Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Ben Kuroki - Shige Kuroki Interview
Narrators: Ben Kuroki - Shige Kuroki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Camarillio, California
Date: January 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-kben_g-01

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

FC: What is this?

BK: This is supposed to be a model of a B-24. And my first mission I flew as a waistgunner, it's the position right here on the side, was over a target in North Africa called Basuri. And on that very first mission our tailgunner was wounded severely by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft gun and after that mission I replaced him and then, so I started flying in this position as a tailgunner. And I flew a number of missions there, and I don't remember exactly how many. And eventually then I was moved up to what they called a top turret. Then I was a top turret gunner when we flew the mission over the Ploesti oil refineries. And that one was my twenty-fourth mission. [Laughs]

FC: How did you train? How did you train in the B-24 for that Ploesti mission and where?

BK: Well, we were stationed in England but then we had to go to North Africa to a base in the desert called Bengazi. And that's where we trained for the low-level attack on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. As I explained, everything they, the practice missions were all at low level and the desert crew were flying as low as possible, and we practiced about three months. They had these bombardiers and they all got very experienced there.

FC: How low?

BK: Well, we were flying just almost ground level at times. And I remember how we scared the heck out of some of the Arabs who were there and their camels. And I think the pilots did it on purpose sometimes. [Laughs]

FC: Were the planes flying in tight formation at low level?

BK: Oh yes, we were flying as they would over, naturally over the target. One lead plane and two flying right off your one right wing and left wing. And these young pilots were so daring that even during practice they used to try to stick one wing as close as they could right into the waist area where you're standing there and then really scared the heck out of us.

FC: So you could look over the wing and see faces.

BK: Oh sure. They're all laughing and they think it was great stuff. And that's the thing about those early pilots, they were really just super pilots. They were the best. They had lots of training before the war, too, see. Later on in the war they had these pilots called "ninety-day wonders." In ninety days they were flying as pilots. But the early pilots were exceptional.

FC: The name of your outfit, that you flew with?

BK: Yes, I was with the Ninety-third bomb group, and we were the first B-24 group to fight in England. And we got the name, they called it Ted, Ted's Flying Circus because the commanding officer was Ted Timberlake. And the reason they called it the "flying circus" 'cause they kept getting called to North Africa and other places on emergency calls. Romel was beating the heck out of General Alexander and the Allies in the African desert so we were called over there at least twice. And that's why they started calling us Ted's Traveling Circus.

FC: Did Timberlake survive the mission?

FC: He didn't fly on the Ploesti mission, not to my knowledge.

FC: So who was leading your group then?

BK: Well, our group was led by Colonel Addison Baker. Of course, his plane was shot down and he lost, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.

FC: What was the name of your craft?

BK: [Laughs] Well, that's kind of a strange thing because the name of our plane at first was called Red Ass. And the pilot's parents were from Biloxi, Mississippi and they asked him if he would change the name of the plane, so he changed the name to Tupelo Lass after a while.

FC: What was the nose art for Red Ass?

BK: Well, that's just exactly what it was, a red donkey. [Laughs]

FC: How many missions did you fly in the 24?

BK: I flew thirty missions in the B-24.

FC: What was the normal tour?

BK: Well, I was only required to fly twenty-five and I volunteered for five extra just for good measure.

FC: Why?

BK: Well, I just was, wanted to prove myself a little, little more. And figured I had the opportunity to do it.

FC: Prove yourself as what?

BK: Well, wanted to prove my loyalty as a Japanese American. And I had such a hard time getting an assignment overseas and so I thought I'd just go the little extra mile. And I almost got it on my thirtieth mission so I was kind of glad to come back to the States.

FC: What happened?

BK: On the last mission, a piece of shrapnel hit the top of the turret and just completely ripped it right off of the... and I didn't even get scratched. It was just unbelievable. I remember my radio operator, Red Kettering, he wanted to scratch my face, he says, to "Make sure you're gonna get a Purple Heart." [Laughs]

FC: Did you get a Purple Heart?

BK: Oh, no. I didn't put in for one and I didn't, I didn't get injured, so I didn't.

FC: And what happened? Did you fly home at that thirtieth mission or did you... was that the mission that you were forced to land in Morocco?

BK: No, that was quite a bit earlier, the one in Morocco. But, anyway, after the thirtieth mission I decided to come back while I was still in one piece.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FC: So you retired from the Air Force after, Air Corps after the thirtieth mission, or what happened?

BK: No, I came back to the States and of all the darn things that happened, the Air Force, when anybody returned from the missions to the States, they send them to a rest and rehabilitation home. And of all the places they sent me to was Santa Monica, California. And it was the old Edgewater Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, so I was there three months. And probably as a result of that, I was probably the first Japanese to come back to the West Coast since the evacuation, just because they assigned me to come back to Santa Monica.

FC: Were you welcomed in Santa Monica?

BK: Well, yes and no. Time Magazine came out and interviewed me, of course, and the story and result of that, why, the people in San Francisco immediately tried to get me to come up there to speak.

FC: What people in San Francisco?

BK: It was the Commonwealth Club. It was Dr. Monroe Deutsche who was vice provost of the University of California, and Ruth Kingman who was with the Principles and Fair Play Committee. Those groups arranged for me to come up to speak to the Commonwealth Club. And even before that happened, why, I was going to appear on a national radio program, the Ginny Simms, with Ginny Simms. And at the last minute I was taken off of the program, removed, because NBC officials decided that the Japanese American question was too controversial in California.

FC: Hmm.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

FC: Why did you volunteer to fly in B-29s? After you'd done your tour, why go back? Did you enjoy flying into combat?

BK: No, there were, there were numerous reasons that I wanted to fly on B-29s, that was one of the things, when I got kicked off the national radio program was only the beginning. I was in Denver, tried to share a taxi with a man... of course wearing my uniform with all my ribbons, and slammed the door in my face and said, "I won't ride with no lousy Jap." My best friend and high school classmate, Gordy Jorgensen, was killed in the Solomon Islands by the Japanese enemy. And even when I was there in Santa Monica, my squadron friend Ed Bates came back about the same time I did so they put me in the same room together. Ed Bates' brother was also killed in the Pacific. And I told him that if I ever got over to the Pacific, the first zero I get was going to be for his brother. And there were... there were also the 442nd was beginning to do well in Italy. And I heard reports that, "Well, they're doing great because they're not fighting against the Japs." And somehow I just wanted to prove that it didn't make any difference to me whether I was fighting against the Japanese enemy or the Germans.

