Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Shig Yabu Interview
Narrator: Shig Yabu
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: Camarillo, California
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-yshig-02-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

RD: I have one more question for you. Ben Kuroki, were you there to see him?

SY: Yes, I did. Ben Kuroki, the reason why I wanted to see him was he was a hero. He was in the army air corps, they didn't have an air force at that time. And so we wanted to see his uniform, we wanted to see his badges or whatever, stripes he had and everything, we knew he was a sergeant, and we didn't know too much about him. And so we heard he was coming just for where the Block 14 was, bottom of the hill, it was Troop 379, drum and bugle corps, and a group of people marching up towards the administration building. And I marched behind this group, you know, real proud. And I don't remember a word he said about the speech or anything else, he was trying to recruit people to join the army. But later on, he lives right here in Leisure Village in Camarillo. And I wrote a letter to him and I told him I marched behind him. And he called me up and says, "We got to have lunch."


But I learned the entire history, I got his book, and Cal Stewart was the author and they were buddies. And on December the 7th, day after, his father told Ben Kuroki, "You and your brother, you go join the army, U.S. Army." He went down to the recruiting station and said, "Sorry, we can't take you, you're Japanese American," although he was born and raised in Iowa. Later on, not too much longer, they had a person on radio saying that they're recruiting army air corps. So he called up and says, "Are you really recruiting?" They said, "Sure am," says, "come on down to sign up." He said, well, you have to understand, he is of Japanese ancestry, you know, American citizen, born here in the United States. He said, "I don't care what you are. I get two dollars for every person that signs up." So he went down. Then Cal Stewart met up with Ben Kuroki on a ship towards England, and they became buddy-buddies all through their life. And he took a, he flew over Germany, thirty flights, and all you need to do is twenty-five and you can come home for good. But England, or the British was having a terrible time in Africa, so a group of, they needed people to volunteer, so twenty-five bombers went down to Africa. And on the way back, many of them were shot down, the bombers. Well, his plane survived except he ran out of fuel in Morocco, he became a prisoner of war. But the living condition was so bad as a prisoner, he escaped to the American side.

And then the army generals said, "Hey, we really honestly have a Japanese American hero. Why don't we send him to the ten relocation center and recruit Japanese personnel to join the armed service?" Well, the first one he went to was Heart Mountain, and then I believe the second one was Minidoka and Topaz. And then he told the army official he no longer wanted to do this, and so he says he wanted to go to the Pacific. Well, the high officials in the Pacific said, "Wait a minute, he may have relatives here." But he had enough clout in Europe in the United States, he's okay, he's a great military person, so he flew over Japan. And in one of his remarks, he said, "You know, I really felt sorry for the people in Tokyo, because not just one bomb, but many, many bombs, just flattened the whole city up." But that was the only time he got, he got injured. Some American military person stabbed him and he almost bled to death. He never talks about it. In fact, people in Camarillo, even in Leisure Village, don't even know he exists. I'm one of the few people that has met him, and I'm honored to have met him.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.