This is How One Korean War POW Earned the Medal of Honor
Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura – known by the nickname “Hershey” to those he served with – was stationed on a hill on April 24, 1951, positioned to help delay an attack by Chinese forces that was deemed sure to come. The location was marred by craters and trenches, with razor wire crisscrossing the landscape. And, at 4:00am, the attack began.
The events started to unfold as bugles and whistles pierced the silence. Then, the Chinese began their attack, coming across the Imjin River in Korea, threatening Miyamura and his squad, which considered of five riflemen and a dozen machine gunners.
Miyamura, a New Mexico native who had served as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat team during World War II, found his position being overwhelmed by waves of Chinese fighters. Their sheer numbers posed a challenge, but Miyamura meticulously maintained his focus as he fired his machine gun, taking out the enemy fighters one by one.
As the squad’s store of ammunition began to dwindle, Miyamura ordered everyone to fix bayonets. As the Chinese attempted to flank their position, he pushed forward, performing a one-man direct assault on the incoming enemy.
“Chinese soldiers had been cautiously moving up the slope when Miyamura suddenly appeared in their midst,” said Brig. Gen. Ralph Osborne after the events, according to a report by We Are the Mighty.
“Jabbing and slashing, he scattered one group and wheeled around, breaking up another group the same way.”
After taking out a number of Chinese fighters, Miyamura then began tending to the wounded members of his squad. When it appeared that they couldn’t hold the position, he ordered a withdrawal, but another wave of Chinese quickly stuck, leading Miyamura to man another machine gun, firing until it was empty.
He disabled that machine gun and attempted to rejoin the withdrawal efforts when his position was hit again. Miyamura used his bayonet to fight his way to another machine gun, covering his squad as the continued to attempt to vacate the area. Soon, he was forced into a bunker, but he continued to fight.
After the battle was over, it was revealed that at least 50 enemy fighters were killed in front of that bunker.
As the battle lulled, Miyamura, who was now wounded after shrapnel from a grenade punctured his leg, found himself alone. He tried to withdrawal, battling Chinese fighters along the way, including besting them in hand-to-hand combat.
Exhausted, Miyamura soon fell into a roadside ditch and was ultimately captured. He became a POW and worked to survive in a North Korean POW camp over the course of 28 months, assuming his entire squad was either dead or wounded (though several of them had in fact survived) and fearing he would be court-marshaled for what he believed to be a significant number of losses.
At the time of his release, Miyamura was emaciated, weighing just 100 pounds. And, instead of the court-marshal that he feared was coming, was awarded the Medal of Honor. He had also been promoted to the rank of Sergeant during captivity and awarded a Purple Heart, unbeknownst to him until after his release.