Author: Joy Teraoka
Puka Puka Parades, May 2003, #03-4
Joy Teraoka details Chicken’s life and how he got his name.
LOOKING BACK… SALUTE TO TAKEICHI ‘CHICKEN’ MIYASHIRO
During the course of my interviews with other veterans, one name often came up as the men described their combat experiences. That was the name “Chicken” Miyashiro, uttered with admiration and respect for his dauntless courage and heroism.
Although the nickname “Chicken” gives the derogatory connotation of someone who runs away from conflict or lacks courage, by contradiction, the “Chicken” Takeichi Miyashiro of 100th Inf. Bn.’s C Company we are paying tribute to has the irrefutable reputation of a man of outstanding courage and valor.
How did he get such a moniker? There is no rhyme or reason to it, but a bit of illogic in his name—both his given Japanese name and his nickname!
In a family of four boys and two girls, “Takejiro” Miyashiro was the second son of Jensei and Ushi Miyashiro who came from Okinawa to work on the plantations of the Big Island. Their second son was born in Kohala. Because times were economically difficult for this family of six children, his parents considered giving Takejiro up for adoption. But to become the “first son” of the adopting family, they had to change Takejiro’s name (implying second son) to Takeichi (first son). And even though his birth certificate still bears the name Takejiro, he has since been called Takeichi despite the fact that the adoption never transpired and he remained with his family.
The name “Chicken” is another rather illogical transition. There was another older fellow by the name Takeshi whom schoolmates referred to as “Chicken.” For some reason people thought the names Takeshi and Takeichi sounded alike, so they began calling Takeichi “Chicken” also. Even some of his teachers seemed to make this rather odd connection, and the endearing name “Chicken” stuck! (That is the “charm” of Island nicknames-you know, “Boxhead,” “Pinhead,” and other names that turn heads when shouted aloud, like, “Eh, howzit, Pinhead?” But turning to more serious matters—)
As a child Takeichi started school in Honomakaku; however his family moved from one plantation to another and eventually settled down in one of the camps of the Honokaa Plantation. There he went to Honokaa School until the 10th grade. To complete his high school education, Miyashiro stayed at a boarding house in Hilo and finished the twelfth grade at Hilo High.
In his youth Chicken excelled in sports, playing football, basketball and running track. After Hilo High he played for the barefoot football league. (Unfortunately, because of injuries he sustained during WWII, he was never able to engage in these sports after he returned from the war.)
In 1934 after graduation he worked part-time for Matson and also for Standard Oil Company. During these depression years it was difficult to find full-time employment. In December 1940 he received his draft notice to serve for one year in the Army. However, the threat of war in the Pacific was growing, and no discharges were issued. With others from the island of Hawaii he was sent to Schofield Barracks on Oahu to train for three months. Although his group returned to Hilo, much to his chagrin, Miyashiro was the only one sent to Molokai. In Molokai he joined the 299th Infantry and was there when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7. During his service in Molokai he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Lt. Spark Matsunaga was also stationed on Molokai, and they became fast friends. Also, the warmth and friendliness of the Molokai people quickly made his training there enjoyable.
Not long after Pearl Harbor’s attack, around 18 men from Molokai’s 299th Infantry were sent to Oahu to join the Hawaii Provisional Army. On that fateful day, June 5, 1942, Miyashiro was among the Hawaii soldiers who sailed to the mainland to form the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). After training at Camp McCoy and Shelby, Chicken went overseas as Sergeant of the 1st Platoon, Company C, initially to Africa and then on to the Italian boot at Salerno. During the course of the war, Miyashiro received injuries in several battles, but after recovery except after his last wound, he returned to continue fighting with his unit
Chicken suffered his first injury during the battle of Hill 920, close to Colli. In the December 2001 issue of the Puka Puka Parade, Kazuto Shimizu wrote a tribute titled Unsung Heroes describing how platoon sergeant Chicken Miyashiro was ordered by an officer in charge to clear out a German machine gun resistance area that was impeding the advance of Company C. Miyashiro assessed it as a “suicide mission” because of its obvious exposure to enemy machine gun fire in broad daylight. However, following orders, Chicken and three of his men—Masao Ogawa, Wallace Oshiro and Morris Kihara— charged. Under dangerous assault from machine gun grenades and mortar barrages, Chicken ordered his men to withdraw. On the retreat from deadly mortar fire, Oshiro was killed and all suffered injuries. Each of them received the Purple Heart Even though they received no recognition for valor or special praise, Shimizu believed they were “unsung heroes” who carried out their commitment to duty with courage “knowing that their lives were in jeopardy, they implemented military orders.” (Puka Puka Parade, December 2001 issue, p. 7-8)
After his R&R to recover in Africa, Chicken returned to Company C just in time to witness the bombing of the Monte Cassino Abbey. He went on to fight at Anzio where he, Kazumi Hisanaga, and Robert Otake received field commissions to the rank of 2nd lieutenant.
