Technical Sergeant (Sep.) Ben Kuroki, stood out just by serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Most Japanese American personnel were kicked out of the Air Corps at the start of World War II, and those who enlisted later were often denied combat assignments. Kuroki persisted in the face of racism and red tape – driven to prove his loyalty to America.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Kuroki volunteered to fight for his country in the armed services. Kuroki fought against foreign enemies, but he also fought the insidious enemy of prejudice every day of his enlistment. Though he was initially stuck on kitchen patrol duty, Kuroki never stopped trying to get into combat to prove his loyalty. He eventually made it to England, and was allowed to become an aerial gunner, joining an outfit called “The Flying Circus” where he finally learned to shoot – in combat.
Kuroki said he finally found peace and felt like he truly belonged when his brother Airmen embraced him as part of their aircrew family. One of his crewmates dubbed Kuroki “The Most Honorable Son,” which also became the nickname of their B-24. After his missions in Europe including the legendary Ploesti raid, he wanted to take the fight to Japan. It took nothing less than the approval of Secretary of War Henry Stimson for Kuroki to do so, and Kuroki is the only known Japanese American to have participated in air combat missions in the Pacific theater.
In the Pacific, Kuroki joined the crew of a B-29 Superfortress (which renamed its plane Sad Saki in Kuroki’s honor) based on Tinian Island, where he participated in another 28 bombing missions over mainland Japan and other locations.
By the end of his service, Kuroki earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses and an Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters after logging 58 combat missions. He received a Distinguished Service Medal on Aug. 12, 2005, in a ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska, recognizing his service in both combat theaters of World War II from 1942 to 1945 as above and beyond the call of duty.