R.I.P. Daniel Inouye, 1924-2012

(via Dave Weigel)

Dave Weigel, at Slate:

Tonight, for the first time, the state of Hawaii is not represented by Daniel Inuoye. The 88-year old senator entered politics in the 1950s, joining the territorial legislature, and waiting for statehood. When Hawaii became the 50th state, Inuoye ran for, and won, its sole seat in Congress. He was representing the state when a kid named Barack Hussein Obama II was born.

But these are among the least interesting details about Inuoye. At age 17, he was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor. At 19, he joined the army…

The NYTimes describes his military career:

…In 1943, when the United States Army lifted its ban on Japanese-Americans, Mr. Inouye joined the new 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the first all-nisei volunteer unit. It became the most decorated unit in American military history. In 1944, fighting in Italy and France, he won a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. He was shot in the chest, but the bullet was stopped by two silver dollars in his pocket.

On April 21, 1945, weeks before the end of the war in Europe, he led an assault near San Terenzo, Italy. His platoon was pinned down by three machine guns. Although shot in the stomach, he ran forward and destroyed one emplacement with a hand grenade and another with his submachine gun. He was crawling toward the third when enemy fire nearly severed his right arm, leaving a grenade, in his words, “clenched in a fist that suddenly didn’t belong to me anymore.” He pried it loose, threw it with his left hand and destroyed the bunker. Stumbling forward, he silenced resistance with gun bursts before being hit in the leg and collapsing unconscious.

His mutilated right arm was amputated in a field hospital. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military award, by President Bill Clinton in 2000. (Members of the 442nd were believed to have been denied proper recognition because of their race.) He spent two years in Army hospitals, including one in Michigan where he met Bob Dole and Philip Hart, wounded veterans who would also become senators…

The Washington Post focuses on his tenure in the local monopoly industry:

…Since 2010, Sen. Inouye had been the Senate’s president pro tempore, which put him third in the line of succession for the presidency.

He cut a singular figure in the nation’s capital when he arrived in Washington in 1959 as a representative from the newest state and the first Japanese American elected to Congress….

After serving in the House, he was elected to the Senate in 1962 and began a career as Hawaii’s most important patron in Washington. As longtime chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and, after 2009, of the entire Appropriations Committee, Sen. Inouye ensured that Hawaii, once seen by most Americans as a distant agricultural outpost, received a steady flow of dollars to develop military sites and modern transportation, communications and educational systems….

He was one of a number of Hawaiian-born Japanese American veterans who returned to the islands to lead a peaceful grass-roots uprising that brought ethnic minorities and working people to power in a place long dominated by white owners of sugar plantations.

In 1954, Sen. Inouye was part of a Democratic tide that swept Republicans — who had long run island politics and were closely aligned with the sugar interests — out of office. Hawaii has voted solidly Democratic since….

Sen. Inouye campaigned on Capitol Hill for national recognition of Japanese Americans’ sacrifices during the war. He was one of several politicians, including Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.), who worked to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which gave each surviving internee $20,000 in compensation and admitted that the internment had resulted from “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

As chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Sen. Inouye was instrumental in passing legislation in 1989 that established the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall. Four years later, he successfully pushed for a formal apology from the federal government for assisting in the ouster of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 1800s….

Senator Inouye also distinguished himself as a voice for rectitude and governmental transparency during both the Watergate and Iran-contra hearings. This did not always endear him to his fellow Congress- persons, and not just the Republicans. But he lived long enough to see many things change for the better, not least among them the election and re-election of our first African-American, Hawaiian-born president.

He did not dishonor his family. He did not dishonor his country. He died — in the fullness of time — with honor.

34 replies
  1. 1
    Death Panel Truck says:

    Look up the definition of “bad-ass motherfucker” in the dictionary, and there’ll be a picture of Daniel Inouye.

  2. 2
    SteveAudio says:

    A true patriot, unlike most self-described patriots.

