Manzanar Committee Statement On The Passing Of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye

United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) died on December 17, 2012, due to respiratory complications.
He was 88 years old.
U.S. Senate Photo

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee wishes to express its deepest condolences to the family of United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), 88, who died on December 17 due to respiratory complications.

Inouye was recently hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but indicated that his health was, “…for the most part, OK.” He added that he would return to his duties in the Senate as soon as possible.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced Inouye’s passing on the floor of the Senate.

“I’ve never known anyone like Dan Inouye,” said Reid. “No one else has—the kindness that he has shown me for my time here is something I will cherish always. A man who has lived and breathed the Senate. If there ever were a patriot, Dan Inouye was that patriot.”

Inouye, who was the second-longest serving Senator and President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate, was also Hawaii’s senior Senator, serving since 1963. Prior to that, he served in the territorial House of Representatives and Senate, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1959, when Hawaii became the United States’ 50th State.

Inouye was a member of “E” company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Japanese American unit that fought gallantly in Italy and France during World War II, becoming the most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history.

Inouye fought with distinction, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest honor in the U.S. military.

On June 21, 2000, the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Congressional Medal Of Honor.

Inouye was decorated for his heroism during a battle in 1945, when the 442nd took the Gothic Line in Northern Italy, and then attacked Nazi forces on Mount Nebione. On April 21, 1945, in San Terenzo, Italy, Captain Daniel Inouye charged machine gun nests on a hill before pulling the pin of a grenade.

As I drew my arm back, all in a flash of light and dark I saw him, that faceless German. And as I cocked my arm to throw, he fired and his rifle grenade smashed into my right elbow and exploded and all but tore my arm off. I looked at it, stunned and unbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn’t belong to me any more… I swung around to pry the grenade out of that dead fist with my left hand. Then I had it free and I turned to throw and the German was reloading his rifle. But this time I beat him. My grenade blew up in his face and I stumbled to my feet, closing on the bunker, firing my tommy gun left-handed, the useless right arm slapping red and wet against my side.1 — Daniel K. Inouye

In addition to serving as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and as the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Inouye played a critical leadership role during the Japanese American community’s fight for redress and reparations for their unjust incarceration during World War II. He also fought for the rights of Pilipino World War II veterans, Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans, among many other causes and accomplishments during his stellar legislative career.

First Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye (he was later promoted to Captain) served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team
during World War II.
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

President Barack Obama also paid tribute to Inouye.

“Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye,” President Obama said in a statement. “The second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union.”

“In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve,” President Obama added. “But it was his incredible bravery during World War II, including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor, that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.”

While hospitalized, Inouye was asked how he would like to be remembered.

“I represented the people of Hawaii, and this nation, honestly and to the best of my ability,” he said. “I think I did OK.”

Inouye did better than “OK.” He was, as President Obama noted, an American hero.

“Our nation, our community has lost a giant, a true American hero, with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “On every front, from the battlefield to the halls of Congress, he was a brave, creative, and effective leader.”

“Senator Inouye’s wise counsel and leadership in helping establish the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) demonstrated his political genius,” added Embrey. “He recognized that once Americans heard the truth that our nation would be bound to recognize the injustice of the incarceration of the Japanese American people during World War II, and he was right. The stories told during the CWRIC hearings were pivotal in winning support for redress and reparations, leading to enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.”

“Senator Inouye also emerged as a tireless champion for Native peoples and recognizing the contributions of Pilipino war veterans, making sure that all people enjoyed full Constitutional rights. He was an inspiration to us all, and he will continue to inspire future generations. On behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I’d like to express our condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed.”

Inouye is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., Ken’s wife Jessica, granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Margaret Awamura.


1Ogawa, Dennis M. Kodomo no tame ni (For The Sake Of The Children): The Japanese American Experience In Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1978. pp. 347. ISBN: 08248-0730-8. ISBN-13: 978-0824807306

The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site.


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