Citation
Sergeant Ben Kuroki's Speech

Material Information

Title:
Sergeant Ben Kuroki's Speech
Alternate Title:
Sgt. Ben Kuroki's Speech
Creator:
Ben Kuroki
Place of Publication:
San Francisco, California
Publisher:
Unknown
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
7 (seven) loose one-sided typewritten legal size sheets

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Amache

Notes

General Note:
Kathy Odum Collection

Record Information

Source Institution:
|Auraria Library
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text
Following is the speech given by
Sergeant Ben-Kuroki of the Unite-d States
Army Air Force at a meeting of the Com-
monwealth Club, San Francisco, Califor-
nia, on February 4, 1944*
I want to thank you gentlemen, es-
pecially Mr* Drutsch and Mri Ward, for
inviting me to speak to you today. This
is a great honor, and 1 really'appre-
ciate'it* I just hope that I won11 dis-
appoint you. People who are going to
make speeches usually start out by say-
ing that they dont know how to, but
in my ease its really true* A sol-
di cr's job is to fight, not talk, but
1*11 do the best I can*
Ive spent most of my life in Her-
shey, Nebraska, which isn!t where they
make Her shey candy bars. Her shey is
so small that probably none of you has
ever heard of it. Before the war the
population was about 500; now I guess
it s about 300.
I didn!t even .live in Hersheyf my
father had a farm a mile north of town.
I remember the farmers used to go to
town eveSaturday night and st aid in
groups on the street corners talking
about their cows and horses* W o ve
lived on that farm since 1928, and af-
ter- I finished high school I helped my
father work it until the. war came- along.'
The last two years are what. really
matter, though, and maybe I can toll,
you something about them, even if I
dont know much about making speeches.
Thats one tiling the Army didnt'teach
me, though'- it taught me a, lot of other
things, and the experience I went through
as a result of being, in the Army taught
me oven more.
I learned more about democracy, for
one thing, than youll find in all the
books, because I saw it in action. When
you live with men under combat condi-
tions for 15 months, you begin to un-
derstand what brotherhood, equality t
tolerance, and unselfishness really
mean. Theyre no longer just words#
Under fire, a mans ancestry, what
he did before the war, or even his pre-
sent rank, dont matter at all. Youre
fighting as a tramthats the only way
a bombe r orcw can f i ghtyoure f ight-
ing for each others life and for'your
country, .and whether you realise it'at
the time or not, your living and
proving democracy.
Something happened on myKfirst mis-
sion that.might give you an idea of what
I moan. We were in a flak 2onethe
anti-aircraft was terribly accurate-
and we had a flock of fighters attack-
ing us.
A shell burst right above the tail,
and flak poured down. Our tail gunner
was a young kid named Pawley, from New
Jersey. The piece that got him was so
big lt tore a four-inch hole through a
quarter of an inch of aluminum and dou-
ble-welded steel. It caught him just
above the ear. It went through his fur
helmet, and in so far coelant even
see it wivn we got to him,
.I was firing .the right wnisT gin on
our Liberator that day. All of a sud-
den I heard him yell over the inter-
phone! Im hit in the head, let1 s get
the hell out of herrj
We couldnt leave the guns until
wed shaken the M<"sse r schmi'its that were
'after, usit would have, been suicide-
bub in a few minutes the tunnel gunner
and I were able to get back to the tail.
We pulled tawley back into the fuse-
lage-, so that we could work 0:1him and
at the same time' watch out for mere
fighters. Then we. to0k off our fur
Jackets and covered him up, It was a-
bout 10 below zero and we were about
freezing to death.
Hr ms in terrible shape*' I cant
even begin to describe the look 'of pain
on his face. He was semi-conscious,
but he couldnt open his mouth to speak.
Hie lips seemed to' be parched, as though
he were dying bf thirst. Wc couldnt
understand how he was still alive,
I called the radio op*rator, because'
hes the one who is supposei to admin-
ister first aid on a Liberator, but in-
stead the' co-pilot,a first lieutena nt,
came back. Hr was going to give Itewl-y
a.morphine injection* but I stopped him,
Theyd- taught us in gunnery school not
to give jjiorphino for hr ad injuries; it
might kill the man instantly. The co-
pilot had either forgotten or was so
excited he could think only of stopping
the pain, *
Anyway, I mo 11 one d to him-we eouldn t
hear each other above the. roar of the
motorsI pointed to my head and' shook
it* The co-pilot evident!^ understood,
because he didnt give Pawley the mor-
phine*. __
That tail gunner lived to fly and.
fight again, and the last I heard he had
completed his fyour of duty. Whether
or not I was instrumental in saving his
life by stopping that morphine ; injec-
tion isnt importantit wans just that
we had to work together regardless- of
rank or ancestry, ,
The tunnel gunner that helped me with
hMwwas Jewish, Im-a Japanese American,
the-bombardier of our crew was "a'German,
the loft waist gunner was an Irishman.