  3. 3
    Yutsano says:

    Aloha Oe, Senator-san.

  4. 4
    Calouste says:

    @Death Panel Truck: Little known story: when Tarantino was shooting Pulp Fiction, he borrowed Inouye’s wallet. Unfortunately, Samuel L. Jackson flubbed the line a bit.

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:


  6. 6
    PurpleGirl says:

    Chickenhawkes should think about his military career and be ashamed of themselves.

    Rest in Peace, Senator.

  7. 7
    👽 Martin says:

    So, Inouye gets shot in the stomach, keeps fighting, gets his arm blown off, keeps fighting, then finally gets shot again, recovers, becomes a Democrat and pushes for gun control.

    Dick Cheney takes 5 deferments, becomes a Republican, votes against banning cop killer ammo, and then goes on to shoot a guy in the face.

    And who does the right worship as who best understands gun policy? Yeah…

  8. 8
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Death Panel Truck got it right: Senator Inouye was a fucking badass – AND a true patriot. And, it seems, a really decent human being.

    RIP, Senator.

    ::pours sake on the curb for Sen. Inouye::

  9. 9
    👽 Martin says:

    Random strange thing today: saw 2 different Aude R8s today – a green one and a white one within about an hour of each other. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Pretty car. Would still rather have the Type R, though.

  10. 10
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Senators Inouye and Ervin are the two people whom I remember best from the Watergate hearings. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

    RIP, Senator.

  11. 11
    Ruckus says:

    Being a true patriot and a decent human being was what made him a badass. It would be a fine thing to be one tenth as good as him.

  12. 12
    Death Panel Truck says:


    Being a true patriot and a decent human being was what made him a badass.

    What made him a badass were the actions he undertook on the battlefield that initially earned him a DSC, later upgraded (too many goddamned years later) to a MOH. He gave up his fucking right arm for a country that hated him and his kind.

  13. 13
    amk says:

    In 1954, Sen. Inouye was part of a Democratic tide that swept Republicans — who had long run island politics and were closely aligned with the sugar interests — out of office.

    Once again, proving the republicans are the corporatists.

  14. 14
    Raven says:

    The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Japanese: 第442連隊戦闘団) of the United States Army was a regimental size fighting unit composed almost entirely of American soldiers of Japanese descent who volunteered to fight in World War II even though their families were subject to internment. The 442nd, beginning in 1944, fought primarily in Europe during World War II.[2] The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The 442nd is considered to be the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army. The 442nd was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations and twenty-one of its members were awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II.[3] The 442nd Regimental Combat Team motto was, “Go for Broke”.

  15. 15
    Raven says:

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    “I am not against owning guns. I understand hunting and I know that some people feel evil is all around them and they want some protection, but to be able to go online and buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition, what in God’s name is a civilian doing with 6,000 rounds of ammunition? I am all for personal protection but you do not need an arsenal. Our country needs a national gun law. We should limit the number and type of weapons an individual is allowed to own and they ought to be catalogued in a national database that every arms dealer has to check before making a sale. If somebody carries an assault rifle, like the kind I carried while fighting in Europe during World War II, they are not going duck hunting; they are going manhunting. Current reports indicate that James Holmes, the suspect who allegedly shot up the theater in Colorado, did not have a criminal record nor did he have a history of erratic behavior but he was able to arm himself with a shotgun, two handguns, an assault rifle and 6,000 rounds of ammunition in a little less than three months and nobody thought a thing about it until it was too late. What was the rationale for his purchases? We should not permit that sort of thing in this country,” said Senator Inouye.

  16. 16
    Patricia Kayden says:

    RIP Inouye.

  17. 17
    lostinube says:

    Just in case you were wondering, the governor of Hawaii (Democrat Neil Abercrombie) gets to pick who serves as Senator until 2014. Inouye named current House Rep Colleen Hanabusa as his preferred choice (which would of course leave her seat empty).

