Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Ben Kuroki Honored

PEACHTREE CITY, USA – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Aventure honors Ben Kuroki, the only known Japanese American soldier to fly combat missions in Asia during World War II.

Kuroki was born to Japanese immigrants on May 16, 1917, in Gothenburg, Nebraska. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Kuroki’s father encouraged him to enlist in the Army, even though many Asian Americans were not allowed after the attack.

He flew 30 combat missions in Europe in his first year of service. He was held by Spanish authorities for three months after crash landing in Spanish Morocco. He participated in Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy Nazi oil refineries in Romania.

Only after the intervention of the Secretary of War was his request to serve in the Pacific theater granted. Kuroki served in the 484th Squadron, 505th Bombardment Group, 20th U.S. Army Air Force, and would fly 28 missions in Asia alone. 

Kuroki become an advocate for other Japanese Americans who wanted to defend their country. He visited Japanese internment camps in the U.S., encouraging those who could enlist to fight. 

He was aware of the deep inequities inflicted on his community, and became an advocate for racial equality after the war. 

In 2005, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic service and patriotism. Kuroki passed away at the age of 98 in 2015, leaving behind an inspiring legacy.

Japanese American WW2 aviator Ben Kuroki in uniform in front of a colorful illustrated image of a WW2 bomber in flight