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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots

By Karen Petitt

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Korean War Medal of Honor Recipient Visits Scott AFB
(May 24, 2010)

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Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura stands with 2nd Lt. Marisa Miyamura, his granddaughter, and Terry, his wife of 62 years May 17, 2010, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Mr. Miyamura shared his experiences as a Korean War veteran and POW with members at Scott AFB as part of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. Lieutenant Miyamura is a communications officer assigned to Scott AFB.
Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura stands with 2nd Lt. Marisa Miyamura, his granddaughter, and Terry, his wife of 62 years May 17, 2010, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Mr. Miyamura shared his experiences as a Korean War veteran and POW with members at Scott AFB as part of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. Lieutenant Miyamura is a communications officer assigned to Scott AFB.
  SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (5/20/2010 - AFNS) -- As a girl, Marisa Miyamura regularly visited her grandparents in the small town of Gallup, N.M., where her "ojisan," or grandfather, taught her that it's not what you have in life that matters, but what you do with it.

For a child, the gold star surrounded by a wreath, topped with an eagle and the word "VALOR," which hung on a blue silk ribbon, was perhaps just a pretty necklace her grandfather, Hiroshi Miyamura, would wear occasionally as he spoke at various events.

Now, as a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and second lieutenant stationed at Scott Air Force Base with the 375th Communications Squadron, Marisa deeply understands the significance of the Medal of Honor.

"It's very emotional listening to him tell his story," she said. "He's the reason why I'm
serving in the military today. He has lived his whole life with honor and that is a great legacy for me."
Now 85 years old, Mr. Miyamura and Terry, his wife, came to Scott AFB May 17 as the keynote speaker for the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon. After addressing the crowd with a few jokes about getting old and advice for successful marriages -- the Miyamuras celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary this year -- he firmly stated that it was his faith in God and country, and the brave Japanese-American servicemembers who went before him that made it possible for him to be alive today.

He grew up during World War II when the government sent most Japanese families to internment camps for fear of not knowing where their loyalties lied. He is a second generation Japanese-American, and recalled how his father did not share much about his homeland, language or ancestry with him.

He said he was determined to show loyalty to his country, and the 442nd Infantry Regiment paved the way for him. The unit, one of the most decorated regiments in military history, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients, was composed of Asian-Americans who fought in Italy, Southern France and Germany.

Because of their valor, U.S. government officials began to draft more servicemembers from the internment camps, including 18-year-old Hiroshi, who trained to become a machine gunner. He was sent to Europe as part of the 442nd IR, but the war ended as he arrived in Italy.

Young Hiroshi came home and worked as a mechanic for several years, marrying Terry along the way. Before long, the Korean War began and Hiroshi's skill with the machine gun and heavy weapons was needed. He volunteered to go, and found himself "in the coldest place on earth."

"I could not believe how cold it was," he said. "We learned pretty fast how to survive in the winter. We were not equipped to fight in that much snow. There got to be so many cases of frostbite that our commanding general said the next person who showed up with frostbite was going to be court-martialed."

He was in command of a machine gun squad in Company H of the 7th Infantry Regiment, part of the American defenses at the Chosin Reservoir. The Chinese had surprised Gen. Douglas MacArthur by crossing over the Yalu River in North Korea, and he evacuated back to the frontlines to guard Seoul against a Chinese assault.

"There were hundreds of ships in the ports waiting to evacuate people. We marched by Seoul three times -- each time the city became pockmarked by the onslaught of the enemy fire," he said.

He and his men were ordered to set up defenses near the Imjin River and hold it as long as possible. He had 15 men, five of them riflemen and the rest machine gunners.

On the night of April 24, 1951, the Chinese attacked his position.

"They blew their whistles and bugles and made quite a commotion," he said. "It seemed like there were just thousands of ants marching across the frozen river toward us."

Mr. Miyamura spoke only of his struggles trying to evacuate his men from that position and fighting with an enemy soldier when a grenade exploded, wounding him. He kept directing his men to evacuate, but collapsed from loss of blood.

What he didn't say was that as the Chinese attacked, he rose from his machine gun and charged them, killing 10 with his bayonet and rifle. He continued firing his gun until it jammed, and then he bayoneted his way to a second gun and resumed firing, covering the retreat of his men. He killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted. He was severely wounded, but maintained his stand until his position was overrun. He tried to make his way back to the U.S. fallback position, but lost consciousness.

He awoke with a gun to his head, and his captors forced him on a week-long march with no food, gathering another 30 prisoners along the way. He was held as a prisoner of war for 28 months and suffered from dysentery and starvation. His family had no idea if he was alive or dead. Terry still recounts that time as just horrible.

She said even today she feels sad for any family member of those missing in action.

"At least mine came home. I am so grateful," she said.

Mr. Miyamura talked about seeing food mirages, and talking about food and swapping recipes while he was a POW.

"We also talked about the changes to the automobile," he said. "We did that to keep from falling apart. If we started talking about our loved ones ... we knew we would just lose it. So we kept it safe."

He said his captors tried to brainwash the POWs about communism, but soon gave up on the Americans. He spent his time as the camp barber, even though he knew nothing about giving haircuts.

"The men didn't seem to care anyway," he said. "One fellow built me a barber's chair and there were several who knew how to keep the scissors and razors sharp. I learned a lot from them."

They were released Aug. 21, 1953. As they crossed into the American Sector, he said he couldn't believe he was free.

"When I saw the American flag fluttering in the breeze, I knew I was back home," he said.

One of the first items of business upon his return was learning from his commanding officer that he'd been awarded the Medal of Honor, to which Mr. Miyamura simply responded, "What?"

After weeks of recuperation, he was reunited with his wife and greeted by his hometown as a hero. Two months later, President Dwight Eisenhower presented him with the Medal of Honor at the White House.

Mr. Miyamura settled back into life, fathering three children. He is now the grandfather of four. He regularly visits South Korea at the request of the South Korean government who bring in Korean War veterans for celebrations and recognition.

"They teach their people about what we did for them," he said. "If it weren't for the Americans, they know they'd be under communist rule right now. All I know is that I'm very thankful for everything that has happened to me in my life."
Article and photo by Karen Petitt
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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