FC: In the Army Air Corps, did you run into other Japanese American gunners, navigators or pilots?

BK: No, I never ran into a single one. I did run into a Chinese American gunner... but I kept hearing stories that there were some others and I think it was only until recent years that I found out there was another Japanese American gunner who flew in Europe, North Africa, I guess, he flew more in the North African area. But he was a gunner on a twin engine fighter bomber type plane. And as far as the Pacific, I'm pretty sure that I was the only Japanese American flying B-29s because there was a War Department regulation that prohibited Japanese Americans, could not fly in B-29s. And when I was assigned first to, when I asked for assignment to B-29 crew and was assigned, it was about, it wasn't very long before I was told that I couldn't go with them because of this War Department regulation. And it was at that time that I started my crusade to see if I could be made an exception and it took me about three months. But my congressman from Nebraska wired General Marshall, and as a result of my Commonwealth speech in San Francisco, I got Dr. Monroe Deutsche. And he together with Ray Lyman Wilbur, who was the President of Stanford University and the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, the three of them wired Secretary of War Stimson who was, at the time was not Secretary of Defense but it was Secretary of War. And Secretary of War finally granted me an exception to the regulation. So I just presumed that there probably was no other Japanese Americans who flew in B-29s.

FC: Was flying in the 29 different than flying in the 24?

BK: Oh yes, that was just like flying in a Cadillac in the 29s, because all the cabins were pressurized and we had regular heat and everything so there was no comparison at all, but in B-29s it was wide-open so it really was cold.

FC: You mean B-24?

BK: I meant B-24, yes.

FC: Would you repeat that? Flying in the B-24 was wide-open and it was cold.

BK: Yes. Flying in the B-24 was wide open and some of my gunner friends had froze and lost their fingers. In fact, Ed Bates had lost several of his fingers, just froze it. And he used to have a little stub that he always carried around in, in greeting our fellow, his buddies. [Laughs]

FC: These missions were long. How did you relieve your bodily functions up there, or did you?

BK: Which...

FC: I mean like how did you pee?

BK: Well, of course they had, they have regular things for you to do that. [Laughs]

FC: Oh, there's a lavatory on the plane?

BK: Well, no, a little tube-like thing.


Male voice: After you finished Ploesti, did you ever want to fly again?

FC: Yeah, he flew the twenty-ninth.

Male voice: Yeah, but I mean, Polesti.

BK: Well, yes.

Male voice: Did that scare you?

BK: Oh sure, it scared the hell out of me, because that was my twenty-fourth mission. But still kept on flying. At that, you're still young, and that's the way the, I guess that's why they want young people in the service 'cause you're all gung-ho and you have no responsibilities and you have no family to worry about or anything like that.

FC: How old were you when you flew over Ploesti?

BK: Oh man, what is it? I must have been twenty-five, I guess, somewhere, I think.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

FA: Shige, tell me about your relationship with Mike Masaoka. How long have you known him?


SK: He goes back to my teenage years. He was, he and Bill, my brother-in-law Bill Yamauchi had been roommates at University of Utah. And Mike at that time was very active in the Japanese American Citizens League and forming chapters throughout the tri-county, there in Tri-cities, I guess it was, in the southeastern part of Idaho. So we saw him frequently come through and he would often stop to see Bill and that's when I had first met him, was way back then when I was still in high school.

FA: What kind of guy was Mike Masaoka?

SK: Brilliant. Funny, humorous, witty, always active. Whatever he did to us was he was... when we met him, of course, our standards -- we had, you know the Japanese, the Nisei didn't have a picture of a Japanese male as being very articulate and here we see Mike who was in command of a language that we never even knew of. He could speak on anything at the drop of a hat. But not very good at manual things. I remember when he came with Bill one time, he had side-swiped a car and we had to go -- that was one of my first experiences. We had gone down to make sure that he got some transportation. But that's the man I remember from the early years. If we're talking about later, I met him, we had seen him over the years for, for the next, I guess the next eight years that I remember seeing him, he had been active still in, but then it had become, it was more intensified after, as the war began.

FA: Tell me again, go back to, tell me again about what kind of guy Mike was. I need you to say Mike Masaoka, his name.

SK: Oh, Mike Masaoka?

FA: Yeah, yeah.

SK: Yes.

FA: So just go back and tell me about this person and what he was like.

SK: Well, Mike Masaoka was unlike any Nisei that I knew. Our first impression was a man who, he was, he was known for his skills, oratory skills. He had been on the University of Utah debate team. And they had done very, very well, as I remember. And Bill had always talked about him so when we had started seeing him, when he started coming through, he was able to arouse a lot of interest you can see, as you can see, in the JACL. And at that point we were very much impressed with him, he was a young man -- I think my mother said he was cocky. And he did a lot of things that the young girls got a charge out of, however, I remember he did something at one of the meetings that we had in Idaho Falls, I guess it was, when he was busy there getting the cities to, I think at that point we were trying to get delegates to a convention or something, but anyway, I remember he was there at this meeting and instead of standing behind a podium and speaking he had sat leaning off a table. And I remember everybody saying, "Oh my," you know, that was something we hadn't done in our day. But you can see we go back a long ways. I think I can talk about Mike in the days when, when even the way he stood at a podium was something that was criticized by the Issei or at least made, they noticed. But he really was a man that we could see would be... we would hear much about because he did have a lot of foresight. At that point it wasn't an easy job, either, that he was doing.


FA: Something you said, he did a lot of things that girls got a lot of charge out of?

