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The Conversation

Class ring lost nearly 80 years ago during World War II finds its way home to an Oʻahu family

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Courtesy Kevin Kuroda
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Kevin Kuroda, left, and Sebastian in France

StoryCorps, the Brooklyn-based organization focused on preserving and sharing stories, was on Oʻahu recently to gather stories of people’s experiences with the military — stories like the one Oʻahu-native Kevin Kuroda shared with The Conversation about his uncle, Robert Kuroda.

"After Pearl Harbor was bombed, he had wanted to become an employee at Pearl Harbor and basically was denied access because of ethnicity," Kevin Kuroda said. "He became one of four brothers who enlisted in the Army. And of the four brothers, he was one of two that served in combat."

A member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Robert Kuroda was killed in action near Bruyeres, France, after leading his men in a mission to take out snipers and machine gun nests in October 1944.

For his bravery and sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His older brother, Ronald Kuroda, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and received the Medal of Honor on behalf of Robert Kuroda.

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Courtesy Kevin Kuroda
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Farrington High School class ring

Around the time of his death, his 1940 Farrington High School class ring was lost.

About 77 years later in November 2021, a French man named Sebastian discovered his ring 6 to 8 inches underground using a metal detector. After months of failed attempts to reach the Kuroda family, the ring was finally returned to the Kurodas in May.

"Sebastian is just an incredible individual with an incredible family. He had done research to try to locate and return the ring to Robert's family. He had reached out to a number of 442 organizations without success," Kevin Kuroda said.

Sebastian eventually contacted Kuroda Auto Body on Oʻahu via a cousin in Iowa who could speak French and English.

"It was my cousin who had contacted me to say, 'Hey, there was someone from Iowa who has contacted the family to say that Uncle Robert's ring was found. They want to return it.' We weren't quite sure it was a true story, but I followed up with an email. We found that it was true."

"This is when COVID was just rampant. So we established a relationship with Sebastian and we asked him to hold on to the ring. And when time allowed, we had wanted to go to France, meet Sebastian, personally thank him. And that's what we ended up doing," Kevin Kuroda said. "(We) flew up, took a train to Épinal, France, got picked up by Sebastian and we spent three wonderful days with his family. And he had that day, presented Uncle Robert's ring to us."

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Courtesy Kevin Kuroda
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Kevin Kuroda and his father at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).

Sebastian took the Kurodas to the exact spot where the ring was found, and the area where Robert Kuroda was killed.

"I was saddened because it's the only sibling of my father who I never got to meet," Kevin Kuroda said. "After I got back, I made sure my dad got to see it. So my dad got to hold his brother's ring. Prior to Memorial Day, we went to Punchbowl where my uncle is laid to rest. And we made sure that we paid respect to Robert with my dad and the ring."

Robert Kuroda's class ring will live at Kuroda Auto Body alongside his Medal of Honor, he said.

Military-related stories like these are being collected by StoryCorps on Oʻahu and will be archived in the Library of Congress. Clips from those stories will air during Morning Edition later this year.

This interview aired on The Conversation on June 13, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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