Farewell To Daniel Inouye

DKInew3Yesterday, a great man in this country passed: Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye. He was a GW grad, a war hero, and the U.S. Senate’s most senior member. Through the years, I had numerous occasions to sit down with Inouye and I liked him a great deal. He was to put it simply: a good man. He cared about people and was deeply worried about the direction of our political system for both parties. He was 88 and he will be missed. His last word was reportedly “Aloha” — both “hello” and “goodbye” in traditional Hawaiian.

Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II (his citation is pasted below). He graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He earned his law degree from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. in 1953. He recently spoke to our class in a touching commencement address.

As president pro tempore of the Senate, Inouye was third in line of presidential succession. I particularly enjoyed speaking with him during my representation of Judge Thomas Porteous on the Senate floor. Inouye presided at the trial. We talked about how the Senate had changed and how it had become more petty and mean since the days of such great leaders like Hubert Humphrey and Daniel Moynihan and others. I loved having him as my presiding officer. He brought a certain calm and maturity to any proceeding. He had a certain sense about him, a strength and confidence that was contagious.

Inouye was first elected to the Senate in 1962. From his role in Watergate to Iran-Contra, Inouye was not just a witness but an participant in history.

From the very start, Inouye was the type of man who walked forward in the face of danger. He had a natural courage but, despite being a fierce warrior, was one of the most gentle men you could meet.

After Pearl Harbor (when he helped care for the wounded), Inouye dropped out of school to join the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of “nisei,” or Americans whose parents were born in Japan. He served at a time when his own country has imprisoned Japanese Americans in internment camps.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in 1945 during a battle in Italy near San Terenzo. While his unit was pinned down by enemy fire, he was wounded by a bullet to his midsection. As he continued to fight, his right arm was almost completely severed by an enemy grenade launcher. Using his left arm, he pried the live grenade out of his debilitated arm.

In one of the most extraordinary twists of fate, after they amputated his right arm, he recovered in a military hospital and became friends with a boy from Kansas who also lost the use of his right arm. The young soldier was Bob Dole and they would later serve in the Senate together and remain close friends.

I will miss Inouye greatly and his passing only highlights the lack of leaders today of his character. His successors appear much smaller in both stature and vision. Inouye served his nation proudly as a soldier, as a Senator, and as a man. One can only say, well done Lt. Inouye and thank you.

Below is his official citation for the Medal of Honor:


Inouye, Daniel K.

150px-First_Lt_Daniel_InouyeRank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company E, 442nd Infantry. Place and date: San Terenzo, Italy, 21 April 1945. Birth: 7 September 1924, Honolulu, Hawaii. Entered service at: Honolulu, Hawaii.

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.

Source: USA Today

22 thoughts on “Farewell To Daniel Inouye

  1. “I will miss Inouye greatly and his passing only highlights the lack of leaders today of his character. His successors appear much smaller in both stature and vision.”

    Amen! Is it an illusion or just a fact that the men of the past seem larger than living ones today?

    When his duties called, he sent not others. only himself.

    Melli Kelikimaka, Senator.
    Won’t say Aloha, because ýou are still with me.

  2. When he came back from the war, he had to get a haircut. He was in his full dress uniform with all his medals, and his empty sleeve pinned up. When he went into the barbershop, the barber told him to leave, saying, “We don’t cut Jap hair in this shop.”

    In later life, the Senator had no trouble getting a haircut, but that must have stung him all his life. It is a measure of his character that he was hurt, but not bitter about it.

    May you have Godspeed on your journey to forever….

  3. It is difficult for a political leader to be in office for fifty years without making fierce enemies and detractors. Daniel Inouye dide that in his career. I remember him well throughout the Watergate Hearings where he seemed exactly the type of person a Senator should be. His eulogies which will praise him as a great man will not be hyperbole.

  4. ” It’s hard to imagine never again hearing Inouye’s slow, deep cadence; a voice so familiar to the people of Hawaii. He sounded always deliberate, the way men spoke in another time – back when they always wore hats and, as Inouye often reminisced, when Democrats and Republicans still worked together.

    But Inouye didn’t just romanticize those days. When he first arrived in Washington, congressional culture was still racially segregated. Inouye helped change that. He told me the story of a black congressman who always disappeared around lunchtime, not daring to disrupt the whites-only dining room.

    “I grabbed him: ‘We’re going to go down there,'” Inouye said in 2011. “We desegregated that place.”

    Though he spent decades in Washington, D.C., it was clear that he still saw himself as Danny, the boy with humble beginnings in Hawaii. ” Reporter’s Notebook

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  6. What a wonderful man – soldier, public servant and senator. Daniel Inouye’s a beacon to which we can aspire to rise. His quiet courage and determination, his valor and grace, his determination in the face of racism! That we could hope to be a fraction of this great man.

    Rest in peace, Senator.

  7. Having been born and raised in Hawaii, I know personally that “kamaaina” (locals) loved and greatly respected Senator Inouye. My fondest aloha and mahalo to you, Senator.

  8. A true hero on and off the battlefield. Daniel Inouye and his fellow Japanese-American comrades were the ones that went in to save what was left of the “lost battalion” if I’m not mistaken. That may have been where he suffered his wounds, too? Sorry, really busy this morning and don’t have time to look it up right now. RIP

  9. That may have been where he suffered his wounds, too?

    No he was wounded in Italy in the hand to hand combat in the mountains there. As a Texan, I have to tell you that a lot of Texans are alive and exist today thanks to the 442nd when they rescued the Lost Battallion in the Voges mountains in France. That battallion was a Texas National Guard unit and the stupid General had ordered them to make an ill advised attack which his officers had spoken against. The predictable happened and the unit was cut off and surrounded. No other units could break through, so they called out the 442nd to do the job. They succeeded, but at a severe cost which left about 90% of the unit casualties. As I recall, the casualty rate for the 442nd was around 120%. If you joined the unit at the beginning, you were either dead, captured, very few were, or severely wounded and missing major parts of your body. It was the most decorated unit in the US Army.

    Sen Inouye was one of our best in both war and peace. He will be sorely missed and I hope that the nation will give him the honors and rememberance that he so justly earned.

  10. One of the last vestiges of senators who knew they were in Congress to make things better for all the people, not for self-aggrandizement and party power. The respect they showed one another and how they worked together in a bi-partisan fashion to actually accomplish important goals. Senator Daniel Inouye, and his lovely resonant voice, will be sorely missed in a Congress that cries out for more like him..

  11. ARE,

    An expansion on the Voges mountains. I learned more of the WW2 history from a Swede who was born and raised there in a small village. Each village had its own dialect, but could understand each other. The German occupation lost many lives there. I was there 1967, looking for a wine. Vin Fou.

    It would be worse than Normandy for the 442d. Your record of their losses says it all.

  12. A great man that I first came to know during the Watergate hearings. My prayers for his family and friends. When Bob Dole, another veteran, dies I will also have kind words for him. Unlike most here, D and R mean very little, if anything, to me.

  13. I first met the Senator in 1966 and soft spoken is not a term I would apply to our conversations. But his smile was radiant. He would always greet me with the line. “How’s the mud?” (referring to the front-lines of whatever civil rights march I’d attended and to the changes in his office arrangements over the years … those of you who knew him from then know what I mean ;) )

    He was a good, good man.

    Thank you for all you did and know I still carry that little first-aide kit.


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