SK: Yes. He was, he was witty. He told off-color jokes, things that we didn't hear in Mormon country very often. [Laughs] They were, they were just slightly, he, then of course when I knew him later, after he was married to Etsu, there's a lot more humor, of course, that he had brought back from when he had been to war, but nevertheless, yes, he was a man, a type of person I always enjoyed. He was an intellectual, he was verbal, he was, he could express himself in such beautiful phrases. Whatever he said -- I like, I like words, and that man could express them. I guess that's the best expression I can, description of him.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: So, tell me about how you met Ben through Mike.

SK: Oh, I was continuing my college education when I went down to the University of Utah. And at that time, of course, housing was almost nil for students. So Mike and Etsu put me up with them for a while. And Ben had, Ben was at that point, you had come back for a lecture or something, had you? Or preparing for lectures, but anyway he was in the, in the area and Mike and Etsu had invited Ben and his... or a girlfriend that they... or friend they had found for him for that evening. And I had invited a friend of mine and we had dinner at their place. That was my first evening that I met Ben. And after the dinner we went -- this is something we haven't discussed for some time, isn't it? [Laughs] We went to a place called Soldair or someplace where they had dancing. And I have to admit that those were the years when Ben tried dancing and I, we're not great dancers either. [Laughs] At least, it wasn't one of his, his social assets, I'd say. But Ben and I spent more time together on the dance floor, I guess, than my date and myself or his and his date. And so it was through Mike and Etsu that I met him, yes.

FA: Ben, this is the side, I hear you were very persistent?

BK: [Laughs] I was always stubborn.

FA: 'Cause you went to Idaho and showed up in Idaho and you brought, what did you bring? Do you remember what you brought?

BK: Well --

SK: I told him, you just as well to --

BK: I was just fresh out of the army so I was smoking cigars and drinking beer and I put a six-pack of beer in the refrigerator and I didn't realize then that they were Mormons. [Laughs] I think I almost...

SK: No, you didn't. [Laughs] I think I was more, I think, I think the family was always in a state of shock, but whatever. He wasn't the normal boyfriend. He wasn't like all the other nice...

BK: I made a heck of an impression. First impression.

SK: Yes, you did. It was an impact, I'd say. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

FA: We were at war with Germany, we're at war with Japan, and what was it like for you as a Nisei, Shige? Were you proud to see Nisei boys, Japanese American boys in uniform?

SK: Well, yes, however, we didn't see many of them.

FA: Could you just tell me how you felt? Start, "I was proud."

SK: Yes, I was proud to see the young men in uniform. We had a few men, one of them who was from Omaha was, since he had graduated from the University of Nebraska, had, was able to go to the candidate school. Officer's Candidate School, I guess, whatever it was. And he came back in lieutenant's uniform, but no, we saw the others, too. We were very proud because there were, our community was one that wasn't touched by the war the same way the others were on the West Coast. But I think as a result of it, more of them, I think, needed to prove, too, that they wanted to be a part of it. Yes, and there were, and Japanese families in those days, I had forgotten about it until we just mentioned it, but they very much wanted to give the boys a big send-off and let them know that they were proud that they were going. So there would always be these big dinners before they would go. There would be money that they would bring to their family, that sort of thing -- or to the young man, you know. And then there would always be a big send-off down at the Union Pacific depot. That was, that was our way of showing them that we were proud that we had them in our midst.

FA: I'm gonna jump to the very end now. To the present -- we, you weren't aware at the time, and Ben will talk about this later, but at Heart Mountain they had this Fair Play Committee. Were you aware of that at the time when, wherever you were? Were you aware that these people resisted the draft?

SK: Only through the Pacific Citizen. Whatever information we had was only through the Pacific Citizen. I think that was the... so yes, we were aware, of course, as I've mentioned to Ben, too, in our discussion of it, I think we're talking of a different period of our lives. I think at that point we did nothing to, to... roil the waters, we wanted to keep everything as placid as we could. It was almost as if we had a tendency to try to push what was happening as far away as... that isn't us, it's not touching us, but nevertheless, we were very much aware that we were Japanese. We were also, we, we were a part of it nevertheless. And in thinking about it... then, I think I thought that, yes, they probably were guilty. However, in retrospect, I'm not so sure that I feel the same way anymore. I think I, I have a feeling more of compassion than I do, that they had their reasons, and they certainly were, had to be very, very brave to have stood by their principles. That isn't easy to do, particularly in war. It would be so much easier to just follow in whatever footsteps they wanted you to follow. So in a way, I think I must have had some feeling that the Japanese heritage did require us to stand by our principles. At the same time, I think that they were, I was aware that it was a very, very difficult time for them. And their actions were creating some problems for the others. However, I've, I've had to step back from that. And I can't appreciate what was being done to them to be, to have forced them into that situation. But, but then in hindsight, don't we all see the errors that we made then?

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

FA: Ben, tell me, where are you from?

BK: Where am I from? [Laughs] Well, I was born and raised in Nebraska. What more did you...

FA: You proud of that?

BK: Oh, sure. I'm a Nebraskan from way back and a cornhusker graduate of the University of Nebraska and follow the football team religiously.

FA: Why are you so proud of being a Nebraskan?

BK: Well, that's where I was born and brought up and raised in Nebraska and I think it's going to school there, and all my friends and everything. Nebraska gave me a real solid foundation for patriotism. During the war, I think it was, really played a very important part in my life. Like I said before, I can remember back in school, in the second grade we started saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and all those things seemed to have had a profound effect on me in the crucial years of the war. So I'm always proud that I was born and raised in the state of Nebraska.

FA: Did you encounter much bigotry before the war in Nebraska?

BK: No, I don't think so. We knew we were different as kids, you know. Of course, my parents all spoke Japanese and when they got together with the few Japanese, other Japanese in the community, why, they would always speak in Japanese and bow and all that stuff and of course, you realized that you were different when your Caucasian friends would see them doing that.

FA: How many Japanese American families were there in Nebraska?

BK: Well, right in our area I think there were only about four or five families. Maybe in, maybe 50-mile radius, probably a dozen more. But we didn't see much of each other. It was entirely different than those on the West Coast.

FA: Growing up, what, your friends, growing up, your friends, what race were they?

