Japanese-American gunner who flew missions over Japan during WWII dies

Ben Kuroki, who overcame widespread discrimination to become the only Japanese-American gunner to fly missions over Japan during World War II has died. He was 98.

Born in Nebraska to Japanese immigrants, Kuroki enlisted in the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor and pressed commanders to train him as an air gunner.

He flew 30 bombing missions over Europe and North Africa and received special permission from the Secretary of War to participate in 28 raids over the Pacific.

In the 1991 Op-Ed, “The Hidden Heroes”, the New York Times wrote:

Ben was an authentic hero. Gen. George Marshall asked to meet him; so did Generals Bradley, Spaatz, Wainwright and Jimmy Doolittle. He was feted on his return and pressed to make speeches. Yet this, his 59th mission, needed valor of a different kind. For Ben, as one historian notes, “couldn’t walk into a barber shop in California; he couldn’t be sure of getting a hotel room in New York.” His ancestry was Japanese.

The Army awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal in 2005, one of its highest honors.

He was later the subject of the PBS documentary “Most Honorable Son.”

Kuroki died Tuesday at his home in California.