Following are 1945 words of the son of a Nebraska farmer, a young man who served in the World War II Pacific Theater of Operations, with a bombing crew that flew many missions over Tokyo, capital of the Empire of Japan.
“Not only did I go to war to fight the Fascist ideas of Germany and Japan, but also to fight against a very few Americans who fail to understand the principles of freedom and equality upon which this society was founded.
“I’m no authority, I’m not an expert or a big wheel. I don’t know anything that any boy from Nebraska couldn’t tell you. Bit I know this: I fought with a lot of men in this war, all kinds — a Polish gunner, a Jewish engineer, a German bombardier and even a full-blooded Dakota Indian.
“I saw men wounded and whatever land their grandfathers had come from, their was always the same color. And whetever church they went to, the screams of pain sounded just about the same.”
“I’ve had 51 bombing missions now, and I’m sill tired enough so my hands shake, and plenty of nights, I don’t sleep so good. I’d like to go home to Nebraska and forget the war, and just lie under a tree somewhere and take it easy. It’s hard to realize that he war is not over for me.
“Not for a lot of us. Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, Indian Americans, Negro Amricans, Japanese Americans. While there is still hatred and prejudice, our fight goes on. Back in Nebraska on our farm, when I planted a seed, I knew that after a while I’d get a crop.
“That’s the way it was with a lot of us in this war: we went to plant the seeds to bring in a crop of decency and peace for our families and our children.
“Back in high school in Nebraska, one of the things hey taught me was that America is a land where it isn’t race or religion that makes free men. That’s why I went to Tokyo, I went to fight for my country, where freedom isn’t color, but a way of life, and all men are created equal until they prove otherwise.
“That’s an idea we have in Hershey, Nebraska, just down the highway from Cozad, which is near North Platte.”
The young man’s name? Ben Kuroki. A Nisei — American-born to Japanese parents who were part of a family that sought a better life in the U.S. Japanese Americans in the Midwest mostly escaped the internment camps endured by West-Coat dwelling Nisei and Issei (Japanes-born who’d immigrated to America).
But few Japanese Americans escaped prejudice and hatred in America.
America’s WW II enemies included Germany and Italy, but German Americans and Italian Americans were not interned. Some may have felt prejudice and a modicum of violence — due to pre-war activities of U.S.-based German American organizations which supported the Nazi movement — but their businesses and home weren’t taken from them ... they looked like “the rest of us.”
German and Italians in the U.S. military were always officers. Not so those with Japanese or African heritage. Until fairly recently, they served under “white” officers. That, at least, has changed.
Ben Kuroki served in the air where his companions knew he was an American, so he could serve in actions against Japan. Japanese-American ground troops were sent to the European Theater of Operations to avoid the danger of mistaken identity.
Their “different” appearances caused danger in the Pacific Theater and grief at home. And regardless of where or how well their ancestors served the United States, the descendants of people like Ben Kuroki and many of his comrades in arms are still fighting race/religion prejudice and danger in the U.S., and who’s “fighting” for their freedom?
No, our military is sent to guard against hungry, tired children looking for a little love. And all I can do is complain about it. I feel like a useless old woman.