BK: Well, they were, you mean Caucasians, they were all Caucasians, of course. And we used to go hunting with my best friend Gordy Jorgensen. We used to play hooky from school and go pheasant hunting; whenever the pheasant season opened we'd play hooky all day. [Laughs] And we used to go duck hunting together. Played basketball on a team. Gordy was president of our class and I was vice president and that sort of thing.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

FA: Everyone knows where they were on December 7, 1941. Tell me, tell me where you were and what happened.

BK: Well, of all those things on December 7th, Sunday morning we were having a meeting in the basement of the church in North Platte where Mike Masaoka was trying to tell us about the Japanese American Citizen's League. And all I can remember is about halfway through the meeting, the police came and arrested Mike, took him and put him in jail in North Platte. And of course we found out shortly thereafter that he was released because Governor Maw of Utah had called and told him, told the police officials there that they shouldn't hold Mike. That's, that was the beginning of Pearl Harbor, of course. All the news came over the radio and everything was pretty bad. And it was the next morning that my brother Fred and I decided that we were going to enlist in the service.

FA: Let me go back one second. When the police came in, tell me what Mike was doing the moment police came in to arrest him. Tell me that whole scene where Mike was standing up and you know the story, tell me about that.

BK: Well, I don't remember the details on that. All I know that there was some hush talk going around and all of a sudden he just disappeared. So that's all I can tell you about that.

FA: Do you remember a story about a handkerchief on the blackboard and a little paper map of the state of Nebraska? That he had a paper map of the state of Nebraska and covered it with a handkerchief? And that he dramatically lifted the handkerchief up and someone said, "Mike, it's upside down."

BK: [Laughs] No, I don't remember that at all. That's possible.

FA: I have a nice piece of film of Mike talking on a CBS documentary, he says, "On December 7th, I happened to be in North Platte, Nebraska, telling a group of Japanese Americans about the necessity to organize, to stress our citizenship and our loyalty to the United States."

BK: Right.

FA: What did you think of Mike's message, sitting there, what were your thoughts? What was your reactions to Mike's message?

BK: I thought it was a good idea at the time. It was, seems to me now all these years later that it was so fleeting, I mean, the whole thing just... the only thing I can remember is that they arrested him.

FA: But in terms of at that time, was that a message you were receptive to, or you thought was a good idea or bad idea? The message that he...

BK: Oh, it wasn't either way. I think I might have been just kind of lukewarm about something like that, belonging to an organization like that.


FA: Can you, do you remember anything more about what Mike said to the group?

BK: No, I really don't. It's been so many years ago and as you know, I'm eighty years old now and my memory is pretty bad.

FA: Do you remember how many people were in the room? Were there a lot of people? Handful?

BK: No, there weren't very many to begin with in the community. I would think there might have been twenty, maybe not that many.

FA: So you and your brother went to volunteer for the Army Air Corps.

BK: Yes.

FA: Oh, by the way, one more thing, do you remember -- going back to the one meeting in the basement of the church in North Platte, do you remember who called the meeting?

BK: No, I don't remember who was responsible for the meeting. I guess they just, word of mouth.

FA: And how old were you at the time?

BK: I must have been, let's see... I graduated in '36...

FA: I'll figure it out.

BK: It's irrelevant. [Laughs]

FA: Yeah. Did you know any of the people in the room before that meeting? It was a small community.

BK: Oh yeah, they were young people in the 50-mile radius I'd say, little towns there. North Platte was a city. So yeah, I'd say I knew 'em all.

FA: Were they Niseis or Isseis?

BK: They were Nisei.

FA: And how, do recall how they were dressed, how you were dressed, how Mike was dressed, how they were dressed?

BK: No, I don't remember anything about that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

FA: You... I understand from -- thank you for that speech, by the way. I really enjoyed reading your speech. I'm just kind of asking questions to go over the same territory that you did in your speech in Nebraska, that 1991 speech.

BK: What's that?

FA: I'm just... thank you for sending me the speech.

BK: Oh, you're talking about the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

FA: Yeah, right, right. I understand you begged to go overseas.

BK: Oh yes, I had to do it twice.

FA: Why did you beg to go overseas?

BK: Well, because I knew that that was the only way I was going to be able to prove my loyalty, was to get into combat. I figured if I just stay in stateside that I would never be able to really prove myself. And that was the reason.

FA: Why... this is a complex story, and I'm just... why did you feel -- and a lot of people felt this way, of course -- but why did you feel you had to prove your loyalty to the United States?

BK: Well, first of all, I was the same as the Japanese, as the enemy who was Japanese. And I knew I was different. I think the other thing, that I was so upset. I mean, I just felt that Pearl Harbor was terrible, and I think I felt like a lot of the Caucasian kids that wanted to avenge what happened at Pearl Harbor. That wasn't the main factor, but certainly had something to do with wanting to get into combat and get into the service.

FA: In your speech you mentioned, you used the word "shame." That you felt Pearl Harbor was...

BK: Yes, I did, because it was a sneak attack. If it hadn't been so many hundreds and hundreds of the American soldiers, sailors were killed without a chance.

FA: In your speech you say, "Pearl Harbor" -- and I want you to tell this to me, like double jeopardy, why do you say Pearl Harbor was a "double jeopardy" for you?

BK: Well, it's because I was of Japanese descent, I guess. I don't remember exactly that part anymore.

FA: You said, "I developed a strange guilt complex."

BK: Oh, that, yeah, that was the double jeopardy part. I felt guilty for what the Japanese enemy did at Pearl Harbor and then I had felt guilty because I was of Japanese ancestry.

FA: Was that feeling rooted in anything that your parents had taught you?

BK: Yes, it's one thing that my parents had stressed in all those years was not to bring shame to my own family. And not to do anything that would bring shame to my family, and that's the way I felt about Pearl Harbor, I just felt that it was a major shame. It was a really, toughest time of my life at that time.

FA: And yet, you had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.

BK: No, but my ancestors did and that's what come back to reflect on me, is what they did. And what I considered was very shameful the way they had pulled off that sneak attack and killed so many of our soldiers and sailors.

FA: It could be argued that you as a Nebraska-born citizen, American citizen, had your rights, and you had no need to prove anything.