Later I flew with an American Indian
pilot" and-a Polish tunnel gunner,'- What
difference did it make? We had a jot-
to do* and we did it with a kind,.of
comradeship that was the finest 'thing;
in the world#
That first mission-was over Bizertr*
it was the 18th of December* 1942, and
wed just arrived in French North Africa
from England two lays before. When I
say we I! m talking about the outfit
1 was serving with; it wab Brig, Gen,
Ted Timber lake s lab orator bomber group,
which everybody over there called Teds
Traveling Circus.because"it got around
so much it kept German military intel-
ligence guessing* trying to figure out
where it was-from week to week.


It was a funny thingIrd just been
assigned, to a crew the day before we
left England, although the grouo had
been based there for about four months.
I*d finished gunnery school more than
a month before, and ever since I1d been
trying to get assigned to a crew. It
wasnt easy: I'd talk to the allot when-
ever I knew there was going to bean
opening in a and each pilot would
assign me temporarily and then replace
me when the time came for permanent
assignment.
I understood well enough how they
felt;' and they knew I was as good as
any men they did assign, but still they
were uneas|r. But I wanted to get into
combat more than anything in the world,
so I kept after it*
In fact, it had been one continual
struggle from the beginning of my Army
career, and I felt that I had done pret-
ty well to get overseas and to gunnery
school*
Two days after Pearl Harbor, ny broth-
er Fred and .I drove 150 miles to Grand
Island, Nebraska, to enlist in the Army
Air Forces. We were held up "for nearly
a- month because of all the c on£u-
si on and mi sunder s tending in Army
camps at that time. For the first
time in our- lives we found out what
prejudice wa.s*
I began to r eali ze right then that
I had a couple of strikes on me to
begin with, and that I was going to
be fighting two battles instead of
one against the Axis and against in-
tolerance among my fellow Americans*
Finally, after two mere trips to
Grand Island nd three telephone calls,
Fred and 1 were accepted at the re-
cruiting station at North Platte, and
sent to S he pp erd Field, Texas, for
basic training.
There was so much prejudice among
the recruits there,, that I wondered
if it would alwaya be like that? if
I wo u Id ever be able to overcome it*
Even now I would rather go through
my bombing missions again than face
that kind of prejudice.
My kid brother Fred could hardly
stand It* He1 d* come back to the bar-
racks at night and bury his head in
his pillow and actually cry* We were
not only away from home for the first
time; but because of this di scrimi-
nation, we were the loneliest two sol-
diers in the Army*.
After basic I was sent to clerical
school at Fort Logan, Colorado, and
then to Barksdale Field near Shreve-
port, Louisiana, for permanent assign-
ment. Of the 40 clerks sent to Barks-
dale, I was the las tone assigned#
I spent ab out a month at Barksdale,
most of it on K* P. You ve all ,he&rd
the Air Forces1 motto, tfKeep 1 Em Fly-
ingn; they called mo nXeep Em Peel-
ing1T Kuroki in those days.
The most discouraging thing about
that was the fact that I had no as-
surance that I ever would be assigned.
About the only thing that kept me go-
ing were the wonderful letters of en-
couragement I received from home. My
sister would write me that I had to
realize that Americans were shookfed
by Pearl Harbor, arid that many of them
were unabl e to di s tinguish b e*t w e e n
Japanese -and Americans of Ja pane s e
descent. I still w^s withotit a friend
in the Army, though, and that mape it
bad. 4 There was only one boy who was
kind to me at allhe used to* get my
mail for me when I was on E.P. and
couldnTt get away.
I- was finally assigned to squadron
in General Timberlake?s bomber group,
which had been formed at Barksdale and
was ready to move to Fort Myers, Flor-
ida for final training, A few days
before we were to leave, the commanding
officer of my squadron called me in and
told me I wasn* t going; and that I was
to be^ transferred.to another outfit*
That was about the worst news I had
ever heard* I asked him why, and he
said that he had nothing to do with it*
He started asking me questions then-
how I like the Army, and so forth* I
told him pretty bluntly about the pre-
judice I was encountering, and that I
didn11 even go into town because I
couldn11 enjoy a minute of it when I
did. He seemed sympathetic enough, but
he said there was nothing he could do
to stop my being transferred,
But, my words must have had some ef-
fect, because the dry before the group
left, he called me back and told me- to
pack my bags, that I was going with than.
