The Army's newest logistics support vessel, the Robert T. Kuroda, was launched in May at Pascagoula, Miss.

Honoring a war hero

A ship is named after isle
soldier Robert T. Kuroda,
killed in action in WWII

The Pacific Army Reserve's first logistics support vessel -- named after Army Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda -- will be berthed in February at Pearl Harbor, where the Medal of Honor recipient was denied a job after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack because he was Japanese.

Former state Sen. Joseph "Jumbo Joe" Kuroda said his brother, a 1940 Farrington High School graduate, had just qualified as an electrician from Honolulu Vocational School at the beginning of World War II. He applied for a job at Pearl Harbor, but was rejected because of his race and also was classified as an "enemy alien" by the national draft board.

"So he went to work for Aiea Plantation," Joe Kuroda said, but when the call finally went out for volunteers in 1943, Robert Kuroda responded, as did other members of his family.

Robert Kuroda was the sixth of seven sons of Toyoichi and Sekino Kuroda. He and his three brothers -- Ronald, Wallace and Joe -- all volunteered and wanted to fight in the war to prove their loyalty.

Robert T. Kuroda

"In February 1943, Robert asked his father to sign his volunteer enlistment paper when Americans of Japanese ancestry were finally permitted to serve our country," Joe Kuroda recalled recently. "Dad wouldn't sign, saying Robert already had a brother ready to enter combat. Robert turned to mother for help, and when mother asked, 'Why do you want to go so badly?' Robert answered, 'Because when I return from the war, Pearl Harbor Navy will have to hire me. I am an American.'"

Before he left for the war, Robert Kuroda had set aside one-third of his Army paychecks to pay for the education of the youngest brother, Joe, who would become a colonel in the Army Reserve, an educator and serve in the state Senate for 16 years.

Robert Kuroda was a staff sergeant with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team when he was killed in France on Oct. 20, 1944, by a sniper while trying to take out a German machine-gun nest near Bruyeres during the rescue of Texas' "Lost Battalion." He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest medal for valor just below the Medal of Honor.

Nearly six decades later, in June 2000, with the help of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, Robert Kuroda and 21 Asian Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony presided over by President Clinton.

Betty Hill, sister of Robert Kuroda, christened the vessel together with retired Gen. John G. Coburn, chairman and CEO of VT Systems, Inc., which built the ship.

Among the World War II heroes, 12 were from Hawaii -- five of whom still are living. Twenty of the honorees were members of the famed 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, including Hawaii senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Both military units were composed mainly of nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, and became the most highly decorated unit for their size in World War II.

At the White House, Ronald and Joe Kuroda accepted the Medal of Honor for their brother. Ronald Kuroda, who fought as a member of B Company, 100th Battalion, also was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In May, Joe Kuroda, his sister, Betty Hill, and other relatives attended the christening ceremony of the Kuroda, with Hill breaking the traditional bottle of champagne on the ship's bow. Also present were members of the Army Reserve's nearly year-old 548th Transportation Detachment, which will operate the boat.

The 314-foot support vessel Kuroda (LSV-7) will be the Army Reserve's 9th Regional Support Command's first ship and will be berthed on the Hickam Air Force Base side of Pearl Harbor at Bishop Point. It will join two other active-duty Army support vessels, Clinger and Gross, at new piers and facilities now under construction. There are now six support vessel in the Army's fleet, with three more being built or planned.

"The Kuroda significantly enhances the Army's capability to haul large quantities of cargo, equipment and vehicles to its forces throughout the world and in the Pacific theater in particular," said Brig. Gen. John Ma, commander of the 9th Regional Support Command.

The Kuroda is designed to carry 2,000 tons of cargo such as tanks, equipment, fuel and vehicles and can sail more than 6,500 nautical miles without refueling.

The Army says that because of its shallow draft, it is suited to conduct tactical resupply missions in remote and undeveloped coastlines and inland waterways with unimproved beaches.

Vicki Bowker, of the U.S. Army Transportation Center at Fort Eustis in Virginia, said support vessels like the Kuroda move equipment, supplies and soldiers from Navy vessels into non-hostile ports.

Kuroda's crew of eight warrant officers and 24 enlisted soldiers are all reservists.

The Kuroda was christened May 21 in Pascagoula, Miss., and was built by VT Halter Marine Inc. for the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM.

Brown said a crew of 14 reserve soldiers from Hawaii will help bring the Kuroda home, leaving Mississippi on Jan. 4. A parade ground at Fort DeRussy also is named after Robert Kuroda.

Speaking for his family at the May christening ceremony, Joe Kuroda said: "Five-feet-11-inch Robert Kuroda didn't make it back, but the USAV Robert T. Kuroda will be at Pearl Harbor to make his point."


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