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Asian American Korea War hero gives what may be ‘final’ talk

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

    People stand to honor Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura, center, during a Veterans Day ceremony at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 11, 2014.

GALLUP, N.M. >> Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, the son of Japanese immigrants who was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for his actions in the Korean War, may have given his last public lecture.

The ailing 94-year-old veteran spoke to a group of U.S. Navy Seabees last month in Gallup, New Mexico, about his life and service and was given a hero’s salute after he finished, The Gallup Independent reported.

The talk was part of the lectures he gives every summer to servicemen and servicewomen in western New Mexico.

Ken Riege, who travels around with Miyamura, said the veteran may not give the talks next year because of his declining health. Riege said he has been honored to travel with him over the years and listen to him speak.

“It is never the same, and I learn something new about him each time,” Riege said.

Miyamura, who served in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1953, spoke about the emotion he had seeing the American flag after he was liberated from a POW camp during the Korean War.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Miyamura grew up in Gallup, a city near the Navajo Nation.

After the United States entered World War II, Miyamura tried to join the military, but he was deemed not eligible to serve and given a Four-C “alien” status because of his Japanese ancestry.

Later, that exclusionary policy changed, and Miyamura was allowed to join the 442nd Infantry Regiment, composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans.

With the start of the Korean War, Miyamura, an Army reservist, was called up for active duty.

On the night of April 24, 1951, near Taejon-ni, Korea, his company was under heavy attack and U.S. Army Cpl. Miyamura jumped from his shelter wielding a bayonet and killed 10 of the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. After administering first aid to the wounded, he got behind his machine gun and continued fighting until he ran out of ammunition.

Miyamura ordered the squad to withdraw while he stayed behind to render the gun inoperative. He bayoneted his way to a second gun emplacement and assisted in its operation before running out of ammunition there.

By the time the battle was over, Miyamura had killed more than 50 enemy soldiers and was severely wounded.

Miyamura was held captive for over two years by the Chinese.

For his heroism, Miyamura was awarded the Medal of Honor.

U.S. Navy Builder 1st Class Shane Hutzenbiler said it has been a life-changing experience getting to hear Miyamura speak every two weeks. “I am sad that other people might not have a chance to hear his story and meet him in the future,” he said.

First-timers Thomas Crombie and Gladys Delatorre said the experience was amazing. They were proud to get one of Miyamura’s challenge coins.

“I’m just impressed with his memory. He spoke for almost two hours and didn’t miss a beat,” Crombie said. “You could tell he was just remembering parts of his life.”

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