Gallup mourns Miyamura

Local war hero Miyamura dies at 97

Local war hero Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura was remembered Tuesday for his bravery and self-sacrifice, but also for his humility, love of Gallup and willingness to help friends, loved ones, acquaintances and strangers.

Miyamura, a Gallup native and Medal of Honor recipient, died Tuesday morning in Phoenix. He was 97.

Miyamura was honored with the United States Armed Forces’ highest military decoration for his actions near Taejon-Ni, Korea, during the Korean conflict.

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society says that then-Cpl. Miyamura was leading a machine-gun squad during an April 24, 1951, surge by enemy troops. 

“Aware of the imminent danger to his men, he engaged in close hand-to-hand combat, killing approximately 10 of the enemy before returning to administer first aid to the wounded, and directed their evacuation,” the organization reported in a news release announcing Miyamura’s death. “When another assault hit the line, he manned his machine gun until his ammunition was expended and ordered the squad to withdraw while he stayed behind bayoneting his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers to a second gun emplacement and assisted in its operation. He ordered his men to fall back while covering their movement and killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted and he was severely wounded but was still seen continuing to fight an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers before being captured by the enemy.”

News that Miyamura was to be awarded the Medal of Honor was kept quiet until his release from POW camp some 28 months later.

‘Strong until the end’

Miyamura’s granddaughter, Marisa Regan, said he passed peacefully and was surrounded by family at 97 years, one month and 23 days old, by her calculations.

“He was strong all the way until the end,” she said.

“The big message from him was that he loved God, he loved his family and he loved his country,” said Regan. “Those were the values that he held and lived by and I think he passed that on to us, to his family – those same values. … I think knowing the fact that he was going to be with my grandma gave him peace.”

Miyamura was married to Tsuruko “Terry” Tsuchimori for 66 years until her death in 2014. 

Regan said community involvement was a part of Miyamura’s legacy.

“I think he loved the community he was a part of, he loved Gallup. He loved being from Gallup. I think that’s going to be a place that holds a special place in our hearts every time we go and visit him — because he and my grandma are going to be buried there. It’s going to be a special place for us.” 

‘Humility was his middle name’

Gallup Mayor Louie Bonaguidi said he knew Miyamura his entire life. Bonaguidi said he remembers his father hoisting him up on his shoulders so that he could see what was going on as the whole community welcomed Miyamura home after his release.

“Humility was probably his middle name,” Bonaguidi said. “Even with all the honors bestowed upon him, he just carried on as an average person.”

He recalled Miyamura participating in a fundraiser for the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial.

“He gave us an unbelievable amount of time,” Bonaguidi said. “He always did whatever he could for the community.”

Bonaguidi said he once found himself near Miyamura’s service station nearly out of fuel. To his horror he said, he also realized that he didn’t have any money with him.

“He came out and I explained,” Bonaguidi recalled. “He said ‘you see me next week, I’ll go ahead and give you some gas.’”

‘Warm and generous’

Miyamura was born Oct. 6, 1925, in Gallup. He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served as part of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, composed mostly of Japanese-Americans. He was discharged from the Army shortly after Japan surrendered, but later enlisted in the Army Reserve. He was recalled to active duty following the start of the war in Korea.

After his release from capture, Miyamura worked for the U.S. Post Office in Gallup.

Former Mayor Bob Rosebrough said he had the pleasure of meeting Miyamura unexpectedly.

“He treated me like a lifetime friend,” Rosebrough said Tuesday. “That’s how he was with people. He was warm and generous and welcoming.” 

Rosebrough said that Miyamura lacked self-importance and ego.

“He was more concerned about the well-being and the comfort of the person he was with than he was with himself,” he said. 

Rosebrough recalled Miyamura’s description of an alley behind his parents’ Coal Avenue restaurant as the playground of his youth, where he and friends engaged in boxing matches. 

He said Miyamura’s passing represents a “very real loss” and that the few encounters he had with him produced memories he’ll carry for the rest of his life.

Senators mourn Miyamura

New Mexico’s U.S. senators honored Miyamura in statements.

“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Hiroshi ‘Hershey’ Miyamura,” Sen. Ben Ray Luján said. “Those who knew him will remember him as a humble and kind man, and I will miss seeing him during my visits to Gallup.”

“New Mexico has lost a great hero. I am deeply saddened about the passing of Medal of Honor recipient and Gallup’s own Hiroshi ‘Hershey’ Miyamura,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said. “It was an honor to work alongside Hershey to open the VA’s Gallup Community-Based Outpatient Clinic and visit the future site of the Gallup Veterans Cemetery.

“Hershey’s lifelong dedication to his country, to his community in Gallup, and to his fellow veterans in New Mexico will be remembered by many New Mexicans for many years to come.”

“He was one of the most humble people I knew,” Bonaguidi said. “If I could have been like him, I would have been like him. He’s a great example for the youth.”

Flags to fly at half-mast

Bonaguidi ordered that city properties fly the flag at half-mast in mourning. He also requests that others lower their flags as well. Flags will be flown at half-mast until Miyamura is laid to rest.

“Hershey Miyamura was a lifelong resident of Gallup who gave selflessly to his community and country,” Bonaguidi said in a statement after speaking to the Independent by phone Tuesday. “It is a privilege to honor one of our own in this way, and on behalf of the city, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the Miyamura family.”

The family is making arrangements for a memorial service.

This article was written by Independent staff writer Rodd Cayton. Staff writer Dana Martinez
contributed to this report. It was originally published Nov. 30, 2022.