BK: Well, I suppose you could say that, but I think, you know, you... all of my friends and my high school buddy Gordon Jorgensen, they were all enlisting and so, you know, I just, anyone who would have had any bit of patriotism in his blood would certainly be willing to join the services, I think, at that time in Nebraska anyway.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: How did you feel when, once you were accepted, arrived in England, you were the first B-24 bomb group there, you volunteered, you went to gunnery school for two weeks, then you were finally assigned to a bomber crew. How did you feel after that?

BK: Oh, that was a great feeling. You finally felt that you belonged, you know. And finally felt I was going to have a chance to prove myself. It was such a tough battle all the way up 'til then, and all the things that you had to put up with to get there. So it was really a great feeling. You know, I got stuck on KP and dirtiest KP jobs for as much as two weeks in a row and none of the other guys got more than one or two nights of KP. It was all things like that that you had to endure. So once you got on the combat crew, boy, everybody treated you differently. You knew that your life was always on the line, that your next mission you're gonna go out and you don't know whether you're gonna come back again. So it was a whole different ballgame. And the respect was just unbelievable.

FA: Tell me about the camaraderie you felt with your fellow crewmembers.

BK: Well, that was just it, we used to kid each other and I can particularly remember this one kid with an Italian American name, Joe Fortie, when we were over there in North Africa when we were bombing Rome and Naples and I'd kid Joe and I'd say, "Joe, we're gonna go over and knock the spaghetti out of your ancestors today," and of course Joe would shoot right back and says, "Hey," he says, "Wait 'til I get to the Pacific. I'm gonna knock the rice out of your dishonorable ancestors." [Laughs] It was like that.

FA: After your return from Europe, what happened after Washington, well, after you were sent back to the States from Europe? What happened next?

BK: Well, that was the unusual thing, is the army, air force, sent all the returning airmen to a rest and rehabilitation home and I was sent to, of all places, Santa Monica, California, the old Edgewater Beach Hotel. And so probably by pure accident I was probably one of first ones to come back to the West Coast. First Japanese American to come back to the West Coast since the evacuation. And a lot of things started happening, of course, when I got up there in Santa Monica. I was invited to appear on this national radio program with Ginny Simms...

FA: You spoke to the Commonwealth Club.

BK: Just a couple hours before the program, well, they decided, the NBC officials decided to kick me off of the program because they said the Japanese American question was too controversial.

FA: At that time, the 442nd was being formed, young men from camp. What did you think of the idea of a segregated combat unit? You got to serve with Joe Fortie and all your fellows in Europe, but you were the only Japanese American on the crew. What did you think about the idea of this segregated unit of Japanese Americans being, volunteering and drafted out of the concentration camps?

BK: Well, I never really gave it any thought, I mean, particularly that way. All I knew was that they were doing it. And of course later on, why, I was real pleased that I heard that they were doing so well. But I didn't have any feelings about a segregated unit.

FA: You just saw it as an opportunity for them to serve?

BK: Yes.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

FA: Washington ordered you to... what orders did you receive from Washington?

BK: Well, of course, I never did see the orders. They just came to my squadron and they told me, "Kuroki, you gotta go so and so and so and so." And so I did.

FA: And what did they tell you? They told you to go to where?

BK: Heart Mountain, that I was going to Heart Mountain and Minidoka and Topaz. And I think that there's been some misunderstandings about that. But they never gave me any, didn't tell me or give me any instructions. They just told me to go there. And of course, I guess the directors or the people there probably had a general idea of what they wanted me to do. But that was some of the misunderstandings I know that over the years, but the JACL had nothing to do with me. They didn't tell me what to do or any of the other groups. I was just told to go there and so I just went to the camps and whatever they had on their agenda, I did.

FA: So you went, you went first to Wyoming, and tell me, then, what was your reaction when you approached Heart Mountain?

BK: Well, of course, I was really quite shocked when I approached Heart Mountain and came up to the, to the gate and saw these armed guards and they were all wearing the same uniform I was wearing. And inside, behind the barbed wire, were all these, my own people, so to speak. Most of them, as you know, they were American citizens. It was really quite a shock. I never did get over that.

FA: Did you look at them as your own people? I know that you looked at Nebraskans as your own people, too.

BK: Well, I looked at 'em as my own people as far as nationality. I mean, being of the same Japanese ancestry.

FA: We have this wonderful home movie, I don't know if you've seen this. Sakauye, Eiichi Sakauye in San Jose took this home movie of you speaking to the rally. And in fact, my father, my father gave me, when I told him I was coming here, he gave me a little -- here.


FA: My father gave me this photograph that he had saved all these years.

BK: [Laughs] I'll be darned.

FA: Do you remember speaking to the internees at Heart Mountain?

BK: Well, just a little. I was told, I was asked to speak, I guess, to this Fair Play Committee group. And I'd been warned that they were quite militant and that they were concerned for my safety so they were going to put on some extra guards. I remember talking to them... I guess I would say that everything was okay except at one time I made the statement that if they thought Japan was going to win the war, they're crazy. I said that they were going to get bombed off the map. And I heard some hissing and booing at that time. And that was probably the most, well, the only real thing that stood out in my memory of what happened.

FA: How many do you recall being in the room when you spoke?

BK: Oh, just guessing, would probably would say about seventy-five, maybe.

FA: What did you say to the group, besides that statement about Japan? Do you recall what you said to...

BK: Must not have been very important because I don't remember what I said now. It's been so many years ago, but I must have told them about some of my bombing missions and some of my experiences. That's all I can remember.

FA: Looking back, probably not the most tactful thing to say to a group of boys who were planning to resist induction.

BK: [Laughs] Well, yeah, I don't know whether I encouraged them to enlist or not. I probably did in some of the appearances that I made there. But I don't remember at that particular time.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

FA: I read another report from one of the camp analysts who said that one of the boys, one of the Fair Play Committee members asked you, "Mr. Kuroki, Ben, what would you do if you were us? What would you do if you were us? We're in camp, we were expelled from the West Coast, we lost our businesses, our homes, our rights, and now the government wants to draft us out of these camps. What would you do if you were us?"

