Army Sgt. Hiroshi Miyamura:
Returning POW Expected a Court-Martial, Not a Medal of Honor
After more than two years in a Chinese communist prison camp, Army Sgt.
Hiroshi Miyamura and 19 other POWs were released at Panmunjon and taken
to the nearby Freedom Village on Aug. 23, 1953. But instead of jubilation,
Miyamura -- known as "Hershey" -- looked the very picture of nervousness.
Clutching a canteen cup of ice cream and looking even smaller than usual in
missized fatigues,the slight Asian-American soldier waited to hear that he was
being brought up for court-martial for losing so many men at Taejon-ni,
Korea, on April 24, 1951, amid a Chinese wave offensive.
Finally, his name was announced crisply. The voice belonged not to a
military policeman, however, but to a general officer. Dazed as he was,
Miyamura did not understand exactly what the general said. "You want to give
me what medal?" Miyamura replied. At last, it sank in: Brig. Gen. Ralph
Osborne, commander of Freedom Village, was telling Miyamura that he had
been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the
very offensive in which Miyamura thought he'd lost too many men.
On April 24, 1951, then-Cpl. Miyamura had been manning a machine gun
with his unit. When cries of "Kill, kill, dam 'mericans!" filled the air. As the wave
of Chinese communist soldiers appeared, Miyamura unhesitatingly fixed his
bayonet to his rifle, leaped up, and attempted to stave off as much of the
enemy as possible. Unbeknownst to him as he fought, his selfless actions
allowed many of his comrades to reach safety. Miyamura was left to take
shelter in a covered bunker. Wounded and hopelessly outnumbered, he
continued to fight off the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Finally, he played
dead and scores of enemy soldiers passed him by -- until a Chinese officer
leveled a 45 at his head and said, "Get up." Miyamura became a prisoner.
At first, no one in the U.S. knew what had become of him because the
Chinese did not release his name immediately. As soon as they did, the U.S.
government knew that the Medal of Honor citation that had already been
written must be classified as Top Secret. If it hadn't been, Gen. Osborne
explained to the shaken young sergeant, "You might not be here, alive,
today." Had Miyamura's captors known what he had done to their troops in
the last hours before his capture, they might have tortured him or executed
In December 1953, Sgt. Hiroshi Miyamura received his "secret" Medal of
Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a ceremony at the White
House -- light years from the North Korean prison camp he'd recently left.
Army Sgt. Hiroshi Miyamura