January 2013

Remembering Daniel Inouye, War Hero and Dedicated Statesman

Senator Daniel InouyeSenator Daniel Inouye

Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Daniel Inouye is pictured here in his office in the Hart Senate Building in Washington, D.C.

Daniel Inouye, a war hero and longtime senator from Hawaii, was honored with a memorial service on December 23, 2012. When Inouye died on December 17 at the age of 88, the people of Hawaii lost one of their most dedicated public servants. According to a statement released by his office, his last word was “aloha,” a Hawaiian greeting that is used to say “hello” and “goodbye.”

Inouye had represented Hawaii in the U.S. Congress since 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. He first served in the House of Representatives and then was elected to the Senate in 1962. He was currently the nation’s longest serving senator. Inouye was also President Pro Tempore of the Senate. This made him third in the line of presidential succession after the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Inouye was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on September 7, 1924. His father was a Japanese immigrant, and his mother was the daughter of Japanese immigrants. Inouye grew up in a mostly Japanese-American community in Honolulu. He was a high school student when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was working as a medical volunteer during the attack.

In 1943, Inouye put aside his medical studies at the University of Hawaii to enlist in the U.S. Army. He served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Made up of mainly Japanese Americans, the team fought on the European front of the war. During a battle against German soldiers in Italy, Inouye lost his right arm from a hand grenade explosion. It was many years later, in 2000, that he and other Asian Americans finally received the Medal of Honor for their service during World War II. It is the nation’s highest honor for bravery on the battlefield.

After the war, Inouye earned degrees in government and economics at the University of Hawaii. He went on to earn a law degree at George Washington University Law School and soon began his lifelong service in government. Throughout his career, Inouye remained dedicated to Hawaii and tried to avoid the national spotlight. He helped his home state grow and develop.

Senator Inouye was known for speaking out against the injustices done to Japanese Americans interned during World War II, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians. He headed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for many years. Navajo leaders made him an honorary member of the Navajo Nation and gave him the name “The Leader Who Has Returned with a Plan.”

Senator Inouye’s memorial service was held at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In attendance were more than 1,000 people, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Members of Congress from Hawaii and other senators, cabinet members, and dignitaries also paid their final respects at the memorial service. Several surviving veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team attended the service, which included a 19-gun cannon salute and other military honors.

Image credit: ©Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times via Redux Pictures

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Question 1
When did Daniel Inouye begin to represent Hawaii in the U.S. Congress?

Question 2
Why did Senator Inouye receive the Medal of Honor?

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