During the big push toward Lanuvio, they marched in pitch darkness when someone tripped a mine that injured several officers—Lt Kanemi Kanazawa, Lt Ichiro Okada, and Lt Jon Chinen. Miyashiro had been transferred to C Company’s 2nd Platoon, and Lt. Kanazawa was Chicken’s platoon leader. With Lt. Kanazawa felled by mine injuries during the night march, Lt. Miyashiro took over as platoon leader. At Lanuvio their unit regained full strength with many from the 442nd filling the ranks as replacements for those killed or wounded in action.
Fighting continued from Rome to Civitavecchia and on to Castellina where a big battle ensued. In Ambassador in Arms, p. 214. author Thomas D. Murphy describes this heroic action:
Singles had orders to seize high ground northwest of Castellina, which the 168th Infantry had not been able to take. In a surprise assault, just after dawn, Company C’s 2d Platoon took a position overloooking the Castellina-Rosignano road. In this attack Lieutenant Takeichi Miyashiro led a squad against a farmhouse from which machine-gun fire had been harassing his platoon’s left flank. Killing one of the gunners and wounding another, the squad occupied the house and manned its windows in preparation for a Jerry counterattack. When this came Miyashiro told his men to hold fire until the Germans were within ten yards. They did, and their delayed blast broke the attack. An hour later the enemy moved in again. Firing a BAR, the lieutenant cut down five Germans, and when his gun jammed, grabbed a carbine and kept shooting. The Jerries pulled off. After a longer pause, they tried again, this time after preliminary mortar and artillery shelling. Under four direct hits by 88’s the heavy stone walls of the house began to crumble, and when 170’s began falling close Miyashiro told his men to duck out. He stayed, and as the now confident Germans got close cut loose with another BAR. This time the remnant of the enemy group gave up for good. For his morning’s work the lieutenant later received a DSC.
The following day as they were advancing from Castellina behind another company, Miyashiro was wounded in the butt by a shrapnel. The shrapnel exploded between him and his messenger with such violence that his messenger was killed instantly. Miyashiro was transported to a hospital in Naples. Three weeks later he rejoined his outfit at Leghorn in the vicinity of the Arno River and was back to fighting in Pisa, then as the 100th/442nd was sent to France, the men faced more battles in Bruyeres and Biffontaine.
In the thickly wooded forests of Biffontaine, the 100th advanced a great distance through “no-man’s land” to attain their objective. Climbing to the top of a hill, they surprised the Jerries below who fled abandoning their weapons. Miyashiro’s men and another platoon led by Ben Takayesu then attacked two houses where the Germans were ensconced. They captured about 28 German soldiers and medics. However, intense fighting continued from concealed enemy fire. Miyashiro was wearing two bandoliers across his chest which carried six clips each holding 8 ammos with a total of 104 bullets. Through the window shutters of a house concealing the German’s position, Miyashiro received a shot that exploded a clip, tearing a hole in his left hip and also injuring his hand. The impact even flung Miyashiro’s rifle from his grasp. He believed it was a miracle none of the pieces hit his belly, for surely that would have been fatal.
The next day an effort was made to evacuate Miyashiro and other litter cases, including Capt. Y.O. Kim whose hand had been wounded. Carrying the litter cases were about 28 German prisoners accompanied by AJA riflemen. However, they ran into another German patrol. In the confusion, when the German force overtook the party of wounded and German prisoners, four men—Ken Okimoto, Capt Y.O. Kim, George Hagiwara and Richard Chinen—were able to escape the enemy and return to their units. Among those captured with Chicken were Company C’s Stanley Akita, Kaoru Yonezawa, and Oscar Miyashiro. In Remembrances, p. 177, Ben Tamashiro describes the events that followed:
… Later, in taking the prisoners to the rear, in addition to those guarding them, the Charlie group included five litter cases and some walking wounded—12 in all. Chicken was also on litter. The prisoners helped to carry them. Along the way they ran into an enemy patrol. Suddenly, the captors became the captured. Even in this turn of events, the Germans continued to carry the Charlie litter cases.
