Monday, December 17, 2012

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, World War II hero, dies at 88

I may not have agreed with his politics, but Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) was definitely a hero.

He died in Washington earlier today of respiratory failure--Inouye was 88.

Rest in peace.

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:
Inouye, a sergeant when the 442nd landed in Europe, was promoted to first lieutenant as the nisei unit moved through Italy, then France, then back to Italy in the waning days of the war.

In northern Italy in April 1945 as the war in Europe was coming to an end, Inouye moved his platoon against German troops near San Terenzo. Inouye crawled up a slope and tossed two hand grenades into a German machine-gun nest. He stood up with his tommy gun and raked a second machine-gun nest before being shot in the stomach. But he kept charging until his right arm was hit by an enemy rifle grenade and shattered.

"I looked at it, stunned and disbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore," Inouye wrote in his 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington," written with Lawrence Elliott.

Inouye wrote that he pried the grenade out of his right hand and threw it at the German gunman, who was killed by the explosion. He continued firing his gun until he was shot in the right leg and knocked down the hillside. Badly wounded, he ordered his men to keep attacking and they took the ridge from the enemy.

He was discharged as a captain and nominated for the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, but instead received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster to go along with a Bronze Star. President Bill Clinton belatedly recognized Inouye and 21 other Asian-American veterans in 2000 with the Medal of Honor.
Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) are the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate.

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