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Daniel Ken "Dan" Inouye (September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012) was an American politician and United States Senator from Hawaii. He was known for receiving the Medal of Honor because of his actions in World War II.
Inouye was born in 1924 in the Territory of Hawaii. He was the son of a father who was born in Japan and a mother whose parents were born in Japan. He was a Nisei, which means that he was a second generation Japanese-American.
Inouye was an officer in World War II. He volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army unit was mostly made up of second-generation Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.
He was wounded several times at Colle Musatello (a battle in Italy), and lost an arm. He remained in the military until 1947. At the time he left the Army, he was a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. For his actions in April 1945, Inouye was awarded the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). In the 1990s, there was a review of service records of Asian Americans who received the DSC during World War II. Inouye's award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, he was presented with his medal by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, but only seven of them were still alive.
Medal of Honor citation
Inouye's Medal of Honor recognized his conduct in frontline fighting at San Terenzo, Italy in April 1945. Without help from others, he destroyed two machine gun nests; and he continued to fight and lead his platoon after being wounded.
The words of Inouye's citation explain:
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.
Career in politics
After the war, Inouye studied politics in college. He was elected to the Hawaii Territorial Legislature in the 1950s.
When Hawaii became a state, he was its first Congressman. He served in the United States Senate from 1963 to 2012.
After 2010, Inouye was President Pro Tempore of the Senate, a title given to the longest-serving Senator of the party in power. This made him the highest-ranking Asian American politician in the history of the United States.
Inouye's wife of 57 years, Maggie, died on March 13, 2006. On May 24, 2008, he married Irene Hirano in Beverly Hills, California. Ms. Hirano was president and founding chief executive officer of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California. On May 27, 2010, Ms. Hirano was elected by the board to chair the nation's 2nd largest non-profit, The Ford Foundation. Inouye's son Kenny was the guitarist for influential D.C. hardcore punk band Marginal Man.
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