BK: Well, I don't remember when that question was asked of me. It might have been, but if it had been I probably would've encouraged them to enlist rather than to resist. It's just simply because of my background and what I had been through. And that's one of the things, you know, I was born and raised in Nebraska and it's quite different from what it was out in the West Coast.

FA: One of the, I guess you did say you, that you encouraged them to volunteer, and then it was recorded that the kids, that one of the men replied, "So you think it's okay for us to be evacuated and locked up here?"

BK: I don't think there was any question like that asked of me, but it's possible.

FA: If, let's say I'm asking, I'm asking you now. By telling the Fair Play Committee boys to volunteer, were you --

BK: Oh, I didn't think for a minute that it was fair, the way they got locked up or the tremendous losses that they suffered. My goodness, I don't think anybody in their fair mind could say that it was justified.

FA: But from their, from their point of view, from their experience on the West Coast, that's how it felt.

BK: Well, obviously, yeah.

FA: It's just an interesting, interesting question. That you're all young men of different backgrounds and yet made different choices.

BK: Yeah, well, you know I was irritated about that whole thing in relation to that even when I was overseas because I read in a magazine how many Sons and Daughters of the Golden West wanted to incarcerate all the Japanese. And then I read a newspaper report that at a national governor's conference, Earl Warren tried to urge all the governors, the other governors, to incarcerate Japanese all over the United States everywhere, including Nebraska. And I remember seeing in a story that Governor Griswold from Nebraska took issue with Earl Warren and even told him off. And the first thing I did when I came back from my thirty missions, I did not go home. I went, got off the train in Omaha and went straight down to Lincoln to Governor Griswold's office and I thanked him for what he had said. So you know how I felt about the whole thing. I didn't think it was justified as far as the evacuation was concerned.

FA: Tell me again in your mind, what was the evacuation -- the expulsion and incarceration? Fair or unfair?

BK: Well, it was grossly unfair and of course you know that I don't think it took much analyzing to know that there were a lot of economics involved and decisions were made by a handful of people who were extremely anti-Japanese. It's a sad thing but that's one of those things that's a mistake that was made and I think the thing that pleases me the most is after all those years, after all those years, and it was 1988 that Congress passed the reparations bill, paid $20,000 dollars each to those who were interned and issued a national apology and President Reagan signed it. I think you know that it's just absolutely great that a country could admit a mistake after so many years. And then to apologize, it couldn't have happened anywhere else except in the United States. It's a great country.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

FA: Do you recall -- I have this, like I say, this wonderful home movie of you speaking at Heart Mountain.

BK: I didn't see that. I haven't seen it.

FA: But did you, do you remember speaking? Do you remember that day, do you remember that moment?

BK: No, I don't particularly remember the moment. I know that I made several appearances. And it's gotta be authentic. [Laughs]

FA: [Laughs] Do you recall, Ben, what did you say at, when you spoke to the camp general population? What did you say?

BK: I don't remember. You know, it's been so many years ago and I want to say this: that, you know, I was still just a dirt farmer's son out of Nebraska and I had only a high school education and I was not cut out for speaking or anything like that. It was just, all this was thrust on to me so more or less because I had been available and came back early. 'Cause I was back home already from the war from Europe when most of the guys were still thinking about enlisting or still going over. So they took advantage of me and I had to go to these three camps. Not by my choice. [Laughs] But it was quite an experience. I was glad it happened. I was think I was really gung-ho you know and I probably irritated a few of the resisters in the things that I said but it came from a guy who was born and raised in Nebraska in an entirely different atmosphere, so...


FA: Can you tell me about the bus that was leaving Heart Mountain? They asked you to step on board and... tell me about that, tell me what happened.

BK: Well, the only thing that I could remember was that I felt that I got a real cold reception. And all I wanted to do was wish 'em good luck you know but...

FA: Start from the beginning. Tell me, tell me what happened. What were you asked to do?

BK: Well, they just asked me to step on the bus, that these young men were going into the service. So I thought I'd go in there and wish them good luck, and I'm pretty sure I did it. But the reception was so cold and nobody responded so I just turned around and got off. It was very short. But I remember it.

FA: Yes, and one fellow wrote you years later to thank you for your encouragement.

BK: Yes.

FA: Yes. On the day that you left Heart Mountain, Guy Robertson wrote to Dillon Myer and said that on the day that you left, six more Nisei boys refused pre-induction physicals.

BK: I didn't know anything about that. Wouldn't surprise me if they did.

FA: Part of your message there was to encourage cooperation with the draft.

BK: Yes, well, you know, like I said, nobody gave me any instructions of what to say or anything but I guess it was obvious that I was there to help promote enlistment.

FA: How was your reception at Minidoka next? Minidoka was next.

BK: I thought the reception was great. That's a strange thing 'cause people seemed to think that the reception at Heart Mountain was the best and I thought it was best at Minidoka. And I remember them putting me on a jeep and everything and I was embarrassed as all hell, because I just felt like, God what... it didn't feel comfortable at all.

FA: Let me go back real quick and tell me about Heart Mountain, your reception, tell me what, how was your reception at Heart Mountain? You arrived, you were shocked seeing the soldiers and seeing uniforms and then we had, they put you on the podium on the stage, and well, tell me, what was your... how were you received at Heart Mountain?

BK: I thought I was received okay. The only uneasy incident that I had was when I had, when I spoke to the Fair Play group and they hissed at me. But no, I thought the reception was okay. I just... and of course I wasn't used to anything like that anyway and so I don't know how you'd judge it.

FA: Well, I guess what I'm getting at is just tell me what they, where they took you at Heart Mountain and how many rallies, meetings, just tell me what...

BK: The only thing that stands out in one of my memories of that is that I spoke to a church group on Sunday morning during the services. And that certainly was something new for me. [Laughs]

FA: How did you travel, Ben? Did you travel alone or did you have an escort?

BK: No, I traveled alone. Just went from bus to bus. Bus took me to each place as I remember.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

FA: Before the end of the war you had one more mission from the government regarding the Fair Play Committee. Can you tell me about the trial?

