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"I told my group if you could see their [the enemy's] face, you're too close. It's too late to use your rifle. So our policy was to call in the artillery, call in the mortars, or use a grenade. Never see their face if possible." (Video Interview, 41:42)

   James Noboru Miho
Collection image
James Miho [2009]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army
Unit: C Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division; 7th Army
Service Location: Camp Roberts, California; Inchon, South Korea; Seoul, South Korea; Yalu River, North Korea
Rank: Second Lieutenant
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As a boy during World War II, James Miho and his family were interned as part of the Japanese-American evacuation. His older brother did serve as a military intelligence officer during the occupation of Japan and in Korea, where he suffered fatal wounds. When Miho was drafted during the Korean War, he was aware of how important his training would be for his survival. Assigned to mortar and communications work, Miho found himself with a bodyguard after rumors circulated that he was a spy working for the Japanese and with the enemy. On leave in Japan, Miho's attitude toward the war changed, and he also found inspiration in the formal city of Kyoto for his career as a designer.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
» Part 1 |  Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (63 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Lessons from his internment during World War II; learned Japanese and martial arts; father sent to a separate camp with German POWs; when he reunited with his family, he said the pilots told him American would win the war simply because of its superior numbers and that Germany and Japan should surrender. (02:51) Brother served with MacArthur during occupation of Japan and in Korea, where he was killed in action; Miho determined he would be well prepared to serve in light of his brother's fate. (01:54) Fascinated with the diversity of people he met in basic training; was placed in officer training; shipped to Asia for his knowledge of Japanese, as Korea had been occupied by Japan for many years; voyage over was worse than training; was sick all the time; volunteered to go on landing craft when they stopped at Iwo Jima; saw how difficult the WWII invasion must have been. (03:48)
Sailing from Sasebo, Japan, to Inchon, Korea; second wave had to come in at night because of the immense differences in tides there; first impressions of Korea; initial fear giving way after several weeks of inactivity; assigned to mortar company; working in communications to lay down lines; his assistant, a 5th-grade dropout with an instinct for danger; advancing slowly, losing his fear of fighting; death and destruction was "second-hand;" assigned a bodyguard after rumors that Miho was a spy were broadcast on radio; how the war empowered both the Russians and Chinese communists. (08:11) Made sergeant, assigned to work with Turkish soldiers to use phones, maps, and mortars and not to mutilate enemy and bring back body parts; using cigarettes as incentive to follow his orders. (02:28) Going to Japan on leave; engine in his plane catches fire; wearing his civvies in Japan; amazed at the destruction of Tokyo; not understanding the Japanese warrior's loyalty to the emperor; amazed at the extent of the black market; to Kyoto, which was untouched because of its many religious buildings; felt like being in an 18th century city; changing his mind about continuing in the military; returning to Korea and asking to be let out as soon as possible. (06:08)
Back to the U.S., training in tank warfare; did not feel "normal" after serving 10 months in Korea exposed to combat situations; returning to San Francisco to Kate Smith singing the National Anthem on the pier; refused Purple Heart because his Japanese parents would not understand his only being wounded and not dying; had been wounded by shrapnel and removed it himself rather than seeking official medical aid. (04:09) Working with intelligence to interrogate prisoners; realizing that they had it better, especially in the winter, than prisoners out in the field fighting in ragged uniforms and with meager rations; wanting to go back to the front because he feared a suicide attack on the prisoners' compound; that was the closest he physically got to the enemy. (02:54) Not wanting to talk about specific casualties; after a battle, enemy would come out and carry their dead off the field; enemy cared for their dead as much as U.N. forces did; little medical attention on our side; only ways to get out of combat was feet first or insanity; new recruit bragging about all the women he'd been with; brother of one of them killed him in cold blood in Miho's tent. (04:51)
Tired all the time, so cold you can't sleep; have to stay up or the enemy will kill you; enjoyed a nice, hot bath in Kyoto; coming out of the Army, he wanted to be a designer or architect because of what he saw in Kyoto; went to Philadelphia and was amazed at how old everything was; drawn to the Gettysburg battlefield and saw parallels to the way the war was fought in Korea. (04:04)  

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  October 26, 2011
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