Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, died yesterday at the age of 88. The second-longest serving senator in history, Inouye had represented his state ever since it entered the union in 1959. Before his service as a lawmaker, Inouye earned a Medal of Honor for his performance in combat with the U.S. Army during World War II.
Inouye fought at a time when most Japanese Americans were segregated from the rest of the country by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued an executive order that resulted in over 100,000 Americans of Japanese heritage being placed in internment camps across the western United States.
“I was angered to realize that my government felt that I was disloyal and part of the enemy and I wanted to be able to demonstrate — not only to my government but to my neighbors — that I was a good American,” Inouye said in an interview for Ken Burns’ World War II documentary, The War. So, he enlisted in a segregated combat unit, the 442d.
“My father took time off . . . and he was very silent until we got close to the point of departure,” Inouye recalled. “And he said, ‘this country has been very good to us. It has given me two jobs. It has given you and your brothers and your sister education. We owe a lot to this country. Do not dishonor this country. Above all, do not dishonor the family; and if you must die, die in honor.’”
Inouye continued, “You know, I’m 18 years old, and here he’s telling me these heavy words. And I’ve always thought to myself, would I be able to say the same thing to my son?”
NRO’s Daniel Foster found a good summary of what Inouye did one day during the war:
Back in Italy, the 442nd was assaulting a heavily defended hill in the closing months of the war when Lieutenant Inouye was hit in his abdomen by a bullet which came out his back, barely missing his spine. He continued to lead the platoon and advanced alone against a machine gun nest which had his men pinned down. He tossed two hand grenades with devastating effect before his right arm was shattered by a German rifle grenade at close range. Inouye threw his last grenade with his left hand, attacked with a submachine gun and was finally knocked down the hill by a bullet in the leg.
Dan Inouye spent 20 months in Army hospitals after losing his right arm. On May 27, 1947, he was honorably discharged and returned home as a Captain with a Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest award for military valor), Bronze Star, Purple Heart with cluster and 12 other medals and citations.
Inouye received the Medal of Honor in 2000. RIP.