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Remembering Ben Kuroki

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The National WWII Museum is saddened to learn of the passing of another hero, Ben Kuroki, who died at age 98 on September 1, 2015. Over the years, we have been honored to have Mr. Kuroki here for the opening of the Road to Berlin in December 2014 and in our previous special exhibit From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII.

Nebraska native Ben Kuroki volunteered days after Pearl Harbor, but was rejected by the Army because of ancestry. Months later, he was inducted into the Army Air Corps, slipping through on a technicality. In 1942, Kuroki fought to be sent to Europe as a clerk with the 8th Air Force. There, with a shortage of aerial gunners, Kuroki became part of a crew. He flew 30 combat missions in Europe including raids on the Ploesti oil fields. Upon returning to the US, Kuroki was asked to visit Topaz, Heart Mountain and Minidoka with recruiters trying to solicit Nisei volunteers. Seeing American citizens like him under armed guard was a shock that Kuroki would never get over. After receiving special permission from Secretary of War Henry Stimpson, Kuroki flew 28 missions with the 20th Air Force over Japan. His crew named their B-29 “Sad Saki” in honor of Kuroki, who they termed “Most Honorable Son.”

His quiet determination, courage, and humility are his legacy. Every day at the Museum, Kuroki’s legacy lives on as visitors to the Museum follow his life during World War II in our interactive Dog Tag Experience.

He was an inspiration to all who came in contact with him, and he will be missed.

Ben Kuroki’s oral history interview conducted by Museum Historian Tom Gibbs in 2013 (one of Mr. Kuroki’s last) can be viewed in our Digital Collections.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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