At Fort Myers I did clerical work
for about three months. I gradually
began .to win over some of the soldiers,
and the boy who used to get my mail for
me at Barksdale became a good friend of
mine* We were in a truck accident one
day, and I was able to help him* After
that we were inseparable*
When the group had finished train-
ing and was .ready to go overseas, I was
given orders, as I had been at Barks-
dale, transferring me out of my squad-
ron* This was even worse than the time
at Barksdale, because I really wanted
to go overseas and had been counting on
it for three months.
General Timber lake-he was then a
colonelwas already up North with the
air echelon of the group, so I couldn1't
see' him* I went to see the sauadron
adjutant and begged him, with tears
streaming down my face, to take me a-
long, He said there wa.s nothing he
could do about it, that it wasrJ1 be-
*causp I was of Japanese descent. But
he did agree to talk it over with the
group adjutant, and in about an. hour
he came back with the good news that I
would remain with the outfit* I was
about the happiest guy in the world
just then*
We shipped North right after that
and- sailed from New York on the last- day
of August f 1942* Ours was the first
Liberator group sent to the European
theater* As soon as we &ad our base
set up in England*.I applied for combat
duty* I had to beg for that too, but
at least I was sent to gunner school.
It wasnft much schoolingabout a
week, I guessa lot different from the


wav' it is now, when every crew member
rv,oes to school for months in this coun-
try I really learned to shoot the hard
way, in combat*
As a result of the recommendations,
of the armament officer, I was accepted
on Major J. B. Botin-'s crew as an aux-
iliary member; we were to got out on a
raid the next day, but it.was cancelled
because of the weather* About a week
later I was permanently assigned to his
crew* The next day we flew to Africa
and my tour of duty began. Once again
Id received a break,just in the nick
of time.
Fe were glad to get away from the
cold'"? fog rain, and mud' of England,
Boy, Africa seemed like heaven for the
first two daysi It~ wds" dryland warm
and the sun was shining* It was inter-
esting, too, at first. I met my first
live Arab, The Arabs used to coaeout.
to -.the base padcLling tangerines and or-
anges and egy s, foods we ha&nrt seen
for months in England. I rememberin
London they were asking t 18 shillings
about $3,f>0~~for a pound of grapes; one
of our boys even asked the vender if
they had golden seeds in them.,
. One of our gunners made a deal with
an Arab--a filthy barefoot old man
dressed in something that looked like
grandma1 s nightgown. The gunner told,
him he wen la trade the plane for six
eggs delivered every day for six months.
So every day the Arab would bring him
six eggs. Then he would go over to the
plane and pat it and smile, thinking of
the day when it would be his. Fe won-
dered what he thought when we took off
one day and didnt come back,
After the second night in Africa we
werent so sure it;was an improvement
on England. It started to rain and kept
on raining until we finally couldn t
operate at all. We had no tents or bar-
racks or any place to sleep Sower f.
the boys slept under the plane until
it got too muddy, I picked the flight
deck inside for myself, but gave it up
so that Major Spting could sleep there*
I- slept in the top turret.
If you have any idea of the sice of
a top turret on a Liberator, you can
imagine how confortable I was. I had
to sit up, and all night I would bump
into switches which would snap on and
wake me up. One night' of that w as
enough for me.
Eed left England in such a hurry
that we didnt have mess kits. All- the
time we '"ere ip 'French North Africa we
ate our canned hash and hardtack out
of sardine cans.
And the., mud- -X ve ntr-ver seen such
gooey muck. Our group flew about- three
or four missions from that base and then
the planes couldnt even et off the
ground. Theyd, start to take off and
sink into the mud all the way up the-
belly, and then v.y'a have to unload "the'
bombs, diw and ship out reload and try
again, It was a mess. After about 18
days we, ave up and moved out of there*
From French North Africa we went to
the Libyan desert* near Tobruk, not long
after the Germans had su tendered it,
Tobruk was the most desolate place I
have ever seen: it was full of abandoned
tanks and- guns and broken buildings, '
Only a church had escaped complete des-
truction, and no living person dwelt in'
that city.
