Gallup's Medal of Honor Award Recipient
As you wander around Gallup, you may notice the name Hiroshi Miyamura several places around town, including the Hiroshi Miyamura High School, the Miyamura bridge across I-40, and the mural on E. Aztec and 2nd. Though Miyamura is a respected, well known citizen of Gallup, his story may not be familiar to visitors.
Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura was born and raised in Gallup, the son of Japanese immigrants who moved to the community in 1923. When the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt ordered the relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans due to concerns that some of them would betray the United States. However, the order was optional for communities far from the coasts, with the fate of Japanese-Americans relegated to community leaders. Gallup leaders chose to ignore the order, allowing their Japanese-American residents to continue their lives unimpeded.
Like many young men of Japanese descent, Hiroshi was eager to demonstrate his loyalty to the U.S. Though he was initially deemed ineligible to serve as an “enemy alien,” he enlisted as soon as the exclusionary policy was lifted in 1945, joining the all-Nisei 442nd Infantry Regiment, comprised entirely of 2nd generation Japanese-Americans. He wasn’t deployed during WWII, because the war ended a few months after he completed basic training. However, he was recalled to active duty in 1950 when the U.S. went to war with Korea.
Courage Under Fire
On the night of April 24, 1951, he was manning a machine gun on the front lines, under heavy attack by Chinese forces. As the Chinese soldiers threatened to overwhelm his position, he charged the enemy with a bayonet, killing 10 before returning to his position to administer first aid to his wounded men and to direct their retreat.
As the enemy launched another assault, he remained in position, firing on them until he ran out of ammunition. He disabled the machine gun to keep it from falling into enemy hands and grabbed his bayonet again, cutting through the enemy line to get to another machine gun position where he continued to fire on the enemy as his squad withdrew. Despite being severely wounded, he held his ground, providing cover for his unit, until his position was overwhelmed. The last time his men saw him, he was fighting ferociously against an overwhelming onslaught of enemy combatants.
The Chinese captured him and held as a Prisoner of War. He spent two years in a prison camp before being released with 19 other POWs on August 23, 1953. The U.S. Army and Miyamura’s family didn’t know that the young corporal had survived the battle for over a year, because the Chinese didn’t release the names of their prisoners of war.
Medal of Honor
As is often the case during battle, Hershey wasn’t aware of how his actions impacted the other men in his company. When he reflected on it during the long months in the POW camp, his focus wasn’t on the men that he had saved, but on the men that he had lost. Frankly, he didn’t know if anyone had survived.
When Hershey was released, he was anxious, worried that he would face court martial for losing so many men during that final battle. Instead, he was greeted with the news that President Eisenhower had awarded him the Medal of Honor, only the second Medal of Honor awarded to a Japanese-American at that time. Though the citation had been written while he was a POW, the U.S. Government had classified it Top Secret to protect him, worried that his captors would torture or kill him if they found out how many men he killed in the hours before his capture.
Hiroshi returned to Gallup after the war. He worked as an automobile mechanic and owned a service station until he retired. He dedicated his life after the war to making a difference for Gallup’s youth, with the Albuquerque division of the FBI presenting him with the Director’s Community Leadership Award for his work in 2014.
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