Daniel Inouye of Hawaii passed away today at age 88 after an unbelievable career, including 50 years in the U.S. Senate. His heroism in Italy during World War II earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, and (belatedly) the Medal of Honor. Inouye showed unbelievable bravery and skill on the battlefield in Italy.
Both of Iowa’s senators served with Inouye for decades, and I’ve posted their comments below, along with excerpts from some obituaries and Inouye’s Medal of Honor citation.
UPDATE: John Deeth observes that Iowa now has the most senior U.S. Senate delegation.
SECOND UPDATE: Eight Iowans were among the 412 U.S. senators who served with Inouye.
Statement from Senator Tom Harkin:
“Dan Inouye was a close, personal friend with whom I shared many happy memories. He was also a genuine hero, someone who served his country for more than seven decades – from the U.S. Army to the halls of Congress. He had a lifetime of extraordinary public service, as a Medal of Honor winner and as the longest-serving U.S. Senator. It was an honor and a privilege to serve under him on the Appropriations Committee. Today, Ruth and I send our deepest condolences to Irene.”
Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:
“Senator Inouye was a quiet force in the U.S. Senate. He had a strong work ethic and was very productive on behalf of the entire United States and, of course, his beloved state of Hawaii. Because he was restrained in his demeanor, when he spoke, he commanded attention. He was well-respected in the Senate for his lifelong statesmanship and for his early displays of courage and sacrifice for our country. My thoughts are with his family.”
Inouye’s 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.
From the Washington Post obituary by Emma Brown:
He grew up planning to become a doctor. But in 1942, as a teenager barely out of high school, he joined what would become a revered Army regiment of Japanese Americans.
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.
From the Honolulu Star Advertiser obituary by Derrick DePledge:
On his return to Hawaii, his dreams of a medical career over, Inouye enrolled in pre-law classes at UH under the GI Bill with an eye toward politics. He met Margaret Shinobu Awamura, a UH speech instructor, and on their second date asked her to marry him. After UH, Inouye went to law school at George Washington University.
Inouye returned to Hawaii and became a disciple of Democrat John Burns, a former Honolulu police captain who stood up for the rights of Japanese-Americans during the war. Burns, who would later become governor, was an advocate for workers and civil rights and saw the political value of linking the union movement with the struggles of emerging Japanese-Americans. It was Burns who urged Inouye to run for the Territorial House in 1954.
Inouye won and the Democratic takeover of the Legislature in 1954 became a pivotal moment in Hawaii history, leading to more than a half-century of nearly unbroken party rule. He was elected to the Territorial Senate in 1958, and Hawaii became the 50th state a year later. Inouye then ran and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1962 at age 38, he handily defeated Benjamin Dillingham, a Republican from one of the state’s most prominent families, to become a U.S. senator.
Inouye had close ties with Lyndon B. Johnson, and when the Texas Democrat became president in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the two were allies on the major issues of the day, most notably supporting the war in Vietnam and Johnson’s “Great Society” fight against poverty and racial injustice.
At the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Inouye gave the convention’s keynote address. He recognized the racial and social upheaval in the inner cities and the anger of the anti-war movement but warned against the temptation to cut down establishment institutions.
“This is my country,” he said. “Many of us have fought hard to say that. Many are struggling today from Harlem to Da Nang that they may say it with conviction.”
From the New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:
The courtly, soft-spoken Senator Inouye (pronounced in-NO-ay) often deferred publicly to his outspoken and ambitious colleagues, seemingly content behind the scenes to champion Hawaii’s interests. He funneled billions of dollars to strengthen the state’s economy, promote jobs and protect natural resources.
But as crises arose from time to time, he was called upon to take center stage. In 1973, as a member of the Senate Watergate committee, which investigated illegal activities in President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, he won wide admiration for patient but persistent questioning of the former attorney general John N. Mitchell and the White House aides H. R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman and John Dean.
When the nationally televised hearings ended in 1974, a Gallup poll found that Mr. Inouye had an 84 percent favorable rating, even higher than the committee’s folksy chairman, Senator Sam Ervin, Democrat of North Carolina. […]
In 1976, after revelations of abuse of power by the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies, Mr. Byrd, the majority leader, appointed Mr. Inouye chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, which was established to come up with reforms and monitor clandestine operations. Mr. Byrd hoped Mr. Inouye could win the confidence of a skeptical public and a demoralized intelligence community.
Mr. Inouye largely succeeded. His panel wrote a new intelligence charter, which protected American citizens’ rights, established rules for counterintelligence operations inside the United States, barred the use of journalists and clergymen as covert agents, and required the president to certify that covert actions were necessary for national security. President Jimmy Carter praised his “professionalism and competence.”
Senator Inouye’s reputation for integrity made him an ideal choice as chairman of the Senate committee that investigated the Iran-contra affair in 1987. The committee confirmed that high-ranking American officials, acting in violation of President Ronald Reagan’s policies and the will of Congress, had secretly sold weapons to Iran and used the profits to support rebels fighting the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
In nationally televised hearings, a joint Senate-House panel, to avoid seeming prosecutorial, gave wide latitude to witnesses, including Lt. Col. Oliver North and Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter. The beribboned former national security officials used that latitude to portray themselves as patriots and their illegal actions as necessary for national survival in a dangerous world.
From the Los Angeles Times obituary by Ken Dilanian:
When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Inouye said, according to his office, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”