Ben Kuroki, Japanese-American WWII hero, dies at 98

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Ben Kuroki

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Ben Kuroki volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps. He would become the first Japanese-American war hero, surviving 58 missions as an aerial gunne Ben Kuroki, He has passed away at the age of 98.

Ben Kuroki was born on May 16, 1917 in Hershey, Nebraska, USA and was married to Shige Kuroki. He died Tuesday, September 1, 2015, at his home in California, where he was under hospice care. In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters and many other awards. Notably, Kuroki was the only American of Japanese descent in the United States Army Air Forces to serve in combat operations in the Pacific theater of World War II.

In the 1991 Op-Ed, “The Hidden Heroes”, the New York Times wrote:

“Ben was an authentic hero. Gen. George Marshall asked to meet him; so did Generals Bradley, Spaatz, Wainwright and Jimmy Doolittle. He was feted on his return and pressed to make speeches. Yet this, his 59th mission, needed valor of a different kind. For Ben, as one historian notes, “couldn’t walk into a barber shop in California; he couldn’t be sure of getting a hotel room in New York.” His ancestry was Japanese.

Technical Sergeant Ben Kuroki shown wearing Distinguished Flying Cross (×3), Air Medal with oak leaf clusters (×5) and service medals for World War II service (Credits: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Technical Sergeant Ben Kuroki shown wearing Distinguished Flying Cross (×3), Air Medal with oak leaf clusters (×5) and service medals for World War II service (Credits: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

His full name was Ben Kuroki. Like other Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, he was at first deemed unfit to serve because of his origin. Nevertheless and remarkably, young Nisei in West Coast internment camps clamored to enlist. In February 1943, President Roosevelt finally approved a special unit for “loyal American citizens of Japanese descent.”

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Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

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