  18. 18
    SuperHrefna says:

    Thank you for this, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know much about this remarkable man until I read this. RIP Senator Inouye.

  19. 19
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Aloha Senator Inouye. You will be missed.

    Senator Inouye at the Iran/Contra Hearings rebuking North and Poindexter:

    “Vigilance abroad does not require us to abandon our ideals or the rule of law at home. On the contrary, without our principles and without our ideals, we have little that is special or worthy to defend.”

  20. 20
    MosesZD says:

    (Members of the 442nd were believed to have been denied proper recognition because of their race.)

    Of course they were. Rodger Young did the same thing on the island of New Georgia, only dying in the process, and not only got the Medal of Honor, but got a song and was immortalized. Hell, even Heinlein used his name in Starship Troopers.

  21. 21
    Lurking Canadian says:

    What a remarkable man. RIP

  22. 22
    Soonergrunt says:

    I had the honor of meeting him and COL Roger H.C. Donlon, USA, Ret (MOH) when I graduated my first NCO school, then called Primary Leadership Development Course. He was at Fort Ord, CA in his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Division Sergeant Major asked him to come to PLDC graduation. COL Donlon was the guest speaker. Both of them came up from the enlisted ranks to become Commissioned Officers before they were awarded the MOH.
    Meeting these two amazing humble men was one of the highlights of my career.

  23. 23
    AxelFoley says:


    Death Panel Truck got it right: Senator Inouye was a fucking badass – AND a true patriot. And, it seems, a really decent human being.

    RIP, Senator.

    ::pours sake on the curb for Sen. Inouye::

    Hey, long time no see, boo!

    But yeah, Peaceful Journey, Senator Inouye.

  24. 24
    Anya says:

    Rest in peace, Senator Inouye!
    What a remarkable man. A true hero.

  25. 25
    PaulW says:

    Did anyone bring up the link to Badass of the Week for Inouye?

  26. 26
    BruinKid says:

    @PaulW: LOL, that’s an awesome review of how Inouye earned his Medal of Honor. The only thing that’s missing is what happened at the end of that firefight. Per Wikipedia:

    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 to return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, “nobody called off the war!”

    R.I.P. Sen. Inouye.

  27. 27
    Mike in NC says:

    RIP. A true American hero. A distinguished and honorable member of the US Senate, which has far too many scoundrels in its ranks today. Saw him speak on a visit to Washington around 1974.

  28. 28
    Biff Longbotham says:

    RIP to a real American.

  29. 29
    Gus says:

    I knew he was a war hero, but I didn’t realize what a badass he was. What a life of public service he led!

  30. 30
    Gus says:

    @PaulW: That is brilliant.

  31. 31
    mds says:

    @Cheryl from Maryland:

    Senator Inouye at the Iran/Contra Hearings rebuking North and Poindexter

    Ah, yes, I remember as an impressionable youngster watching some of the hearings with my wingnut father. It was made clear that the guy in the Marine uniform was a real American hero, while that Inouye guy on the committee was a scoundrel. I guess Senator Inouye missed his chance for true heroism by never ostentatiously wiping his ass with the Constitution and the UCMJ, then making a career out of being a preening self-righteous shit who once provided arms to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

  32. 32
    Darkrose says:

    As a political junkie from an early age, who made a point of knowing who the few non-white senators were, the next Congress will seem awfully strange without Senator Inouye representing Hawaii.

    Aloha, Senator. You will be missed.

  33. 33
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Ruckus: He was an all-around badass. What a man.

    @AxelFoley: AxelF! I’ve missed you! I gotta come around more often.

  34. 34
    Tokyokie says:

    Sen. Inouye’s military record was a lot more impressive than that of the senior senator from Arizona, and he made far less of a deal of it. Actions speak louder than words, and in that regard, Inouye-sama had one of the most resounding voices in the Senate. He’s one of the few politicians I’ve ever truly admired, and America, especially Hawai’i, loses a significant piece of history with him.

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