Saturday, Ben Kuroki’s daughter Julie Kuroki confirmed that World War II hero Ben Kuroki died on Tuesday in Camarillo, California.
- World War II hero Ben Kuroki died at the age of 98.
- Ben Kuroki, a decorated Japanese-American gunner in the Army Air Forces of World War II.
- He flew a total of 58 combat missions during World War II.
Ben Kuroki was born in Gothenburg, Nebraska, United States to Japanese immigrants, Shosuke and Naka Kuroki on May 16, 1917. They had 10 children. When he was a year old the Kuroki family relocated to Hershey, Nebraska, where they owned and operated a farm. The Lincoln County town had a population of about 500. He attended Hershey High School and was the Vice-President of his senior class, graduating in 1936.
After the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ben’s father encouraged him as well as his brother Fred Kuroki to enlist in the U.S. Military. The brothers were rejected by the recruiters in Grand Island, so they tried again at North Platte, where their enlistment was processed without any questions — perhaps, as a humorous story suggests, the recruiters thought that Kuroki was a Polish name. World War II hero Ben Kuroki said this recruiter said nationality was not a problem as he made $2 for every recruit. His brothers Bill and Henry also served in the military during the war.
The two Kuroki brothers enlisted in the U.S. Army, two of the very first Nisei to do so. In January 1942, they were sent to basic training at Sheppard Field, Texas.
Fiercely patriotic, but understanding first hand some of the racial and other inequalities minorities had to endure, after the war Kuroki continued to speak about the need for racial equality and against prejudice. He engaged in a series of speaking tours discussing these issues, which he funded with his own savings and with minor donations, including proceeds from Ralph G. Martin’s biography written about him entitled “Boy From Nebraska: The Story of Ben Kuroki”.
When asked about his battle to overcome prejudice which almost prevented him from being allowed to participate in overseas aerial combat missions, Kuroki stated, “I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country”.IMAGE/WIKIPEDIA