On this day in 1951, an Army corporal engages in an action that would earn him the Medal of Honor. Corporal Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura was a second-generation Japanese American who’d already served in World War II.
He didn’t stop there. After the war, he volunteered for the Army Reserves.
By April 1951, he was serving in Korea with his machine-gun squad. Our soldiers were then stationed by the Imjin River, just north of Seoul.
“I was being a machine gun squad leader,” he later described, “[and] was told to hold this position as long as I could because we knew we were outnumbered so bad that it would be impossible to hold it.”
He had only 15 men. As night fell, our soldiers could hear Chinese troops approaching. The enemy forces were creating a huge racket, banging on pots and pans and blowing whistles. Suddenly, there was silence. Flares began lighting up the night sky.
Miyamura’s squad was under attack. The men immediately responded with machine gun fire, but it wasn’t enough. So Miyamura leapt into action.
“[He] unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter,” his citation describes, “wielding his bayonet in close hand-to-hand combat killing approximately 10 of the enemy.” He soon returned to his gun, blasting at the enemy until that gun was out of ammunition. Then he bayoneted his way through more of the enemy until he got to a second gun emplacement. As he manned that gun, he yelled at his men to retreat. He would provide cover.
He soon realized that other American forces didn’t realize he was still in the vicinity.
“Our own artillery started falling down on my position,” he later said, “so I realized then they thought everyone was off of the mountain. So I started making my way down and I ran into an enemy. I bayoneted him, and he had a grenade. He threw it at me, and I kicked it back and it went off. I didn’t realize then I was hurt, but I made my way down the mountain.”
He was nearing the base of the mountain when he heard enemy forces coming towards him.
“I ran until I just dropped,” he said, “and I lay there. I heard footsteps, a lot of footsteps go right by my position. But I didn’t move, and when it died down, I thought I had it made, but a voice in English said to “get up; you’re my prisoner.’”
Miyamura ultimately endured nearly two years of captivity before he was released. During that time, he was nominated for a Medal of Honor, but the award was kept Top Secret.
Obviously, no one wanted to put Miyamura in further danger.
“I will never forget the look of that (American) flag flying in the breeze when we crossed over from North to South Korea,” Miyamura said of his August 1953 release. “Once we saw that flag, we knew we were back on our side again. It’s hard to describe that feeling.”
Once freed, of course, he learned that he would be receiving a Medal.
“I couldn’t believe I got the Medal of Honor for just doing what I thought was my duty,” he concluded.
Yet another humble American hero.
Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura (Los Angeles Times video)
Medal of Honor oral histories (Hiroshi Miyamura; Korean War)
Medal of Honor citation (Hiroshi H. Miyamura; Korean War)
Peter Collier et al., Medal of Honor: Portraits of Honor beyond the Call of Duty (2d ed. 2006)