But as -far as we were concerned,
were glad to get out of our mud-hoid irf
North Africa, but not for Ion-", Fe ;-were
in Libya three months. In all that
time, we were able to take a bath only
once, and that was when we were given
leave to fly to an Egyptian city for
that specific purpose. That was th$
only time' we shaved, too} we must huvl
looked like a convention of Hip fan
Winkles before we left,
There were no laundry facilities;
we were allowed only a pint of water a
day for everything, This water we drew
from a well* which we had abandon after
a while when we found some dead. Germans-
in; it.
We were at least 300 miles from any
town, excepting the dead city of Tobruk,
We had no entertainment of any-kin 1
out there on the desert; when we werent;
on raids vfe just lay around in our
tents, or took walks in the desert*
The most dismal Christmas eve of try
life I spent on the Libyan desert. It
was cold, and we didnt even have tents
to sleep under*' We slept in our clothes
and didnt even take off our shoes ,
Our morales was certainly low that
night, as we thought of the fun we
could have in the States, and of our
families and friends back there. But
its, things- like that, as well as ack
tually fighting / together, that brimg
men close to one another, as close as
brothers.
Our group ...was' going on raids about
everv- other day while we wore in the
desert, and they were all pretty rough*
We bombed Rommels shipping, lines- over
and over at Bizerte, T u# i s 8fax,
Soufse* and Tripoli in Africa* Then
we started in on Sicily and Italy*
We had some boys of Italian paren-*
tage flying with us, and whenever we
took off to bomb Naples and Home Id
kid them about bombing their honorable
ancestors, We*re really going to make
the spaghetti fly today, Id say, and
theyd retort that they couldnt wait
to knock" the rice out of my dishonor-
able ancestors,
Naples was always a rough target.
It was the flak city of the Italian
theater. The flak burst so thick and
black, you couldnt even see the planes
a hundred yards behind you* Yet our
raids over there were called spectac-
alar examples of presicison bombing*
We participated in %the first Amer-
ican raid on Rome last July, It was
the biggest surprise Ir we thought we were going to run into.
heav^ opposition, and we were almost
disap.ooiilted when we found hardly any,
*re bombed Sicily and- Southern Italy
at altitudes of about 25,000 feet, and
it .really gets cold, at that height.
One time ov^r Palermo it was 48 below
zero, I froze two oxygen tanks; after
that I had to suck on the hose to get


any oxygen.
Even at that height we could see
our tombs breaking exactly on their
targets and as much as an hour after
we had left the target- could see
the smoke rising from the fires .we
had caused.
It gave you a funny feeling* you
couldn't help hut think of the people
being hurt down there, I wasn't par-
ticularly religious before the war, but
I always said prayer, and I know for
sure that my pal, Bettering, the radio
operator, did too, for the innocent peo-
ple who- were destroyed*" on raids like
that, f
But we '-ere in no position to be sen-
timental about 4it, The ^people knew they
were in danger, and they could have
and they wouldn't let us near the plane,
Be had no idea where we were but in
a few minutes, a Spanish officer came up
and. arrested us, and we found out that
we had landed in Spanish Morocco, The
officer marched all of us, our crew and
the Arabs, into a-native village about
two miles away. The procession we made
caused more excitement, I guess, than
that villa e had had in its entire his-
tory.
The natives all thought .1 was Chi-
nese, but Kettering, our radio operator
explained to the Spanish soldiers' that
I was Japanese' Americaru. That created
quite a stir when it got around. Most
of the people, both Spanish and Arabs,
flatly refused no believe it, and la-
gotten out. Besides, we weren't fight-
ing against individual people, but a-
gainst ideas. It was Hitlerism or demo-
cracy \ and we couldn't afford to let.it
be Hitlerism, And so, unfortunately,
it'was Qermans arid Italian li'wr or ours.
That was the only way you could look
at it.
It; was a happy day when after three
months of Libya, we received orders to
return to England, He took off from
Tobruk at midnight, There 'gas no for-
mation; the planes left at two-minute
intervals, and each was on its own.
The next morning, instead of seeing
daylight, we looked out over a blanket
of clouds without any opening, ¥e had
had' to go up to about 10,COO feet to
get over the clouds, and .now we couldnt
go under them for fear of crashing into
mountains.
We were lost. The navigator could
|o nothing,, and the radio operator,
though he was working like mad, couldn't
get his messages through because of the
weather, finally he got a message, but
by that time we didn't have enough/gas
t:D get to the air field that had answer-
ed us.
