For well over two years I have been presenting articles about Medal of Honor recipients. Today’s Medal of Honor recipient is the last of the 32 who are in their final resting place, The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as Punchbowl to the locals.
In September of this year this National Shrine will host the largest ever gathering of living Medal of Honor recipients. As time marches on their numbers shrink. What the enemy couldn’t do, age and time is doing.
From its inception during the Civil War and through the Spanish-American War (1898), the Honor Roll of Medal Of Honor recipients reflected a wide diversity of American soldiers, from low ranking privates to top generals. Ethnic and cultural diversity was also reflected, the award going to Native Americans, Buffalo Soldiers, Hispanic Americans, Jewish heroes, and foreign immigrants. Awards of the Medal of Honor during the Korean and Vietnam Wars reflected a similar cross-section of America. Of the more than 500 Medals of Honor awarded during World War I and II, however, the same could not be said. Though Hispanic and Native Americans had received the award during the two World Wars, not a single Black American, one Filipino, and only one Japanese-American soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor.
This initially prompted a review of World War I Distinguished Service Cross awards to Black American soldiers. On April 24, 1991 President George Bush presented the Medal of Honor to the sisters of Corporal Freddie Stowers, a young Black soldier killed in action during World War I. His actions had been deemed of sufficient valor to merit our Nation’s highest award. A similar review of Black American soldiers awarded the DSC in World War II followed and, on January 13, 1997, President Clinton presented Medals of Honor to seven Black heroes of World War II. Six of the awards were posthumous awards accepted by surviving family members. Of the seven, only Vernon Baker had survived both the war and the interval of years, to personally receive his Medal.
Unlike America’s Black veterans of the two World Wars, the Japanese-Americans could claim one Medal of Honor during the period, the award presented to Sadao Munemori. (Even Munemori had initially been awarded the DSC, but Utah Senator Albert Thomas had pushed for its upgrade to the Medal of Honor shortly after the end of World War II.)
In view of the impressive record of the Nisei in World War II and particularly the incredible accomplishments of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442d Regimental Combat Team, it was generally believed that there should have been more.
In 1996 Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka sponsored legislation ordering the re-evaluation of World War II awards to Japanese-Americans, and other Asian/Pacific Islanders who fought in both theaters. On June 21, 2000 President Clinton awarded 22 Medals of Honor as a result of this action.
Robert Toshio Kuroda was born in Aiae, Hawaii. Working as an electrician before the war, Kuroda joined the Army in March 1943. On October 20, 1944, Kuroda was serving as a staff sergeant in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Bruyères, France, he single-handedly attacked two enemy machine gun emplacements before being killed by a sniper. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Army’s second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross. A 1990s review of service records for Asian Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II led to Kuroda’s award being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, his surviving family was presented with his Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, all but seven of them posthumously.
Staff Sergeant Robert T. Kuroda, aged 21 at his death, is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii in section D site 92.
Medal of Honor citation
Staff Sergeant Kuroda’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:
Staff Sergeant Robert T. Kuroda distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action, on 20 October 1944, near Bruyeres, France. Leading his men in an advance to destroy snipers and machine gun nests, Staff Sergeant Kuroda encountered heavy fire from enemy soldiers occupying a heavily wooded slope. Unable to pinpoint the hostile machine gun, he boldly made his way through heavy fire to the crest of the ridge. Once he located the machine gun, Staff Sergeant Kuroda advanced to a point within ten yards of the nest and killed three enemy gunners with grenades. He then fired clip after clip of rifle ammunition, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy. As he expended the last of his ammunition, he observed that an American officer had been struck by a burst of fire from a hostile machine gun located on an adjacent hill. Rushing to the officer’s assistance, he found that the officer had been killed. Picking up the officer’s submachine gun, Staff Sergeant Kuroda advanced through continuous fire toward a second machine gun emplacement and destroyed the position. As he turned to fire upon additional enemy soldiers, he was killed by a sniper. Staff Sergeant Kuroda’s courageous actions and indomitable fighting spirit ensured the destruction of enemy resistance in the sector. Staff Sergeant Kuroda’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army
Much of the information in this article was gleaned from various articles in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.