Ben Kuroki

  • Died: September 1, 2015
  • Location: Camarillo, California


Ben Kuroki

Japanese-American WWII war hero Ben Kuroki dies

Celebrated for his determination to serve in the Air Forces during WWII despite widespread suspicion of anyone with Japanese ancestry, Ben Kuroki has died

The Associated Press

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — Ben Kuroki, who overcame the American military's discriminatory policies to become the only Japanese American to fly over Japan during World War II, has died. He was 98.

Kuroki died Tuesday at his Camarillo, California, home, where he was under hospice care, his daughter Julie Kuroki told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday.

The son of Japanese immigrants who was raised on a Hershey, Nebraska, farm, Kuroki and his brother, Fred, volunteered for service after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

They were initially rejected by recruiters who questioned the loyalty of the children of Japanese immigrants. Undeterred, the brothers drove 150 miles to another recruiter, who allowed them to sign up.

At the time, the Army Air Forces banned soldiers of Japanese ancestry from flying, but Kuroki earned his way onto a bomber crew and flew 58 bomber missions over Europe, North Africa and Japan during the war. He took part in the August 1943 raid over Nazi oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, that killed 310 fliers in his group. He was captured after his plane ran out of fuel over Morocco, but he managed to escape with crewmates to England.

Because of his Japanese ancestry, he was initially rejected when he asked to serve on a B-29 bomber that was to be used in the Pacific. But after repeated requests and a review of his stellar service record, Secretary of War Harry Stimson granted an exception.

Crew members nicknamed him "Most Honorable Son," and the War Department gave him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He was saluted by Time magazine in 1944 under the headline "HEROES: Ben Kuroki, American."

He was hailed a hero and a patriot at a time when tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were confined at internment camps amid fears of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast.

After the war, Kuroki enrolled at the University of Nebraska, where he obtained a journalism degree. He published a weekly newspaper in Nebraska for a short time before moving to Michigan and finally to California, where he retired as the news editor of Ventura Star-Free Press in 1984.

In 2005, he received the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, one of the nation's highest military honors.

"I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country," Kuroki said at the award ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. "And I now feel vindication."

Condolence & Memory Journal

We would like to extend our condolences to your family. Ben was a great inspiration to our community and left a lasting mark in the small town of Williamston, Michigan. He was a great contributor to our community action groups, never forgotten and greatly missed.

Posted by Carol Grainger - Williamston, MI - Friend   September 16, 2015

Sorrow for loss of another hero. A shame the Japanese Americans were treated that way. To get flier status when he must have undergone much discrimination speaks to the kind of man he must have been. My father served in European theater. I am sorry for your loss & loss of a hero

Posted by Robert E Martin - South Windsor, CT - an Army medic in 1970   September 12, 2015

My condolences to your family. may you find comfort in God promise at John 5:28,29 during this time of grief.

Posted by James Long - Houston, TX - not related   September 11, 2015


He Will Call
(Job 14:13-15)
Life, like a mist, appears for just a day,
Then disappears tomorrow.
All that we are can quickly fade away,
Replaced with tears and sorrow.
If a man should die, can he live again?
Hear the promise God has made:

He will call; The dead will answer.
They shall live at his command.
For he will have a longing
For the work of his own hand.
So have faith, and do not wonder,
For our God can make us stand.
And we shall live forever,
As the work of his own hand.
Friends of our God, though they may pass away,
Will never be forsaken.
All those asleep who in God's mem'ry stay,
From death he will awaken.
Then we'll come to see all that life can be:
Paradise eternally.

Posted by JF - NY   September 11, 2015

So sorry to read about the loss of your loved one. God cares so deeply about us that he has gone to great lengths to make the fulfillment of his purpose a certainty. (John 3:16). One of his promises is no more death. Another of his promises is that those in his memory will be brought back to life. May these facts bring you some comfort.

Posted by J.W.    September 10, 2015


Ben was a true AMERICAN hero of Japanese decent. What an amazing story of a courageous man. May he rest in peace, my condolences to his family and friends. Suzanne Compton ATL, GA

Posted by Suzanne Compton - Atlanta, GA - Not related   September 07, 2015

"Micah 4:2-4 " We look forward to that time when there will only be peace on Earth. Condolences to the Family.

Posted by Sharon France's - stratford, CT - friend   September 07, 2015

To Ben's Family...My Dad was "Red" Kettering who flew with Ben on many missions on the "Red A**" and "Tupelo Lass" B-24's. He was with Ben when they flew the Ploesti mission, and considered Ben one of his life-long friends. I have a lot of memorabilia from the year they flew together, including pictures and letters from that time. My dad passed away in 1968, and I think Ben may be the last member of that aircrew to pass away. Our deepest sympathies go out to your family, as America has lost a great man. I would love to hear back from you if you want. Thank You, Jack Kettering

Posted by Jack Kettering - Fremont, CA - Son of Ben's crewmate in WWII   September 06, 2015

Your family and mine probably crossed paths in Nebraska both in Gothenburg and at the U. Thank you for a life well lived and an example magnificently set.

Posted by Douglas - Veteran   September 06, 2015

Family Album

Ben Kuroki