(d already been up 11 hours
and BO minutes with a 10-hours! supply .
of gM* We expected to 'go down any
minute, v
The pilot called back that anyone
who wanted to bail out could do so.
Nobody did; I know I had so much faith ,
in Major Eating's flying ability that
I wouldn't lhavo until he did. All of a
sudden, and it seemed like a miracle to
us who were tensely waiting for th#
crash; there was a tiny rift in t he
clouds. Epting didn't wait one'second;
he just dove -''right into it and mad a
perfect landing in a valley that wasnt
big enouvh to land a "cub in safely,
We had just gotten out- of the plane
when a swarm of Arabs surrounded ns.
There must have been a hundred of them,
and they were armed with rifles, spears
and some with clubs. When we saw them
coming we debated whether we shoul d
shoot at them or try to ta"k to them.
We decided to talk to them* but we couLch't
understand them and they couldn't under-
stand us.
They didn't hurt us, but they cer-
tainly weren't friendly* They took ev-
erything away from us.guns wallets,
and everything we had in our pockets
ter it took the -American embassy to prove
it to them.
In a few days we were flown to Spain
in a German plane., rand interned in a
mountain. viilare* fe thought we'd be
there for the duration, .but within two
months, through methods I can't reveal,
we were In England,. p
from England we bombed targets in
Germany and began preparations for the
raid on the Roumanian- oil field at
Ploesti, preparations thatjwere to last
three months and take us back to the
Libyan desert, In England our group-
practice- low-level bombing. We. prac-
tice-bombed our own airfields, each
place having its own specific target.
That 'way our bombardiers mot accustomed
to finding tarrets at low altitude.
After nearly a month in England we
returned to Africa, This time our base
was set up near the city of Bengasi in
Libya, Here we had a complete dumpy
target of what we later learned ere the
Ploesti refineries.
Up to this time I had been a tail
gunner, but now I seas assigned to the
top turret, the position I held through-
put the rest of my missions,, To cele-
brate the event. 'Kettering painted in
big red letters across the glass dome
of the turret these, words \ nTcp Turre t
Gunner Most Honorable Son Sgt0 Ben Ku-
jjokiU? "Most Honorable Son" was what
they usually called rae~-that or ^Hara-
kiri," They were a great bunch over
there.
Every day 'that we -weren't on mis-
sions, 175 Liberators loaded with prac-
tice bombs would take off in groups at
regular intervals and bomb duplicates
of the real target. On these practice
raids, each group,rather than each plane
had its specific target, so that it was
.really a dress rehearsal of the actual
raid. Some of the planes flew so low
that they came back with their bomb-bay
doors torn off. And we sure scared the
daylights- out- of the natives; we 'had
to dodge groups of Arabs and their cam-
els all over that desert.
Despite the heat '-?e had to do double
vrork, because we had only a skeleton
ground crew-our real base was still
in England. Wpfd go upinto 10 to 20-
below*.zero temperatures and then came
back into 110-above heat* H was no
won,dex* that a lot of the .boys came down
*"i'th colds,



.We hr.4 fearer sandstorms end they
didn't last as long as when we had been
stationed near Tobruk. What really wor-
ried us were the poisonous s&ndviper'-
snakes and scorpions. The s c orpions
especiallyoig two-inch long devils with
curving tails were thick as flies* Wed
find them in our blankets and everywhere
else,. If you get stung by one of them,
you really knew it; you'd he sick as.a
dog for at least a day*
: The month preceding the Ploesti raid
we were taking part in the invasion of
Sicily, bombing Messina, Palermo and
various airfields* Its unusual for
heavy bombers to bomb airfields, hut
we were assigned that job so that it
would he impossible for enemy fighter
planes +a take off from those fields
and strike our ground troops as they
landed*
During all our practice for Ploesti
we were intensely curious as to what
our target, was going to he* Rumors
of all kinds were floating around, hut
no one thought it would he plosesti be-
cause no one could imagine how we could
carry enough gas to get there and hack*
Our base was guarded by British anti-
aircraft gunners, arid we used to nsk^
them what they thought about our flying
so low. They said it was an advantage
from the point of view of escaping the
heavy anti-aircraft fire, hut that we
would be dead ducks for anything small-
er than 4C millimeter caption, Right
then we began to think of the approach -
ing raid as a suicide mission,
The last week in July every crew
member in every group was restricted
to the base until after the mission,
but it was not until the day before we
left that we were told the target was
a Roumanian oil field. That was news all
right. You hardly ever hear of an oil
field being bombedthe only other one
I know of was in Burma. We were really
surprised* 'There had been a eonple^of
rumors that our target was to be Ploes-
ti, but nobody had put any stock in
them it seemed too improbable*
were briefed all that' day and
into the night. The American engineer
who had constructed. the! Ploesti refiner-
ies talked to us; he knew the exact lo-
cation to every refinery and every crack-
ing and distilling plant. The infor-
mation he gave us proved invaluable the
next day* They showed us motion pic-
tures which g-ve details of the indi-
vidual targets of each group.
