Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family Rides Ship Named For Hawaii Hero

The family of a Hawai'i boy and World War II Army war hero got a little more of their sea legs yesterday, sailing on the logistics support vessel named for him — the Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda — after the 314-foot ship was recently placed into Army service. Kuroda, like the crew of the ship, LSV-7, was in a service that's usually more at home on the ground than at sea. But the Army's navy has three LSVs in Hawai'i — two in active duty service and now one in the Reserves — and on the Kuroda, the link from past to present remains strong. Kuroda's Medal of Honor now hangs prominently in a ship entryway, a reminder of his heroism on Oct. 20, 1944, when the 442nd Regimental Combat Team soldier led other men against enemy positions in Bruyeres, France, firing a machine gun and throwing grenades until he was killed by a sniper. Among the crew yesterday of the "roll on, roll off" ship were three combat veterans of the Reserve's 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry who served in Iraq in 2005. "It's a good thing that the Army honored (Kuroda's) name, being a Medal of Honor recipient," said Sgt. Josten Baisac, 25, from Waipi'o, who served in Iraq and is now an engineer on the Kuroda. "It makes us more proud that it's named after a Hawai'i guy."
USAV SSGT Robert T. Kuroda
Family members were invited on a three-hour trip yesterday outside Pearl Harbor. Among the nine who made it was former state Sen. Joe Kuroda, 80, one of seven brothers and two sisters in the family. "(Robert) was a humble man and someone who would think of this as quite an honor," Kuroda said. Eleanor Paek, 70, who lives in 'Aiea and is Robert Kuroda's niece, said it was an "extreme honor" having the ship named after her uncle, whose bravery was able to be recognized among so many unrecognized actions during World War II. "My uncle was fortunate that he was one the world could hear about," Paek said. Employers of the citizen soldiers who serve on board the Kuroda also were invited. Honolulu Fire Chief Kenneth Silva, who was on board, said of 1,200 employees, 80 are in the reserves. Robert Kuroda, a 1940 Farrington High School graduate, had gone through Honolulu Vocational School to be an electrician but was denied a job at Pearl Harbor because the Navy wasn't hiring people of Japanese ancestry after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. He eventually enlisted in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, figuring that would prove his loyalty. "He said to his mother, 'When I return, I want to work at Pearl Harbor,' " Joe Kuroda said.
Visitors aboard the LSV-7 Kuroda
The LSV-7 arrived in Hawai'i a year ago after being christened in 2003, but Army officials yesterday said the vessel was lacking spare parts and training was hampered until recently. The Kuroda, one of eight LSVs in the Army, has a 10,500-square-foot deck that can carry 26 of the Army's Stryker armored vehicles. Staff Sgt. Rudy Rana, 43, from Mililani, an engineer on the Kuroda, said soldiers on the ship have to learn terms that most others don't. "We don't have floors, walls and ceiling," he said. "We have decks, bulkheads and overheads. You've got to be kind of multi-lingual to work on this vessel." The Kuroda's first mission from Bishop Point, its mooring at Hickam Air Force Base, was to the Big Island Tuesday to Thursday to take over ammunition for training. The ship returned with ammunition residue from big guns. Spc. Hyrum Yeepoong, 24, from Kane'ohe, is a cook with the 411th Engineer Battalion, but was brought on the Kuroda for the first training mission and likely will go on others. Most of the soldiers on the Kuroda are with the 548th Transportation Detachment. The trip to the Big Island, with 7- to 10-foot swells, was Yeepoong's first experience on a LSV. "It was a good learning experience," he said. "(But) the differential between sea and land — big difference." Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Owens, who commands the 548th detachment, said a 29-day sail to American Samoa is expected next March or April, and there has been discussion about sending the Kuroda out to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to clean up and collect drift nets and the remains of military infrastructure. Joe Kuroda said having the ship named for his brother is important, and when he drives his grandson past it on the way to the beach, he'll tell him, "Remember this name, remember your great uncle. Remember that he is representative of a generation of warriors who had to prove something, and they did."

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