Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and the president pro-tempore of the Senate, died at Walter Reed Medical Center Monday evening. He was 88. Officials said the cause of death was respiratory complications.
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.
Although his father was born in Japan, Inouye was not interned [after the Pearl Harbor attack] because Hawaii immediately came under military government, he told NPR in 2011, but he was declared an "enemy alien." He and others petitioned the government for the right to serve in the military to prove their allegiance, and in late 1942, at age 17, he enlisted. Serving in Europe, he rose quickly to become a non-commissioned and later a commissioned officer. On one occasion, he said a silver dollar in his shirt pocket stopped a bullet in France.
Inouye's greatest moment of heroism came in April 1945, near the end of the war, and he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for it, later upgraded by President Clinton to a Medal of Honor.
Wikipedia gives further details regarding Inouye's Medal of Honor action:
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near San Terenzo in Tuscany, Italy called Colle Musatello. The ridge served as a strongpoint along the strip of German fortifications known as the Gothic Line, which represented the last and most unyielding line of German defensive works in Italy. As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions just 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground. Inouye stood up to attack and was shot in the stomach; ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his Thompson submachine gun. After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.
As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside the bunker fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore". Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade. As the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye pried the live grenade from his useless right hand and transferred it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye tossed the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroyed it. He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge. When he awoke to see the concerned men of his platoon hovering over him, his only comment before being carried away was to gruffly order them to return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody called off the war!"
The remainder of Inouye's mutilated right arm was later amputated at a field hospital without proper anesthesia, as he had been given too much morphine at an aid station and it was feared any more would lower his blood pressure enough to kill him.
Although Inouye had lost his right arm, he remained in the military until 1947 and was honorably discharged with the rank of captain.
There are now 79 surviving Medal of Honor recipients.
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DANIEL KEN INOUYE
Second Lieutenant, US Army; 442nd Regimental Combat Team
Born: 7 September 1924, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
Died: 17 December 2012, Bethesda, Maryland
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.