterans and Memorial Committee; April 28-30, 2000.
The story of Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura and his extraordinary valor in combat during the Korean War are explored in the fourth episode of “Medal of Honor,” an eight-part series that tells the stories of eight recipients of the nation’s highest military honor. The series became available on the Netflix streaming service in early November 2018.
The docu-series "Medal of Honor,” focuses on the lives of eight recipients of the nation’s highest military honor for valor. The honor has been presented to fewer than 3,600 Americans since Abraham Lincoln signed it into law in 1861. Comprising interviews with family members, historians, and servicemen, along with intense recreations of events and archival footage, “Medal of Honor” showcases historical events in Italy, Germany, and France during World War II, along the 38th parallel during the Korean War, in Laos during the deadliest year of the Vietnam War, and in the mountains of Afghanistan.