Reading Together Blog

Senator Daniel Inouye: Nisei veteran

We received a kind letter from Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. A few months ago, we invited the longtime senator from Hawaii to visit Kalamazoo during Reading Together. Senator Inouye is Nisei (second generation Japanese American) and a distinguished veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was the first Japanese American to be elected to Congress, and has served in Congress since 1959.

Senator Inouye was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor. In 1943, he discontinued his medical studies at the University of Hawaii to join the U.S. military. Serving with the 442nd RCT, he was distinguished by his many acts of courage and leadership, receiving multiple injuries and losing his right arm.

Senator Inouye was sent to convalesce in Battle Creek where he became friends with another soldier and future U.S. senator: Bob Dole. A third U.S. senator also stayed there during World War II: Philip Hart of Michigan. The building, also known as the Battle Creek Federal Center and the Battle Creek Sanitarium, was renamed in 2003 to the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center.

For his service during World War II, Senator Inouye was conferred the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. In June 2000, he was awarded the Medal of Honor:

“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.”


Letter from Senator Inouye

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