Medal of Honor Spotlight: SSG. Hiroshi Miyamura

  • Drew Poplin

This month, we’ve already shared some stories of valor in our Medal of Honor Spotlight series. Today we turn our gaze onto one of the more forgotten conflicts in American history, the Korean War, to highlight the first-ever classified recipient of the Medal of Honor, SSG Hiroshi Miyamura.

Early Life

Our story begins in 1923 when Yachi and Tori Miyamura immigrated to New Mexico. They operated the OK Café, a 24-hour diner. Two years later, on October 6, 1925, they would have their fourth child, Hiroshi Miyamura. “Hershey”, a nickname given to him due to his teacher’s inability to pronounce Hiroshi, grew up living the typical All-American life.

However, all of that would change on December 7, 1941. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor rocked the nation to its core, and this, unfortunately, had an impact on many Japanese-Americans. Hiroshi wanted to fight for his country but was deemed ineligible due to his 4C status.

In 1945, he was finally allowed to volunteer for the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The regiment, composed entirely of second-generation Japanese-Americans, never saw the battlefield. 

Miyamura would go home to Gallup where he would reenlist in the Army Reserve, and it was in 1948 that he met his wife, Terry Tsuchimori. 

The Korean War

America was pulled back into the theatre of war in 1950, and “Hershey” found himself being sent to Korea. It was there that he served as machine gun squad leader.

On the night of April 24, 1951, his team would be attacked near Taejon-ni. Hiroshi, a corporal at the time, commanded his men to retreat while he held off an enemy force that outnumbered his own. 

Armed with a bayonet, Miyamura managed to dispatch 10 enemy soldiers by himself. He then returned to his position, administered first-aid to the wounded, and lead the evacuation attempt. His men were then attacked again, leading “Hershey” to jump out from cover again, and put down suppressive fire onto the enemy attack. 

Realizing that they were about to be overrun, he ordered his troops to withdraw while he covered their escape. Soon he ran into another problem – his machine gun was out of ammo.

Miyamura, armed with a bayonet, bravely made his way to another machine gun placement, fighting the enemy on his way. To quote President Eisenhower, “When last seen he was fighting ferociously against an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers.”

Surviving a Chinese Prison Camp

But this was not the end for Hiroshi. Despite being severely wounded and now held in a Chinese prisoner of war camp, “Hershey” was still fighting. This time, the enemies were guards, dysentery, and malnutrition. Unfortunately, many of his fellow captives did not survive the harsh conditions of the camps. 

After 28 months, he was finally freed. There was still one more fight that “Hershey” feared he must endure. He believed that he was to be court-martialed due to how many men he lost in the battle. You can imagine his shock when he was told he was being awarded the Medal of Honor instead.

After the War

Hiroshi Miyamura is known as the first “secret” recipient of the award for the sole fact that the government was afraid he would be treated worse if it was known he was highly decorated. 

After the war, he returned home to his wife and children in Gallup, New Mexico where he became the owner of a service station. He still endeavors to help his fellow soldier, working with the Wounded Warriors Project, and still shares his story at the age of 98.  

It was an absolute pleasure to read up on SSG. Miyamura’s story and I hope you enjoyed it yourself. If you can, we’d love it if you could share this story with your friends and family on social media.

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