BK: Oh, the one in Cheyenne? Yeah, that was a strange, kind of strange one. I was ordered to go there and I was supposed to represent the, I mean, testify for the government but they never called me to testify. And I was there a couple of days as I remember and I remember seeing the trial going on and I didn't pay too much attention. I didn't sit in on the sessions.

FA: If you were called to, if you had been called to the stand, what were you prepared to say?

BK: I don't know. After watching all these television shows about Clinton, I think I'd just wait 'til the attorneys asked me questions, and then I'd answer whatever they wanted to know.

FA: [Laughs] Thanks, Ben. You must have been, sitting there for two days, you must have been rehearsing in your mind, "Well, if they ask me this, I'll say that." What was your general... I'm sure you had an idea of what you were going to say if you were called. What were you planning to say?

BK: Well, I don't really know what I would've said. I certainly wouldn't have agreed with their stance for sure.

FA: Why not?

BK: Well, it's just like I said. When I was born and raised in Nebraska, then it's a whole different ballgame and I just didn't feel it was patriotic for them to refuse to be drafted. Seemed to me that if they had the opportunity to fight for their country then they shouldn't turn it down. But then their circumstances were entirely different than mine, they got the treatment that they did. So while I didn't agree with them, they certainly had their, their principles and their rights.

FA: This is a difficult question, I suppose, but knowing that their circumstances were different, were you, you were still prepared to give testimony to a jury that would have led to their imprisonment?

BK: Well, it's possible. I think, I think the whole thing came down to the fact that they were being tried for disobeying the law. I mean, of course they had their constitutional rights were part of the issue, but it wasn't just Japanese Americans. If anybody else who would, resisted or refused to be drafted will get the same type of treatment, I'd think.

BK: Certainly it was a violation of law, in fact. You're familiar with the concept of test cases. Did you think, were you aware that they were deliberately breaking the law in order to clarify their rights as American citizens?

BK: Well yeah, that would seem like that was obvious. They were willing to go to jail to show how they felt about the whole thing.

FA: Knowing that they were your own people, wouldn't you want to have them clarify, help clarify rights that you held as well?

BK: Well yes. It's a... you know, it's a... there were quite a few of them as I understand, there were over three hundred of 'em who were in the same situation who did not refuse and they were drafted out of Heart Mountain. And probably more than a thousand who enlisted.

FA: Yes, yes.

BK: And so, you know, it depends on the individuals and how, how they felt about it.

FA: But that's... but the question still is, Ben, weren't, didn't you have an interest in helping them to clarify rights that you shared as American citizens? They were trying to clarify their rights as American citizens by obviously forcing a test case. Wouldn't you have an interest in that, too?

BK: Well, I should have, yes. I did my thing and they did theirs.

FA: What was the courthouse like? Do you recall anything about the courthouse, Cheyenne federal courthouse?

BK: Yeah, it was very large and there were lots of seats and most of 'em were empty. I really wasn't... you know, I didn't sit in on the sessions and listen to the testimony or things like that.

FA: Where did you stay? Where did the government put you up?

BK: They just put me up in a hotel there, nearby there. That's all I remember.

FA: How were you dressed when you went to court?

BK: Oh, I was still in the service so, I think that was one of the reasons that they wanted me there.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

FA: They did their thing, you did your thing. What are your feelings now about the Fair Play Committee and the draft resisters?

BK: Well, they certainly have a pretty good case now and pretty good support from people like you and the ACLU funding this thing so they can still tell their story. That's pretty important; that's part of the American way.

FA: Do you recall speaking to the newspaper reporters after the trial, I mean, after you left the courthouse? Do you remember what you said to them?

BK: No, I don't remember talking to 'em, but I see where I've been quoted quite a bit -- [Laughs] -- as a result of it.

FA: What were you quoted as saying?

BK: I was quoted as saying that the resisters were fascists and that they're no good to the country, and certainly were tearing down everything that I was trying to do. And at that time I think that was the normal reaction for me because my gosh, the publicity was terrible that was coming out about the trial and everything. And it was bad enough that the Bataan Death March in the Philippines was being headlined in the newspapers, the Japanese enemy doing those horrible things in the Death March and you know, everything was, there was so much going on at the time that it really made things worse as far as I was concerned. It came at a very bad time that they were tried, 'cause they would hardly have a chance to even be acquitted in the conditions of the war at that time.

FA: You were, like you say, you were quoted as saying these fellows were fascists and doing no good. Do you still, do you still believe that today?

BK: Well, I think it was pretty strong stuff. I wouldn't say that today. [Laughs] But at the time, being young and gung-ho you know, waving the flag, being patriotic as I was, I can understand why I said those things.

FA: Last question about the trial. I just, there's so little about the trial itself. What can you tell me about the atmosphere around the courthouse? You said seats were empty. What was the atmosphere around the trial?

BK: I didn't think there was that, seemed to me the thing was all so cut and dry to me that to me, you know, it didn't seem like to me the public wasn't interested in it whatever. And that's the way it seemed to me.

FA: There were no riots in the street?

BK: Oh, no, there wasn't anything like that. Of course, Cheyenne is a pretty small community compared to the West Coast.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

FA: You met, you met your wife through a fellow named Mike Masaoka. When did you, did you meet Mike Masaoka during the war?

BK: No.

FA: Really? Did you ever talk to him on the telephone or...?

BK: No, the only time I saw him is when he came to North Platte the day of Pearl Harbor. 'Course after the war, that's when I met him. I think probably more through Larry Tajiri with the Pacific Citizen, he'd been writing all those stories about me and he wanted to interview me and that sort of thing. And so I, once I met Larry Tajiri and then met Mike, and Hito Okada and some of the others.

FA: When you finally got to meet Mike --

BK: And so they were the so-called pro-JACLers, or the JACL kingpins. [Laughs]

FA: Were you a member of JACL?

BK: I wasn't until I got to running around a little bit with Mike, that's when I finally joined. And I don't even remember what chapter I joined. Just as a member at large, I guess.

FA: When you say "running around with Mike," what did you and Mike do together?

BK: Well, Mike was pretty active after the war, of course, with JACL. I think he was still executive secretary, I believe. And so he took me around to a lot of these communities and had me speak to 'em and that sort of thing to try to increase their membership.

