Korean War Medal of Honor Recipient Visits Scott AFB
(May 24, 2010)
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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,
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
"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
Air Force News
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