In the afternoon Major General Bere-
ton, commanding general of the :Mnth
Air Force, came round in staff car and
talked to us for almost aiy hour, He
said we were going on the most import and
and one of the most dangerous missions
in the history of heavy bombardment,
that it had been planned in Washington
months before. He told us that Ploesti
supplied one-third of all Germany's o$l
^nd tier rly al 1 to f 11a 1 y 1 g, tha t i t was
time, furthermore, to cut Hitler's
fuel supply as his divisions rushed to
defend it against the coming Allied in-
v§,s|on.
When he finished, our group command

dernot General Timberlake, who had
just been promoted; from colonel and'was
now a wing commander.- hut the new group.
Commander--briefed ..us %gain, and went
into minute details 1 of -the takeoff the
next morhing. He tried to encourage us :
much as possible.
rf1111 get my damn ship over the tar-
get if it-falls .apart, he said*
He got his ship over the target all
right--we were -close behind him* Aiid
we saw it when it fell apart, flaming
to the" earth*
That afternoon "before the raid he
emphasised that nobody had to go who
d'i dn11 w^mt to; it was. really -n volun-
tary mission. Ho one declined, but we
were all very tense, .. Someone had men-
tioned that even if .all planes were
lost it would be worth the price, and
that started more talk about its being
a suicide mission*
We didnt sleep very much ,that night,
and there was none of the joking that
usually went on among our crew, We
tried hard to sleep, because we knew it
would be a long trio and we had to be
at our best, but you can imagine how
easy it was.
The first sergeant blew tthe whistle
at four in the morning. While we ate
breakfast the ground crews, who had
been working on the planes for the last
two' days, gave them a final checking
over. The s e pi nes wefe b a dutiful,
parked wing to wing in a long line on
the runway*
We toxk off at the crack of dawn*
It was a -perfect summer day, warm and
balmy* The lead plane of the group
'started- out, and the others followed
at precise intervals until finally the
whole group was in the sky in perfect
formation* Our group, joined other
groups from nearby fields at pre-arrang-
ed places. Jt was all split-second
timing.
We were keyed up* T?e knew it wpsf
going to be the biggest thing we had
ever done, and we were determined it
would be the best* It was the same
with the ground crews* they had always
taken great pride in the ships,, but this
time they had gone overboard to get
them in Per ect condition. They shared
our excitement and anxiety, too*
From Bengasi we flew straight over
the Mediterranean. It was very ^calm
and! blue that day* We were going along
at about '5,000 feet when suddenly we
saw one of the planes ahead ,take a,
straight nose-dive* It wents down like
a bullet, crashed In the water and ex-
ploded. For half a.n hour we could see
the smoke from it. It gave us a haunt-
ing feeling, as of approaching disaster-
-we could see that not a man on that
plane had a chance to escape*
A couple of hours after we left Ben-
gasi, we were crossing the mountains of
Italy, going up sometimes as high a.s
10,000 feet to get over them, Then the
AdfiT.tic and into Yugoslavia, through
Bulgaria, and across the Danube into
Roumania*
Over the Danube valley, in Roumania,
we went down to about 300 feet, so low


that vt. could easily sec people in the
streets of Roumanian towns waving at up-
as we- went over. They must have thought
we pere friendly bombers beeau,se we
were flying so low* Or maybe they re-
cognized the white star on our wings
and were glad that we were coming.
About 10 miles from the target,we
dropped to 50 feet, following contours
of the1 land, up over hills and dowi
the valleys. Our pilot would head
straight for those hills, and every
time I thought sure we'd crash right
into them, but he would pull us just
in time, and just enough' to get over
the pidge, and then down into the* next
valley. Coming back we were flying
part of the wav at five and 10 feet off
the ground, and some of the planes re-
turned to base with tree tops and even
cornstalks in their bomb-bays,
We had a very good pilot* He was
our squadron leader, Xt* Col, K. 0,
Dessert,, and his co-pilot was our re-
gular pilot, Major Dpting*
This was the 24th mission I had
flown with Major Bpting and the same
crew, except for Pawley, the tail gun-
ner who was hurt during our first raid*
Our ship was named in'Major.Bpting1s
honor; his home town is Tupelo, Missi-
ssippi, and so we called the plane "Tu-
pelo Lass."
