RIP Senator Daniel Inouye, MOH Recipient
Sad news yesterday as Senator Daniel Inouye, Medal of Honor recipient from WWII and Senator from Hawaii passed away. From the Washington Post :
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, a highly decorated World War II combat veteran who used his status as one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington and the second-longest-serving senator in history to send billions of dollars to his home islands, died Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. He was 88.
He cut a singular figure in the nation’s capital when he arrived in Washington in 1959 as a representative from the newest state and the first Japanese American elected to Congress.
A methodical behind-the-scenes operator who rarely sought the media spotlight, he was little known outside Hawaii and the halls of the Capitol. But his wartime record, for which he received the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor — coupled with his reputation for a bipartisan approach to politics — helped him gain respect from and influence with colleagues of both parties.
I had the pleasure of meeting with him a few times when I was on the Legislative Division staff in Washington, DC, and he was one of those guys that you could really lose yourself when you listened to his stories. He just had a voice that was made for telling stories. Here's a pretty good video of him talking about the "Heat of Battle".
Even outside his award of the Medal of Honor, his military career was incredible. As wikipedia states:
Inouye was at the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 as a medical volunteer.
In 1943, when the U.S. Army dropped its enlistment ban on Japanese Americans, Inouye curtailed his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army. He volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army unit was mostly made up of second-generation Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.
Inouye was promoted to the rank of sergeant within his first year, and he was given the role of platoon leader. He served in Italy in 1944 during the Rome-Arno Campaign before his regiment was transferred to the Vosges Mountains region of France, where he spent two weeks in the battle to relieve the Lost Battalion, a battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment that was surrounded by German forces. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant for his actions there.
But even when he returned as an amputee, he still had to face a country that was hostile to him:
Two years later, on a battlefield in Italy, he destroyed three enemy machine gun nests even as bullets tore through his stomach and legs. A grenade nearly ripped off his right arm, and it was later amputated at an Army hospital.
Back in the United States, the young lieutenant was wearing his empty right sleeve pinned to his officer’s uniform when he stepped into a San Francisco barbershop for a haircut. “We don’t serve Japs here,” the barber told him.
Memories of such encounters remained vivid to Sen. Inouye, who in his political career spoke eloquently in support of civil rights and social welfare programs.
It's a shame to lose such great Americans, ones who are capable of acts like this:
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.
RIP sir, and salute.
UPDATE: Found an even better video of Senator Inouye.