Please visit the official "Most Honorable Son" site at pbs.org

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Army recruiting offices filled with young Americans volunteering for war.  Among them came many NiseióJapanese-Americans whose parents were Japanese immigrants.  Though they were American citizens, most Nisei were turned away.  But in Nebraska, a 23-year-old Nisei with a passion for flying named Ben Kuroki demanded to serve his country.

The next four years of his life would be amazing: a B-24 aerial gunner flying against Axis forces on three battle fronts, an escape attempt from the Spanish army, moments of shame, fame and frustration when he saw his own American countrymen held behind barbed wire because their Japanese ancestry. 

As a lone Nisei in the Army Air Corps, Kuroki flew over the oil fields of Ploesti, Rumania, where one thousand men were lost.  Kuroki watched friends and colleagues fall from the sky in flames.  At the end of his European tour, Kuroki had finished 30 missions.  Most were lucky to survive 25.

Ben Kuroki came home, the first Nisei war hero.  Sent to California where airmen rested before reassignment, he feared walking the streets, even in uniform.  Every Japanese-American had been removed from the West Coast.  Kuroki joined activists fighting the discrimination and spoke at the Commonwealth Club, an influential group of government, academic and business leaders in northern California.  The roomful of cynical business and government leaders stood and cheered, tears running down many faces.  University of California-Berkeley Vice President Monroe Deutsch said Kurokiís speech marked the turning point for acceptance of the Nisei back to California after the war.

The Army sent Kuroki to the internment centers to recruit Nisei to fight for America in Europe.  In a surreal tour of the camps, small cities behind barbed wire, Kuroki was hailed as a hero by some and despised by others who rejected the government that had stripped them of their civil rights.  In an odd turn, Kuroki found himself at odds with many of the people for whom he had been fighting the war.

Kuroki returned to war, this time in the Pacific.  His fellow crewmembers feared for Kurokiís life on Tinian Island.  They feared the U.S. Marines could mistake Kuroki for the Japanese enemy.  Ben finished the war with 28 more missions in a B-29 Superfortress bomber based in the South Pacific.

This uniquely American story is told through interviews with Kuroki, fellow airmen of the 8th and 20th Army Air Forces, Nisei internees that met him during his visit to the camps and a Nebraska congressman who helped Kuroki in his quest to fly on B-29s.

Most Honorable Son explains the racist social climate Japanese-Americans faced during the war and tells how Ben Kuroki helped in the fight for racial equality.

Please visit the official "Most Honorable Son" site at pbs.org

Most Honorable Son is a KDN Films Production: kdnfilms.com

 

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