Ryō Kurusu

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Ryō Kurusu
Kurusu's portrait in the Yūshūkan (at Yasukuni Shrine)
Born 8 January 1919
Chicago, United States
Died 17 February 1945
Fussa, Tokyo, Japan
Allegiance Japan Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1941-1945
Rank 帝國陸軍の階級―襟章―少佐.svg Major

Ryō Kurusu (来栖良 Ryō Kurusu?, January 8, 1919 – February 17, 1945) was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army. He is noted for being the only Eurasian (American-Japanese Hāfu) person to be commemorated in Japan's Yasukuni Shrine.


Kurusu was born on January 8, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois, United States, to Saburō Kurusu (a career diplomat) and Alice Jay Little (an American who adopted Japanese citizenship after their marriage in 1914) . In 1927, the family moved to Tokyo, Japan where Saburō continued to serve in high ranking diplomatic positions. In fall/winter 1941, Saburō was the Special Envoy to the United States, during which time he negotiated for peace and understanding with the United States while allegedly aware of Japan's secret plan to attack Pearl Harbor.[1]

Military Career[edit]

Kurusu studied mechanical engineering at the Yokohama Advanced Industrial College from 1937 to 1940. He also served as the captain of the rugby team. After graduation, he joined the Kawanishi Aircraft Company. Throughout these years, Kurusu reportedly suffered much prejudice and discrimination on account of his predominantly Caucasian appearance.

In January 1941, Kurusu joined the Imperial Japanese Army Air Forces as a pilot trainee and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in July. For the next two years, he served as an engineer and test pilot at various military flight schools in the Tokyo area. In 1944, he was transferred to Tama Airfield (now Yokota Air Base) in Fussa, Tokyo. In this posting, he translated captured American flight manuals from English to Japanese.[2]

In February 1945, as the situation grew increasingly dire, Kurusu himself participated in the air defense of Tokyo, intercepting and shooting down one American aircraft in a Nakajima Ki-84 on February 16. On February 17, while running to his aircraft to conduct another interception mission, Kurusu was struck in the head by a nearby aircraft's spinning propeller. He was decapitated and died instantly in what was later determined to be a tragic accident. Because the incident took place during an air raid, Kurusu was officially declared as "killed in action", and is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine as such.[3] A Japanese novelist later wrote a novel based on Kurusu's stories, leading to the erroneous belief that the real-life Kurusu was speared to death by Japanese civilians who mistook him for an American pilot after he was shot down during an interception mission.[4]

Kurusu's funeral was attended by a number of high-ranking diplomats and military officers. His father chose the following English inscription, by Herodotus, for Ryō's headstone: "In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons." His mother, Alice, was later quoted as saying "I am proud that my son was able to die for his Emperor and his country."


  1. ^ The Rev. Dr. Neal Henry Lawrence, OSB (May 15, 2000). "The Unforgettable Alice Kurusu, Wife of a Diplomat". Tokyo International University. Retrieved Oct 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ 渡辺, 洋二 (2002). 未知の剣―陸軍テストパイロットの戦場. 
  3. ^ 渡辺, 洋二 (1999). 陸軍 実験戦闘機隊―知られざるエリート組織、かく戦えり. 
  4. ^ Kaga, Otohiko (1999). Riding the East Wind.