Daniel Ken "Dan" Inouye (井上 建 Inoue Ken, // ee-NOH-ay; September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012) was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 to 2012. He was a member of the Democratic Party, and he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate (third in the Presidential Line of Succession) from 2010 until his death in 2012, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history. Inouye also served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Inouye fought in World War II as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. He lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. Returning to Hawaii, he earned a law degree and was elected to Hawaii's territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and to the territorial Senate in 1957.
When Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, Inouye was elected as its first member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1962 he was first elected to the U.S. Senate. Inouye was the most senior U.S. senator at the time of his death.
He was one of the longest-serving U.S. Senators in history, second only to Robert Byrd. Following the death of Byrd in 2010, Inouye was the last remaining member of the U.S. Senate to have served during the presidency of John F. Kennedy and prior to the 1964 election of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later the first in the U.S. Senate. He never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official, and exercised an exceptionally large influence on Hawaii politics. At the time of his death, Inouye was the second-oldest sitting U.S. senator, seven and one-half months younger than Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, both 88 years old.
Because of his seniority, following Senator Byrd's death on June 29, 2010, Inouye became President pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in the presidential line of succession after the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was a Medal of Honor recipient and a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Among other public structures, Honolulu International Airport has since been renamed Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in his honor.
Daniel Inouye was born on September 7, 1924, in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Hyotaro and Kame (née Imanaga) Inouye. He was a Nisei Japanese American, the son of a Japanese immigrant father and a mother whose parents had migrated from Japan. He grew up in the Bingham Tract, a Chinese-American enclave in the predominantly Japanese American community of Mōʻiliʻili in Honolulu. Inouye graduated from Honolulu's President William McKinley High School.
Military service (1941–1947)
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 segregated all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army formation was mostly made up of second-generation Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.
Inouye was promoted to sergeant within his first year, and he was assigned as a platoon sergeant. 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 received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant for his actions there, becoming the youngest officer in his regiment. At one point while he was leading an attack, a shot struck him in the chest directly above his heart, but the bullet was stopped by the two silver dollars he happened to have stacked in his shirt pocket. He continued to carry the coins throughout the war in his shirt pocket as good luck charms, until he lost them shortly before the battle in which he lost his arm.
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily defended ridge near San Terenzo in Liguria, Italy, called the Colle Musatello. The ridge served as a strongpoint of the German fortifications known as the Gothic Line, 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 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 his Thompson submachine gun. When informed of the severity of his wound, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.
As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, coming within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade, a German soldier inside the bunker fired a rifle grenade, which struck his right elbow, nearly severing most of his arm and leaving his 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. While 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 enemy soldier aimed his rifle at him, Inouye tossed the grenade 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. He awoke to see the worried men of his platoon hovering over him. His only comment before being carried away was to order them back to their positions, saying "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. At the time Inouye left the Army, he was a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Inouye was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in this action, with the award later being upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton (alongside 19 other Nisei servicemen who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were believed to have been denied proper recognition of their bravery due to their race). His story, along with interviews with him about the war as a whole, were featured prominently in the 2007 Ken Burns documentary The War.
While recovering at Percy Jones Army Hospital from war wounds and the amputation of his right forearm following the grenade wound, Inouye met future Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, then a fellow patient. While at the same hospital, Inouye also met future fellow Democrat and Senator Philip Hart, who had been injured on D-Day. Dole mentioned to Inouye that after the war, he planned to go to Congress; Inouye beat him there by a few years. The two remained lifelong friends. In 2003, the hospital was renamed the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of the three World War II veterans.
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.
Due to the loss of his arm, Inouye abandoned his plans to become a surgeon, and returned to college to study political science under the G.I. Bill. 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 George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., in 1953 and was elected into the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.
In 1953, Daniel Inouye was elected to the Hawaii territorial House of Representatives, and was immediately elected majority leader. He served two terms there, and was elected to the Hawaii territorial senate in 1957.
Midway through Inouye's first term in the territorial senate, Hawaii achieved statehood. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Hawaii's first full member, and took office on August 21, 1959, the same date Hawaii became a state; he was re-elected in 1960.
United States Senate
In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, succeeding fellow Democrat Oren E. Long.
He was the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee between 1976 and 1979 and Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee between 1987 and 1995. He introduced the National Museum of the American Indian Act in 1984 which led to the inauguration of the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. He was Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee between 2001 and 2003, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee between 2007 and 2009 and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee between 2009 and 2012.
He was reelected eight times, usually without serious difficulty. His closest race was in 1992 when state senator Rick Reed held him to 57 percent of the vote—the only time he received less than 69 percent of the vote. He delivered the keynote address at the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and gained national attention for his service on the Senate Watergate Committee.
Inouye was also involved in the Iran-Contra investigations of the 1980s, chairing a special committee (Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition) from 1987 until 1989. During the hearings, Inouye referred to the operations that had been revealed as a "secret government" saying:
[There exists] a shadowy Government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.— Daniel Inouye
Criticizing the logic of Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North's justifications for his actions in the affair, Inouye made reference to the Nuremberg trials, provoking a heated interruption from North's attorney Brendan V. Sullivan, Jr., an exchange that was widely repeated in the media at the time. He was also seen as a pro-Taiwan senator, and helped in forming the Taiwan Relations Act.
In 2009, Inouye assumed leadership of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations after longtime chairman Robert Byrd stepped down. Following the latter's death on June 28, 2010, Inouye was elected President pro tempore, the officer third in the presidential line of succession.
