After Kuroki was discharged on February 10, 1946 at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, he continued his 59th mission, staging a one-man nationwide speaking tour to various organizations and schools.

Kuroki leaving for universityHe financed this tour largely with his savings from military pay and some proceeds from biographer Ralph G. Martin's book, Boy From Nebraska: The Story of Ben Kuroki (Harper Brothers, 1946). He also received help from the Pearl S. Buck East West Association, founded in 1942 to improve cultural exchange and understanding between Asia and the United States.

While lecturing in Idaho, Kuroki met his future wife, Shige Tanabe, and they married August 9, 1946 at Pocatello. After using up his savings to continue his 59th mission, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, earning a bachelor's degree in journalism in just three years.

Becoming a newspaperman

With money borrowed from his brother Fred, he was a "do-everything" owner of the weekly York Republican in Nebraska from 1950-52. Members of at least a dozen newspapers, including Cal Stewart of O'Neill, helped Kuroki publish his first issue, a 40-page edition he called "Operation Democracy." In a 1950 Time article about his journalistic venture, he was quoted as saying, "This couldn't happen in any other country."

A month later his publishing business was damaged after a record rainfall created the worst flood in local history -- the only time high water from the nearby Big Blue River had ever reached the downtown area of York. His newspaper friends rallied to help Kuroki recover.

From January 1952 to November 1954, he served as editor of the Daily Bulletin at Blackfoot, Idaho, then worked for a year as a reporter in Nebraska for the North Platte Telegraph-Bulletin.

For 10 years he took over the weekly Williamstown Enterprise in Michigan, earning a "best editorial" award from the Michigan Press Association. From 1965-1984 he worked for the Star-Free Press in Ventura, California, becoming its first Sunday editor and news editor before retirement.

Kuroki may well have been the first Japanese American to publish a newspaper intended only for English-language readers.

Sixty years almost to the day after the Japanese government surrendered to end World War II, Kuroki received the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, which is awarded for exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility.

After a two-year effort nationally by many persons, including significant involvement by the staff of Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), he was presented with the Medal in an Aug. 12, 2005 ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. In part, the citation stated, "Technical Sergeant Kuroki's service during the period 1 August 1942 to 1 August 1945 was above and beyond the call of duty, accomplished in both combat theaters of World War II, while serving with four separate Air Forces, totaling 58 combat missions."

At the ceremony, he responded, "Receiving this Medal so many decades after the fact is truly incredible. I had to fight like hell to fight for my country, and now I feel completely vindicated."

The Distinguished Service Medal is the third highest-ranking military honor behind the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Kuroki received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on August 13, 2005, a day after the DSM ceremony, and made an invited visit to the White House on June 29, 2006, where he was welcomed by President Bush.

On Aug. 1, 2007 he was the guest of honor at the premiere of "Most Honorable Son" in Lincoln, Nebraska, attended by a standing-room-only crowd of 600.

Ben Kuroki Timeline

May 16, 1917
Ben Kuroki born in Gothenburg, Nebraska to Shosuke and Naka Kuroki, two Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) who had settled near Hershey, Nebraska to farm.
Ben graduates from Hershey High School.
December 7, 1941
The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.
January 1942
Basic training at Sheppard Field Texas.
February 1942
FDR signs Executive Order 9066 authorizing the west coast evacuation of Japanese Americans.
Spring 1942
Kuroki stationed at Barksdale Louisiana airfield Ė the 93rd Bomb Group is formed.
Spring 1942
Evacuation of West Coast Japanese Americans begins.
Summer 1942
Buck private Kuroki now stationed at Ft. Myers, Florida training with the 93rd Bomb Group.
August 1942
The 93rd Bomb Group departs for England.
December 13, 1942
Kurokiís first mission: Bizerte.
February 1943
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is created. The team is formed of Japanese American volunteers from Hawaii and the mainland.
Spring 1943
Interned in Spain with his crew after crash landing in Spain on the way back from a mission.
August 1, 1943
Massive, low-level Ploesti Rumania Oil Refinery raid.
November 5, 1943
Munster Germany, Kuroki completes 30th mission. Flak nearly decapitates him.
November 1943
Ben returns to the US for rest and relaxation.
January 23, 1944
Scheduled to appear on Ginny Simms NBC radio program, but appearance cancelled.
February 4, 1944
Speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
April-May 1944
Visits to Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Minidoka Idaho; and Topaz, Utah internment camps.
Summer 1944
Joins a B-29 unit in Harvard, Nebraska.
Summer, Fall 1944
Fights to remain in B-29 unit.
November 1944
Called as a witness in the internment camp draft resisters’ trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
November 1944
Secretary of War Henry Stimson clears Kuroki for service on B-29s.
March 1945
Stationed at Tinian, Marianas Islands, when the fire raids against Japan begin.
July 1945
Completes 28th mission aboard B-29s, attacked in barracks.
August 1945
Atomic bombs hit Hiroshima, Nagasaki, war ends.
September 1945
West Coast exclusion of Japanese Americans officially lifted.
Fall 1945
Ben Kuroki returns to US.
October 1945
Kuroki Speaks at the New York Herald Tribune Forum.
February 1946
Kuroki discharged from the army.
Kuroki embarks on speaking tour with Pearl S. Buckís East West Association.
July 1946
President Harry Truman honors the 442nd at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
"Boy from Nebraska," by Ralph G. Martin, is published.
August 1946
Kuroki marries Shige Tanabe.
December 1947
President Truman pardons Japanese American draft resisters.
1947 to 1950
Kuroki attends University of Nebraska, earns Journalism degree in three years.
1950 to 1952
"Operation Democracy" kicks off the publication of the York, Nebraska "Republican" newspaper published by Kuroki.
Shosuke and Naka Kuroki, Benís parents become American citizens.
1952 to 1954
Kuroki moves to Blackfoot Idaho for job as editor of the "Daily Bulletin".
Kuroki joins the "North Platte Telegraph-Bulletin" as a reporter.
1955 to 1965
Moves to Michigan and begins publishing "The Williamston Enterprise".
1965 to 1984
Kuroki moves west, joining the Ventura, California "Star-Free Press" as news editor.
Kuroki retires from Star-Free Press.
Redress for interned Japanese-Americans signed into law.
Lincoln NE, Kuroki receives Distinguished Service Medal.
Kuroki on invited visit to the White House to meet President Bush.
Lincoln NE, Kuroki honored at premiere of "Most Honorable Son."

When to Watch

Most Honorable Son premieres
Sept. 17, 2007

Check your local listings.

Buy the Program

Most Honorable Son DVD

Learn about ...

• The Nisei
• The Speech
• The Internment