Daniel Inouye was a powerful politician in the late twentieth century. He retired from the United States Senate after a 50-year career representing his home state of Hawaii in 2012. In his final years, he served as Senate President pro tempore, making him the highest-ranking Asian American politician in US history. But did you know how he lost his arm?
During the WWII Italian Campaign, Daniel Inouye destroyed three German machine-gun nests in a single assault. Inouye killed the third nest after grabbing a live grenade from his severed right hand and throwing it through the firing slit with his left.
How Did Daniel Inouye Come from Near-Internment to the Senate of the United States?
Senator Inouye was a decorated World War II veteran like his colleague and friend, Senator Bob Dole. He, like Dole, provided a level of character and decorum to the United States Senate that ensured its legitimacy and trust. His efforts to protect National Park sites in Hawaii were significant, including gaining funds for Kalaupapa National Historic Park and the USS Arizona Memorial.
Dan was born in the Hawaiian city of Honolulu. His parents immigrated from Japan to the Bingham Tract in Honolulu, a Chinese-American enclave. Coming of age as tensions with Imperial Japan increased was challenging enough, but graduating from high school in Hawaii as a Japanese American shortly after the surprise assault on Pearl Harbor, which killed over 1,000 Americans, proved particularly traumatic for Inouye. In Hawaii, Japanese Americans were subjected to curfews.
An attempt was made to transport them to internment camps, but the local economy of the islands was strongly reliant on Japanese American enterprises. He tried to join the military but was turned down. He endured insults and questions about his patriotism for a year. When the US entered WWII in 1943, Inouye cut short his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army after the Army lifted its enlistment prohibition on Japanese Americans.
My father just looked straight ahead, and I looked straight ahead, and then he cleared his throat and said, ‘America has been good to us. It has given me two jobs. It has given you and your sisters and brothers education. We all love this country. Whatever you do, do not dishonor your country. Remember – never dishonor your family. And if you must give your life, do so with honor.’ I knew exactly what he meant. I said, ‘Yes, sir. Good-bye.Daniel Inoyue, Sentator of the United States
(Source: National Park Service)
Daniel Inoyue’s Life After the War
Despite losing his right arm, Inouye continued in the service until 1947, when he was honorably dismissed as a captain. He had been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart by the time he left the Army. For his gallantry in this action, Inouye received the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton alongside 19 other Nisei servicemen who served in the 442nd.
He met and became friends with another critically injured young officer Bob Dole while resting at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. They became friends during their time in the United States Senate, and their friendship continued until Inouye’s death in 2012. The Percy Jones federal building complex, which is no longer a hospital, has been renamed Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of three former patients who became United States Senators. (Source: National Park Service)