Segment 1


Kuroki grew up with Caucasian friends. There were only a few Japanese American families around at the time. The Depression affected Kuroki’s family. They had borrowed money from the banks for their farming operations. The banks went broke and they had to have a farm auction sale. Fortunately most of the people that came to the auction were neighbors and they would not bid on certain equipment so they could still farm. The Depression was a very difficult time. Kuroki finished high school in 1936. After high school Kuroki helped on the farm for about five years until Pearl Harbor. They were having a special meeting in North Platte with other Japanese American Nisei. Mike Masaoka was the National Executive Secretary for the Japanese Citizens League. He was there trying to organize a Japanese American League in North Platte. He was talking one moment, then people came in and took him. They had no idea what was going on. After they were gone, they went into the streets and someone had a radio and said my God Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. They found out the government was arresting Japanese Americans. Mike was arrested by the police in North Platte. We found out later he had a good friend in the governor of Nebraska. They ended up releasing Mike. Pearl Harbor changed his life 100 degrees. The following Monday morning, Kuroki’s father urged him and his brother Fred to enlist. They headed to North Platte to enlist. They signed up and passed their physicals. They waited and waited. All of their friends in Hershey were going into the service left and right. The word was that Washington did not know what to do with Japanese Americans. Recruiting stations were ordered to classify Japanese Americans as aliens. Two weeks went by and Kuroki heard nothing. Kuroki heard by accident on the radio that the Air Force was taking people in Grand Island. The recruiting officer said, Come on down. I get 2 dollars for everyone who signs up. Kuroki and his brother drove 150 miles to Grand Island and gave their Pledge of Allegiance. The local newspaper took a picture of them taking the pledge. Kuroki initially tried to enlist in the Marine Corps. They got their uniforms and were shipped to Shepherd Field in Texas for recruit training. Within two weeks they kicked Kuroki’s brother Fred out of the Air Corps. They did not kick Kuroki out. He knew he was on thin ice from there. He got stuck on KP jobs and dirty jobs. He did not dare complain. The amazing thing was he got sent to an Army Clerical school in Ft. Logan Colorado. After six weeks he qualified as a clerk. Kuroki was sent to the 93rd Bombardment Group which was the first B-24 outfit sent to Europe during World War II. Kuroki was threatened with a transfer twice before he went overseas. Kuroki went in and begged with tears when he saw that he was initially scheduled for transfer. Two high ranking non coms attempted to kick him out of the group. His squadron adjutant saved him. Kuroki was still a clerk on the ground. After the first couple of mission some of the gunners in the B-24s froze on their guns and were asked to be relieved. Immediately there were openings for aerial gunners. Kuroki was sent to an aerial gunnery school in England, he did not fire a single shot. It was mostly airplane identification. That is how Kuroki qualified to become a gunner.


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