FA: What kind of man was Mike Masaoka?

BK: Well, I think pretty much like my wife said. He was, intellectually he was pretty sharp.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

FA: Did you keep your membership in JACL?

BK: No. I haven't been in membership in JACL for quite a few years now. In fact, I've been pretty much been living in seclusion. I really had to think twice about agreeing on this... I said when the Nebraska thing was in 1991 I said that's my last hurrah. Kind of bothers me 'cause I felt that I fought my heart out to prove myself and everything and I get criticized by the resisters and some of the Issei. I see stories where they call me inu, a dog, baka, a fool, and those things. It really hurts, you know. What hurt, what hurt me the most, I guess that the resisters said that I didn't know what I was fighting for. And kind of reminds me of an old saying that we had, on the way to the bombing target we were flying for Uncle Sam. So the minute we dropped the bombs and we turned around, we were flying for ourselves. All we wanted to do was get back to base, live another day. And, so I was just kind of staying out of the limelight. Couple of years ago I guess or maybe a little more than that, they asked me to speak to the board meeting of the 442nd regiment. And I turned them down. I said, you know, because for my personal reasons. They were quite offended 'cause I didn't, that I did turn them down, but it's not that I had anything against the 442nd. I think they were the greatest thing that happened to the Japanese Americans. And I'm real proud, considering that they had to go to war under such adverse conditions that I deeply respect them but I just, I'm going to try to get out of the limelight. I don't want to be criticized anymore for what I've done or said so many years ago.

FC: You wrote a letter to the LA Times after redress, thanking the 442nd for redress.

BK: Oh yes, I've mentioned, in every speech I've mentioned or given I always talk about what injustice the evacuation was, and yet some of the resisters say that I don't know what I was fighting for and that I never even mentioned once about the evacuation. And that's not so; I've certainly spoken out in their behalf on many, many occasions. And in fact, you know, my speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Dr. Deutsche wrote to me while I was in combat in the Pacific and he says, you know, he says that was the turning point in the attitude toward Japanese on the West Coast, that my speech turned it around. And so I feel that I've, I've done the best job that I know how and I had my opinions on some things that don't jive with other people but basically that's why I've been pretty quiet lately.

FA: Then why then did you agree to be interviewed today?

BK: Because the very thing that bothered me about some of the resisters were calling me names and saying that I didn't know what I was fighting for. I wanted just one little chance to just say that it's not necessarily so.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

FA: Does service, do you think that service in the military equals in any way restoration of Japanese American civil rights...

FC: Why did you thank the 442nd for redress?

BK: Yeah. Well, I think that the legislation before Congress would have never got to first base unless it was for the record, the splendid record of the 442nd and the Military Intelligence people in the Pacific. It's because of their record that Congress voted the national apology and the reparations. And I think, you know, that's why I felt that. I mean, I don't think there was any other group or anybody else who could have gotten that through Congress unless it was for the record of the 442nd. 'Cause they just did a tremendous job, winning all the Presidential citations and all and under the adverse conditions that they had to go through it.

FA: One of the things we keep throwing around between ourselves was that the 442nd was a good public relations move, but it did not address directly the issue of Japanese American civil rights, or citizenship rights.

BK: Well, that's true. I mean, but that's another battle. Seems to me that both of them are about the same thing in the long run but yet they're separate. Separate fights and separate things. And now they're still doing their thing so... you're helping them. [Laughs]

FA: We'll help tell your story, too.

BK: I was really surprised when you said that you were going to use both sides, the other side, too.

FA: Oh really?

BK: Yeah, I really was. I thought you were going to just do the one thing for them, which was all right, didn't matter to me.

Male voice: If you, if your farm had been taken away at the same time, could you ever think, could you have put yourself in a resister's position? If the family farm had been taken in Nebraska? I'm curious --

BK: Yeah, I've been asked that question before and you don't know how you're gonna react.

Male voice: Yeah, but that farm was important to you.

BK: Well, sure. The life savings, and people worked all their lives and it wasn't right, it was a mistake. I don't know, if I was in their shoes I might have acted just like they did. And then again I may not have. I would never know.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

FA: Do you feel the government used you?

BK: What?

FA: Do you feel the government used you when they sent you on the tour of the camps?

BK: Well, that all depends on how you look at it, I guess.

FA: Were you a pawn? Used as a pawn by the government?

BK: [Laughs] You're always a pawn when you're in the army. You do what they tell you and you like it. But the thing that I thought was most important about it was that they did not tell me what to say or what to do. They did not give me any instructions other than to, just to catch the bus here, and go there and then come back. And I think that there has been a misunderstanding on that. And there was quite a sense of feeling that the JACL was behind my thing, too. And I had nothing to do with the JACL at that time and I hardly knew what they even stood for outside of seeing Mike Masaoka on that day for a couple hours.

FC: The meeting at the church, was this meeting right after the church service or before the church service?

BK: It was during the church service. I was asked to speak during the church service. It was quite an experience, too. Until the war I wasn't that much of a religious man but boy, once you see that anti-aircraft shell bursting all around you, you know, God, every time it exploded there was black smoke and there were times you get out there it was so heavy you could walk on that stuff. And terrified, you sit there with two fifty-caliber machine guns and you're just helpless; you can't do a damn thing. You can't fight back cause those anti-aircraft shells, those 88mm German shells are coming up there in the tons. [Imitates noise of explosions] You feel the plane move this way and that and you sit there and go, "Oh God, let's get the hell out of here." Oh man, I'm telling you... oh, I don't know how I ever made it. I had a good pilot. And they said, "God is your co-pilot." Well, I had a heck of a good co-pilot, too.

FC: Are you satisfied, did you prove yourself? Are you satisfied?

BK: Yes, I'm satisfied and like I said, I think I was really vindicated when the state of Nebraska invited me back to be guest of honor on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. And if you'd ask me today, would I do it again, I'd say, "You're damn right." Without a moment's hesitation I'd do the whole thing again. But I think it's because of the state of Nebraska and the way I was brought up that made a lot of difference.

FA: Thank you.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.