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First Name: Daniel

Last Name: Inouye

Birthplace: Honolulu, HI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Ken

Date of Birth: 07 September 1924

Date of Death: 17 December 2012

Rank: Captain

Years Served: 1943-1947
Daniel Ken Inouye

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Daniel Ken Inouye
Captain, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Captain Daniel Ken Inouye (7 September 1924 - 17 December 2012) was a former U.S. Army soldier who was a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II. Until his death, he served in the United States Senate as the senior Senator from the State of Hawaii.

Daniel Ken Inouye was born on 7 September 1924 in Honolulu, HI, the son of Kame (née Imanaga) and Hyotaro Inouye. He is a Nisei Japanese-American (an American-born child of Japanese immigrants) and grew up in the Bingham Tract, a Chinese-American enclave within the predominantly Japanese-American community of Mo'ili'ili in Honolulu. He graduated from Honolulu's President William McKinley High School.

He was at the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941 as a medical volunteer.

Military Service

In 1943, when the U.S. Army dropped its ban on Japanese-Americans serving in the military while carrying arms, Inouye curtailed his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most-highly decorated unit in the history of the Army. During the World War II campaign in Europe, he received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded by President Bill Clinton in June 2000 to the Medal of Honor.

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 he was shifted to the Vosges Mountains region of France, where he spent two weeks searching for the Lost Battalion, a Texas battalion that was surrounded by German forces. He was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant for his actions there. 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.

On 21 April 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near Terenzo 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 dogged 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 M1 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 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 managed to pry the live grenade from his useless right hand and transfer it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye managed at last to toss the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroy 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 return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody had 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. 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 21 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, was featured prominently in the 2007 Ken Burns documentary The War.

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.

While recovering from war wounds and the amputation of his right forearm from the grenade wound at Percy Jones Army Hospital, Inouye met future Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, then a fellow patient. Dole mentioned to Inouye that after the war he planned to go to Congress; Inouye beat him there by a few years. The two have remained lifelong friends. In 2003, the hospital was re-named the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of the two WWII veterans and another U.S. Senator and fellow WWII veteran who had stayed in the hospital, Philip Hart.

In 2007, Inouye was personally inducted as Légion d'honneur Chevalier by President of France Nicolas Sarkozy.

In February 2009, a bill was filed 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.

Personal Life

Inouye's wife of 57 years, Maggie, died on 13 March 2006. He married Irene Hirano on 24 May 2008, in a private ceremony at Beverly Hills, California. Ms. Hirano is president and chief executive officer of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, she is 24 years younger than Inouye. On 27 May 2010, Ms. Hirano was elected by the board to chair the nation's 2nd largest non-profit, The Ford Foundation. Inouye's son, Kenny, was the guitarist for influential Washington, DC, hardcore punk band Marginal Man.

Summary of Congressional Career

Although Inouye lost his right arm in WWII, he remained in the military until 1947 and was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. Due to the loss of his arm, he abandoned his plans to become a surgeon, and returned to college to study political science under the GI 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 The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. in 1953 and was elected into the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. Soon afterward he was elected to the territorial legislature, of which he was a member until shortly before Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Hawaii's first full member, and took office on 21 August 1959, the same date Hawaii became a state; he was re-elected in 1960.

Inouye has been a senator since 1963, and following the death of Robert Byrd, is the most senior senator. He is also the second longest serving U.S. Senator in history after Byrd. Inouye has continuously represented Hawaii in the U.S. Congress since it achieved statehood in 1959, serving as Hawaii's first U.S. Representative and later a senator. Inouye was the first Japanese-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later the first in the U.S. Senate. At age 86, Inouye is the second-oldest current senator, after 87 year old Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. He is also a recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor.

As President pro tempore of the Senate, Inouye is third in the line of Presidential succession (behind the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives) and signs all bills that are passed by the Senate before they are sent to the President of the United States to be signed into law or vetoed.

Inouye was re-elected as Senator for Hawaii during the federal election of 2 November 2010, and was subsequently re-elected President pro tempore with the Democratic Party retaining control of the Senate for the 112th Congress.


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 6 December, 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 10 December. He died there of respiratory complications seven days later on 17 December 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 20 December 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 21 December. Inouye's body was then flown to Hawaii, where it lay in state at the Hawaii State Capitol on 22 December. A second funeral service was held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu the following day.

Honoree ID: 1451   Created by: MHOH




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