LINCOLN, Neb. — During the Second World War, U.S. Army Technical Sergeant Ben Kuroki flew 30 European missions aboard B-24s and 28 more in the Pacific on B-29s. But Sergeant Kuroki also waged a 59th mission against prejudice, bias and ignorance, struggling to be accepted in his own country—the United States of America.
MOST HONORABLE SON airing Monday, Sept. 17, at 9pm on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings), relates the story of this Nebraska-born Nisei (a first generation American of Japanese descent) who volunteered to fight the Axis powers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to demonstrate his loyalty to America. This moving story is told through rare and seldom-seen footage, as well as emotional recollections from Kuroki and his fellow airmen of the 8th and 20th Army Air Forces.
The hour-long documentary follows the personal odyssey of this first Japanese American war hero, from his enlistment and deployment to the European theater where, as an aerial gunner, Kuroki flew on missions out of North Africa, including the 1943 attack on the Nazi oil fields of Ploesti, Romania. When he returned to the United States, Kuroki faced discrimination from all sides. In San Francisco, he feared walking the streets, even in uniform. Then, sent to Japanese internment camps to recruit soldiers for the U.S. army, he was treated more as a traitor than a hero. He escaped by re-entering combat, this time flying missions in the Pacific, and ultimately on bombing runs of Japan itself.
While MOST HONORABLE SON culminates with the moving ceremony of Kuroki being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in August 2005, the issues that the program explores—such as the search for cultural identity, loyalty to country and a commitment to one's convictions—are still vital today. MOST HONORABLE SON is a production of KDN Films, Madison Heights, MI, and NET Television, Nebraska's PBS station, a service of NET. It is funded in part by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Center For Asian American Media.
Ben Kuroki, Subject of MOST HONORABLE SON
Ben Kuroki was the only American to fight the Axis powers in four major theaters during the Second World War. Born in 1917 to pre-World War I immigrant parents from Japan, he grew up in Nebraska where he was vice president of his high school senior class in the small town of Hershey, Neb. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Kuroki enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the military until the end of the war. Kuroki enrolled in the University of Nebraska's journalism school under the GI Bill and earned a B.A. degree. He owned and operated weekly newspapers in York, Neb., and Williamston, Mich. He also worked as a reporter for newspapers in Nebraska, Idaho and California. Kuroki was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in August 2005.
Bill Kubota, Director/Writer for MOST HONORABLE SON
Bill Kubota is a founding partner of KDN Videoworks in Detroit – the parent company of KDN Films. Considered one of the Midwest's most respected television news producers and video photographers, Kubota's work has appeared on such programs as NBC Dateline, ABC World News Tonight and PBS' Frontline series. He has received numerous awards for his television productions including the Detroit Press Club Award, the Michigan Associated Press Award, the Michigan UPI Award, the Radio Television News Directors Association Documentary Award and the ITVA Silver Reel. In 2002, KDN launched its first documentary project: the award winning Lustron – The House America's Been Waiting For.
Christine Lesiak, Executive Producer, NET Television, for MOST HONORABLE SON
Christine Lesiak is a Peabody Award-winning producer and writer specializing in historical documentaries. She wrote and produced Willa Cather – The Road is All which recently aired on the PBS series American Masters. Her American Experience documentary, Monkey Trial, about the 1925 clash between science and religion, won both the Writer's Guild Award and the George Foster Peabody Award in 2002. In the White Man's Image, about the 19th century attempt to assimilate Native Americans was nominated for a national Emmy. Lesiak's other PBS and American Experience programs include Around the World in 72 Days, Wild Horses – An American Romance and Fate of the Plains, a documentary about the history and future of America’s last frontier. Lesiak is executive producer for the documentary unit at NET Television, which produces original HD programming for local, national and international distribution.
Lane Nishikawa, Narrator for MOST HONORABLE SON
Actor, director, playwright and irrepressible wit, Lane Nishikawa was called "one of Asian America's most compelling voices" by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki. Born in Hawaii, raised in California and educated at San Francisco State University where he received a B.A. in Asian American Theater, Nishikawa served as Artistic Director for the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, Co-Artistic Director of the Eureka Theater and Resident Director for the prestigious San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Nishikawa has written and performed three one-man shows and three plays, as well as directing three films, including the feature length motion picture, Only the Brave. Nishikawa's works are recognized for exposing the stereotypes that shadow Asian Americans. For his work, Nishikawa has received a Solo Performance Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National J.A.C.L. Ruby Yoshino Schaar Playwright Award, the Henry and Chiyo Kuwahara Award from the J.A.C.L., the Japanese American Community Cultural Center Humanitarian Award and the George Nakashima Peace Award.
ITVS funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting www.itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
CONTACT: Larry L. Kubert, 402-472-9333, ext. 389, or e-mail at lkubert1@netNebraska.org