Ben 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. He flew a total of 58 combat missions over Japan, Europe and North Africa during World War II.
Ben Kuroki was born in Gothenburg, Nebraska, United States to Japanese immigrants, Shosuke and Naka (nee Yokoyama) 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 attendedHershey 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. 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.
Assigned to the 93rd Bombardment Group at Fort Myers, Florida, he was told that Japanese Americans would not be allowed to serve overseas. In 1942 Kuroki petitioned his commanding officer and was allowed to work as a clerk for the Eighth Air Force at a base in England. The need for aerial gunners was high and after Kuroki volunteered, he was sent to gunnery school for two weeks and became a dorsal turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator, the most widely produced American heavy bomber to be used by Allied forces in World War II. Kuroki was in a B-24 that crash landed in Spanish Morocco and was captured by Spanish authorities. His crew was released by the Spanish after three months. After the U.S. Department of State secured his release, he returned to England and rejoined his squadron
On August 1, 1943, he participated in the dangerous bombing mission known as Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the major oil refinery located in Ploiesti, Romania. Kuroki flew 30 combat missions in the European theater, when the regular enlistment only required 25. After a medical review, he was allowed to fly 5 more missions above the mandated enlistment. Kuroki said he did so for his brother Fred, who was still stationed stateside. On his 30th mission he was slightly injured when his gun turret was hit by flak.
During rest and recovery back in the United States, Kuroki was directed by the Army to visit a number ofJapanese American internment camps in order to encourage...