The major, who ds 23 years old, is
one of the best pilots I've ever seen,
He pulled us out of a lot of tough spots
when we thought we neve gone.
And between Major Spting and Col,
Dessert they got us through Ploest i
without a scratch, but it was a miracle
that they did.
We came into the oil fields at about
50 feet and went up to about 75 to bomb,
The plane I ras on was leading the last
squadron of the second group, over, Five
miles from the target, heavy anti-air-
craft started pounding us. When we saw
the red flash of those 'guns we thought
we'd never make it. We really started
praying then, We figured that if they
started shooting at us with the big
guns at that distance, they would sure-
ly get us with smaller and more maneu-
verable batteries. We remembered the
British anti-aircraft men'vhohad said
we'd be dead ducks for .anything under
a 40 millimeter cannon. At our height
you could have brought a Liberator down
with a shotgun.
Ploesti was wrapped in a smoke screen
which made it very difficult to find
the targets. When we got over, the re-
fineries were already blazing fm. the
bombs and guns of the planes ahead of
us.
Bed tracers from the small ground
guns had been zig-zagging all around
us for half a mile or more, and the
guns themselves were sending up terri-
fic ba rages. Just as we hit the tar-
get, gas tanks started exploding, One
10,000 gallon tank blew up right in
front of us, shooting pillars of flam-
ing gas 500 feet in the air. It was
like a nightmare, We couldn't believe
our eyes when we saw that blazing tank
high above us. The pilot had to swerve
sharply1 to the right to avoid what was
really a cloud of fire* It was so hot
it felt as though we were flying through
a furnace.
The worst I saw, though, was' the.
plane to the right of us*. Light flak
must have hit the gafc, because all of
a sudden it was burning from one end
to the other. It sank right down, as
right down, as though no power on parth.
could hold it in the ai#*f
second* When it hit the ground it ex-
ploded*
Svery man on that ship was a friend
of mine, and I knew the position each
was flying. I2p seen planes, go down'
before, but always from a high altitude,
and they you don't see the crash, This
way it seemed I could reach out and*
touch those men.
The most pitiful thing was that
ship's co-pilot. He was an 18-year-old
kid who'd lied about his a^e to get in-
to aviation cadet training. We always
called him Junior, When our regular
co-pilot, who was firing the right waist
gun that day, saw Junior's ship go down,
he let loose with his gun like a crazy
man. Junior was his best friend.
Then we saw flak hit our group com-
mander's plane. In a second it was
burning frbm the bomb-bays backs, He
pulled it up as high as he could get
it; it was fantastic to see that blaz-
ing Liberator climbing, straight up*
As soon as he started climbing, one
man jumped out, and when he could get
it no higher*, two more came out* Evasi-
on* of us knew, he had pulled it Up
in order to give those men a chance*
Then, knowing he was done for, he de-
liberately dove it into the highes t .
building in Ploesti, The instant he
hit, his ship exploded.
left Ploesti a ruin, Huge clouds
of smoke and fire billowed "from the
ground as we pulled away from the tar-
get, It was like a war movie, seeing
those~ masses of flames rolling toward
you, and white flashes of 20-millimeter
cannon-fire bursting alongside of you.
We got back to cfcp 13 hours after
we had taken off, Tt Twas -the longest
bombing mission ever flown, and that
explains why it necessary to do it
at low altitude. If we had bombed at
the usual level, we would never have
had enough gas to get back.
It was also the most dangerous- mis-
sion in the history of heavy bombard-
ment, ranking as a. battle in itself*
It is officially regarded not as the
Ploesti raid but as "the battle of
Ploesti*"
' fhere was no line at the mess hall
that night, Bven though we were starved,
we couldn't eat when we thought of the
men that should have been standing in
line and weren't.
And even though we were^dead tired,
we couldn't sleep* I know I didnf t
sleep for several nights after that*
The ground crews kept the runwav lights
on all night, and many of them stayed
up until morning, though they knew the
planes they had worked so hard on and
their friends, the men who flew them,


werent coming back.
The next morning was rough, too.
