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article imageWWII Medal of Honor hero Daniel Inouye, dead at 88

By Greta McClain     Dec 18, 2012 in Politics
Bethesda - Senator Daniel Inouye, Pearl Harbor survivor, Medal of Honor recipient and member of the "Greatest Generation", has passed away at the age of 88.
Son of a Japanese immigrant father, Senator Inouye was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 7, 1924. At the age of 17, he was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. In the days following the attack, the U.S. government declared Inouye and his family as "enemy aliens".
Despite his anger at being considered an enemy by his own country, when the government began to allow Japanese Americans to enlist in the armed forces in 1943, Inouye volunteered for the Army. He was assigned to the famed Japanese American 442 Regimental Combat Team.
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Daniel Inouye
United States Senate
In 1944, he and his unit were sent to the French Vosges, rescuing a Texas Battalion surrounded by German forces. Known as the rescue of “The Lost Battalion”, the campaign is listed in the U.S. Army annals as one of the most significant military battles of the century. After the campaign, Inouye was promoted to platoon leader and received the Bronze Star, a medal awarded to service members who distinguish themselves by "heroic or meritorious achievement or service". Later that same year, he received a battlefield commission to the rank of Second Lieutenant.
During the last months of the war, Inouye and his regiment were assaulting a hill in Italy which was heavily defended by German forces. He was shot in the abdomen, but continued to lead the platoon against a machine gun nest which had his men pinned down. Tossing two hand grenades at the nest, Inouye was shot in the right arm, shattering it. He threw his last grenade with his left hand and attacked with a submachine gun before being shot in the leg. He lost his right arm, but recovered from the rest of his battlefield wounds. In 2000, fifty-five years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics on the battlefield. During the award ceremony, Inouye's citation read:
"Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. Although wounded, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range. 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.
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."
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Daniel Inouye
Becoming the first Japanese American to be elected to Congress, Inouye served as a representative of his state for 53 years. He was elected to the House of Representatives when Hawaii was admitted into the Union in 1959. In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served nine consecutive terms.
Following the announcement of Inouye's passing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said:
"He had every reason to call attention to himself, but never did. He was the kind of man, in short, that America has always been grateful to have, especially in her darkest hours: Men who lead by example and expect nothing in return.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told CNN:
"If there was ever a patriot, Dan Inouye was that patriot. {He} rarely called attention to himself but he lived a remarkable American life filled with dignity and grace of the true hero that he was."
As his health failed, he was asked by his staff how he wanted to be remembered. He responded by saying:
"I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK."
Senator Inouye died of respiratory failure after being admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier this month. His last words were "Aloha".
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