At the German lines, the wounded were sent away by ambulance while the others went on a different path. Chicken went from one hospital to another for treatment, and finally received proper attention from a British doctor who was himself a POW.
Although becoming a prisoner of war was most demoralizing at the time, these men were exposed to a uniquely different experience. Lt. Sam Sakamoto of Headquarters Company also became a POW.
Miyashiro explained that at an evacuation hospital run by medics, a German doctor operated on him. Chicken noticed they just opened the wound, stuck some gauze into the hole then adhered some paper over it. From there he and other wounded were transferred to several different hospitals—from a French hospital in Colmar then to one in Halle, Germany. In Halle, he will never forget the horse drawn-wagon that took them to a school building for recuperation. There were no doctors there, but a nurse and two aides tended to the wounded. Upon removing Miyashiro’s bandages, the nurse noticed his hip wound was infected with pus and he had developed a high fever. Immediately she contacted another hospital and Chicken was put on the horse-drawn wagon again and taken to Badsoden. (The kindly driver of the wagon had been a WWI German POW in England and was able to speak some English to him. Miyashiro was grateful to this German for treating him with concern and courtesy.)
Interestingly, the doctor who treated Miyashiro was a British POW captured in Africa. Although his specialty was opthalmology, this Dr. Frazier had been assigned by the Germans to take care of other prisoners. Immediately upon Miyashiro’s arrival, the doctor took x-rays of his wound then sent Chicken directly to the operating room for care. The next day Dr. Frazier performed another operation on Chicken, removing all the metal pieces that the German doctor had left in the wound. Fortunately, with penicillin and the skill of this British doctor, Miyashiro recovered from his serious injury. When Chicken was ready to leave the hospital, Dr. Frazier approached him with a little matchbox containing the metal fragments as a “memento” of the war. To this day, Chicken treasures these pieces and remembers with reverence the POW doctor who saved his life. In retrospect, this saga remains as one of the most indelible episodes of his life.
From Germany’s Minegan Hospital for Allied POW officers, Miyashiro was sent to Poland’s “Old Flag 64” prison camp as it was called. There he reunited with two Nisei officers, Sam Sakamoto and Hisa Shimatsu. Shimatsu was one of the first POWs, having been captured at Cassino. During their captivity they were told as prisoners, they would have to walk from Poland to Germany. Miyashiro’s doctor refused to release him, and somehow Sakamoto and Shimatsu managed to escape during the night, saving themselves from the ordeal. Then the Russians came just in time to liberate them in January 1945. Transported by trucks and boxcars, the POWs finally arrived in Odessa, Russia, on the Black Sea. An American ship bringing back Russian prisoners liberated in France arrived in time to enable an exchange with die American POWs. The ship then headed for Naples, Italy.
Although the war in Europe was still going on, Miyashiro did not return to his unit but stayed in a replacement center in Italy until he was sent back to the USA. His trip home took a circuitous path via Port Said, Egypt, then across the United States from Miami to Chicago, to places in California, and finally to the embarkation point in Seattle. By then the European theatre of war was over.
Upon his return to Hawaii, because the war with Japan had not yet ended, he was assigned to the 1525th Engineers Battalion. Finally, in November 1945, Miyashiro was discharged.
In 1950 he married lovely Lorraine Shiroma of Honolulu and found employment at Standard Oil Company. The Miyashiro’s have three daughters-Nellis, Allyn and Sonya—and five grandchildren.
Upon asking Chicken whether his children were aware of his wartime experiences, like so many of the veterans, he admitted not sharing much of this information with them. One day they will surely want to know about his heroic accomplishments, so it is hoped that they will read this article about their father/ grandfather. They will know then of the precious legacy he has given them—one of honor, courage, commitment, loyalty, sacrifice and freedom.
Lt. Takeichi Miyashiro, who endearingly is referred to as “Chicken,” truly commands respect and honor. Indeed, he is another hero of the 100th Infantry Battalion whom we proudly salute