He always got up at six o clock, and
there was always a lot of yelling hack
and forth between the tents--sometimes
wed throw rocks at each others tents*
The only yelling we heard that morning
was our co-pilot calling for his friend
Junior, although he had seen him go
down in flames the day before.
Ploesti was my 24th mission* For
most of the crew it was the 25th; in
other words, it completed their tour
of duty for them, I was assigned to
another crew for my last mission.
For a long time I had been thinking
about volunteering for an extra five
missions, I wanted, to do that for my
kid brother; he wasnt overseas then.
The day after my 25th, r asked my com-
manding officer if I could go on five
more. He said I should go home; in
fact, there were orders out already for
me to do so, and a plane ticket to the
States waiting for me. But he finally
gave me permission, and I stayed with
the crew I had flown with on what was
supposed to be my last raid.
It took me three months to get those
five missions in, the weather was so
bad. And then when I came home it was
by banana boat and not airplane. I was
sure burned up about that*
It was at this.time that I flew with
the only full-blocked American Indian
pilot in the European theater* every-
body called himMChief *r, but his name
was Homer Moran, and he was from South
Dakota, Four of those extra five, mis-
sions*! flew from England over Germany.
I nearly got it on the 30th mission,
my last one. He were over Munster, in
Germany, and a shell exploded right
above the glass dome of my top turret.
It smashed the dome., ripped by helmet
off smashed my goggles and interphone.
The concussion threw me back against
the seat, but I didnt get a scratch,
I thought the ship had blown apart, the
noise of that explosion was so loud,
I passed out, because my oxygen mask
had been torn off, but the radio opera-
tor and the engineer pulled me out of
the turret and fixed me up with an e~
mergency mask.
Things like-' that arent explained
just be luck. I must have had a guar-
dian angel flying with me that time
and on the other missions, too. They
say there are no atheists in foxholes; I
can tell you.for sure there are none in
heavy bombers either,
I left England the first of December,
They wanted me to Stay over there, with
my outfit, as chief clerk in operations,
but from, the beginning I have felt my
combat career would not be over until I
had faught in the South Pacific, so I
asked to come home for a brief rest and
then be assigned to a Liberator group in
the South Pacific, .
It was December 7, two years to the
day after Pearl Harbor, when our chip
reached New York, .1 thought I was&pretly*
tough sergeant,but when I saw the Statue
of Liberty and the sunlight catching those
tall buildings, I damn near cried, I
knew I.had come home, and I felt so lucky
to have gotten through all those bombing
missions without a scratch that i saidf
prayer of thankfulness as I leaned againc
the rail, I ;only gushed that all my bud
. dies could have come home, too,
I spoke earlier of having two bait*
to fightagainst the Axis and '
tolerance. They are re allcfi&hcT''
tie, I think, for we J
wap if our military--; follvu-
od ^v vctter understandi&B c^png peo-
ples,
I certainly dont propose to defend
Japan, When I visit Tokyo it will- bo in
a Liberator bomber, But I do believe that
loyal. Americans of Japanese decent a re-
entitled to the democratic rights which
Jefferson propounded, Washington fought
for, and Lincoln died for.
In my own case, I have almost won the
battle against intolerance; I have many
close friends, in the Army nowfcjf oest
friends, as I -am theirswhere two years
ago I had none. But I have by no means
completely won that battle, Especially
now,after the widespread publicity given
the recent atrocity stories, I-find pre-
judice once again directed against me,
and neither my uniform nor the medals
which are visible proof of what I have
been through, have been able to stop it,
I dont know for sure that is safe for
me to walk the street of my own country.
All this is disappointing, not so much
to me personally any more, but rather
with reference to my fight against intol-
erance* I had thought that after Plocsti
and 29 other missions so rough* it was just
short of a mi real e I got through them, I
wouldrit have a fight for acceptance among
my own people all over again.
In most cases, I dont, and to those
few. who help freed fascism in America by
spreading such prejudice, .1 can only re-
ply in the words cf the Japanese American
creeds ?f Although some individuals may
discriminate against me, I shall never
Veome bitter or lose faith, for I know
that such persons are not representative
of the majority of the American people,
The people who wrote that creed are
the thousands of Japanese Americans whom
certain groups want deported immediately.
These Japanese Americans have spent their
lives proving their loyalty to the United
States, as their sons and brothers are
proving it now on the bloody battlefield
of Italy, It is for them, in the solemn
hope that they will be treated justly
rather than with hysterical -passion, that
I speak today.