Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who went to Washington at the birth of his state in 1959, dominated public life in the Hawaiian islands for more than 50 years and became a quiet voice of national conscience during the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair, died on Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 88.
Daniel Inouye won wide admiration for his patience and persistence as a member of the Senate Watergate committee in 1973.
A statement by his Washington office said he had died of respiratory complications at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His last word was “aloha,” the statement said.
Born September 7, 1924, to immigrant parents in Honolulu, Inouye was 17 and dreaming of becoming a surgeon when Japanese planes flew over his home to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changing the course of his life.
In 1943, Inouye volunteered for the Army and was assigned to the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which earned the nickname 'Go For Broke' and was one of the most decorated units of the war. Inouye rose to the rank of captain and earned the Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Star. Many of the 22 veterans who received Medals of Honor in 2000 had been in the 442nd.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is shown in uniform when he was a member of the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team
Unlike the families of many of his comrades in arms, Inouye's wasn't subjected to the trauma and indignity of being sent by the U.S. government during the war to internment camps for Japanese Americans.
'It was the ultimate of patriotism,' Inouye said at a 442nd reunion. 'These men, who came from behind barbed wire internment camps where the Japanese-Americans were held, to volunteer to fight and give their lives. … We knew we were expendable.'
Inouye said he didn't feel he had any choice but to go to war.
His long Senate career began in 1963 (date corrected) but was also a highly decorated WWII veteran.
His Medal of Honor citation:
Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’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.
He was shot, then lost an arm to a grenade, all while continuing to attack the enemy and lead his men…American hero.
Day by day we lose more of these great Americans, thankfully new generations of American heroes continue to step forward to continue the tradition of excellence and honor.
RIP Senator, from a grateful nation.
[UPDATE] Inoyue didn't just throw grenades at the Germans, he threw one after he lost his arm…by prying it out of the hand on his nearly amputated arm.
"I looked at it, stunned and disbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore," Inouye wrote in his 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington," written with Lawrence Elliott.
Inouye wrote that he pried the grenade out of his right hand and threw it at the German gunman, who was killed by the explosion. He continued firing his gun until he was shot in the right leg and knocked down the hillside. Badly wounded, he ordered his men to keep attacking and they took the ridge from the enemy.
Added: Inouye was featured in Ken Burns "The War". An amazing reminder that some people loved America when America didn't always love them. I'm always awed by the stories of men like Inouye and black WWII vets who served, fought and often died for a country they were not always able to participate in fully. They knew that the promise of America was real and would be kept someday. They fought to ensure that it has been.
Daniel Inouye, Long-Serving Hawaii Senator and War Hero, Is Dead at 88, an appreciation by David Graham.
With Inouye's death, the Senate -- and the nation -- lose more than just a long-serving senator. His death signals the end of an era for his state, too. It's tough to overstate the association between Inouye and his home state. Not only was his last word "Aloha," he also represented Hawaii in Congress -- first as a representative, from 1959 to 1963, and then as a senator -- for the archipelago's entire history as a state.Posted by Jill Fallon at December 19, 2012 12:13 AM | Permalink
As a high-school student, Inouye witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor:
I was preparing to go to church. December 7, 1941 was a Sunday and as we do every Sunday we got ready to go to church. I was just putting on my necktie and listening to the music. All of a sudden the disc jockey stopped the music and started screaming, yelling and screaming. The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor and for a moment I thought this was another replay of Orson Welles, but then he kept on screaming and yelling and so, I took my father and I said let's go out on the street and we went out.
Looked towards Pearl Harbor and there were puffs, dark puffs of anti-aircraft fire and then suddenly overhead three aircraft flew. They were gray in color with red dots -- the Japanese symbol -- and I knew that it was no play, it was real.