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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nebraska's Nisei War Hero

Edward Weir tells how Ben Kuroki—a second-generation Japanese-American, or Nisei, from Hershey, Nebraska—came to be a member of his B-24 Liberator crew during World War II:

"He had been trying for months to get on a crew, and nobody else would take him because of the prejudice at that time," said Mr. Weir, now 86 and living in Denton. "He knew we needed a replacement. He came to our pilot begging for a chance."

The pilot, Jake Epting of Tupelo, Miss., wanted the blessing of his crew, so he called for a vote, Mr. Weir said.

"He asked the other crew members, 'Do you want him?'" Mr. Weir said, recalling that day in 1942. "And we held up our hands and said yes." [Link]
Kuroki went on to fly 58 combat missions in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific, was featured in Time magazine in 1944, and received three Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal. In 2005, he was awarded the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal based on Weir's eyewitness testimony. A documentary about Kuroki, Most Honorable Son, airs on PBS in September.

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