In 2010, Inouye announced his decision to run for a ninth term. He easily won the Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic state—and then trounced Republican state representative Campbell Cavasso with 74 percent of the vote.
Inouye ran for Senate majority leader several times without success.
I have told my staff and I have told my family that when the time comes, when you question my sanity or question my ability to do things physically or mentally, I don't want you to hesitate, do everything to get me out of here, because I want to make certain the people of Hawaii get the best representation possible.
Gang of 14
On May 23, 2005, Inouye was a member of a bipartisan group of fourteen moderate senators, known as the Gang of 14, to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the "nuclear option", a means of forcibly ending a filibuster. Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William H. Pryor, Jr.) would receive a vote by the full U.S. Senate.
Inouye was wildly popular in his home state and never lost an election.
Inouye's wife of nearly 57 years, Margaret "Maggie" Awamura Inouye, died of cancer on March 13, 2006. On May 24, 2008, he married Irene Hirano in a private ceremony in Beverly Hills, California. Hirano was president and founding chief executive officer of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California. She resigned the position at the time of her marriage in order to be closer to her husband. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Inouye was twenty-four years older than Hirano. On May 27, 2010, Hirano was elected by the board to chair the nation's second largest non-profit organization The Ford Foundation. Inouye's son Kenny was the guitarist for influential D.C. hardcore punk band Marginal Man.
Honors and decorations
- Grand Cross of the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1993.
- On June 21, 2000, Inouye was presented the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for his service during World War II.
- Also in 2000, Inouye was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan, in recognition of his long and distinguished career in public service.
- In 2006, the U.S. Navy Memorial awarded Inouye its Naval Heritage award for his support of the U.S. Navy and the military during his terms in the Senate.
- Grand Cross (Bayani) of the Order of Lakandula on August 14, 2006.
- In 2007, Inouye was personally inducted as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by President of France Nicolas Sarkozy
- In 2008, Inouye was awarded the Israeli chief of Staff Medal of Appreciation by Gabi Ashkenazi.
- In February 2009, a bill was introduced in the Philippine House of Representatives by Rep. Antonio Diaz seeking to confer honorary Filipino citizenship on Inouye, Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Akaka and Representative Bob Filner, for their role in securing the passage of benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.
- In June 2011, Inouye was appointed a Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, the highest Japanese honor which may be conferred upon a foreigner who is not a head of state. Only the seventh American to be so honored, he is also the first American of Japanese descent to receive it. The conferment of the order was "to recognize his continued significant and unprecedented contributions to the enhancement of goodwill and understanding between Japan and the United States."
- In 2011, Philippine president Benigno Aquino III conferred Order of Sikatuna upon Inouye. He had previously been awarded Order of Lakandula and a Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.
- Inouye was inducted as an honorary member of the Navajo Nation and titled "The Leader Who Has Returned With a Plan".
- On August 8, 2013, Inouye was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The citation in the press release reads as follows:
- Daniel Inouye was a lifelong public servant. As a young man, he fought in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for which he received the Medal of Honor. He was later elected to the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. Senator Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress, representing the people of Hawaii from the moment they joined the Union.
- In 2014, Israel named the Simulator room of the Arrow anti missile defense system in his honor.
- On April 27, 2017, Honolulu International Airport was officially renamed Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in his honor.
Awards and decorations
On May 27, 1947, he was honorably discharged and returned home as a Captain with a Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star Medal, 2 Purple Hearts, and 12 other medals and citations. In 2000, his Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
|Combat Infantryman Badge|
|1st Row||Medal of Honor|
|2nd Row||Bronze Star Medal||Purple Heart
(with oak leaf cluster)
|Presidential Medal of Freedom||European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
(with three service stars: Rome-Arno, Northern France and Northern Apennines campaigns)
|3rd Row||World War II Victory Medal||Chief Commander of the Philippine Legion of Honor||Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun||Grand Cross of the Order of Lakandula|
|4th Row||Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur||Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation||Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers||Grand Cross of the Order of Sikatuna|
In 2012, Inouye began using a wheelchair in the Senate to preserve his knees, and received an oxygen concentrator to aid his breathing. In November 2012, he suffered a minor cut after falling in his apartment and was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. On December 6, he was again hospitalized at George Washington University Hospital so doctors could further regulate his oxygen intake, and was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center on December 10. He died there of respiratory complications seven days later on December 17, 2012. According to the senator's Congressional web site, his last word was "Aloha". Prior to his death, Inouye left a letter encouraging Governor Neil Abercrombie to appoint Colleen Hanabusa to succeed Inouye should he become incapacitated; instead Abercrombie appointed Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Inouye's death on the floor of the Senate, referring to Inouye as "certainly one of the giants of the Senate". Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to Inouye as one of the finest senators in United States history. President Barack Obama referred to him as a "true American hero".
Inouye's body lay in state at the United States Capitol rotunda on December 20, 2012; only the 31st person—and first Asian-American—so honored. President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner spoke at a funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on December 21. Inouye's body was then flown to Hawaii, where it lay in state at the Hawaii State Capitol on December 22. A second funeral service was held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu the following day.
On May 23, 2013, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the next Arleigh Burke–class destroyer (DDG) would be named USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) to honor Inouye. In December 2013 the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (then under construction) at Haleakala Observatory on Maui was renamed the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in his memory.
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