Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guest post from Officer Cynical

While the insanity of our world takes over headlines, the legacy of one man has been largely ignored. Daniel Inouye died on Monday, December 17th.

Inouye served as congressman and senator from Hawaii since the date of its statehood in 1959 until his death. He was also a Medal of Honor winner during WWII. The following is the citation for that award:  

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The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to

SECOND LIEUTENANT DANIEL K. INOUYE
UNITED STATES ARMY


for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

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. 

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More remarkable (to me) is Inouye's own description of those events. The Atlantic published the following - Inouye's personal account of his Medal of Honor-winning actions in the town of San Terenzo, Italy, in 1945.
Inouye's unit was charging three German machine guns.
'"I remember being shot in my abdomen, first, on the right side. The bullet came out in the middle of my back, and it felt like someone had slugged me. There was no intense pain or anything like that. I fell backwards and then kept on going until my messenger right in the back of me ... said, 'By the way, you're bleeding.' So I stuck my hand in there and, sure enough, it was warm and moist. I took out my hand. It was all bloody but, since it wasn't bleeding profusely, I just kept on going."

Continuing forward with a bag of grenades, he cocked his hand and was ready to throw another when a German grenade hit him in the arm, leaving his right arm dangling by a thread.
'"I saw a fellow pointing it at me and I felt the blast and I recall going for my grenade, prying it out of my right hand and throwing it with my left. My arm was dangling by a couple shreds, so when I lifted it up, it was hanging like that. Just shredded. So I knew it was gone. First I was looking all over for the grenade, I thought it fell. And then I looked at my hand and I said, 'Oh, my Lord. It's there.' I had pulled the pin, and my hand was back ready to toss it, so I knew it was armed. The fingers somehow froze over the grenade, so I had to pry it out."

With his left hand, Inouye tossed the grenade at the German who had shot him, hitting him. Then he blacked out. Later, when he was cited for his bravery, he learned that he had grabbed a tommy gun in his left hand, charged toward one of the machine guns, knocked it out, and then got shot again. He was given so much morphine that doctors later amputated his arm without anesthetic, concerned that any more would drive his blood pressure too low."
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I try to remember that, while a few nutjobs are out killing kids and cops and firefighters, real heroes walk among us.

17 comments:

Marcia said...

Thank you for this post.
I think it's good to be reminded of our real heroes.

Moose said...

Inouye was also a role-model Congressman. He truly believed in bipartisan politics, and was good friends with Republican Bob Dole, who he apparently met while in the military hospital after the injuries you describe.

Also, the reason he joined the Army during WW II was that it was an option to the Japanese internment camps.

One of the coolest things about him, I always thought, was how down to earth he was. His website shows (still) pictures of him not just "being a politician" but being a regular human being. And the "About" page is titled, simply, "About Dan".

If more congresscritters were like Inouye and cared more about the actual issues instead of grandstanding and siding with their party, our country might be a little less of a mess right now.

M.Brayfield said...

My brother did a report on Daniel Inouye in high school and I've never forgotten just how much of a badass he was.

Ms. Donna said...

We lost a great one.

bobbie said...

Amen, Moose.

Jono said...

A man of honor and integrity.

bobbie said...

PS ~ thanks for the wonderful post, Officer C.

Anonymous said...

What's perhaps most amazing to me is that the sacrifices he made were on behalf of a country that, at the time, was unjustifiably and unapoligetically rounding up other Japanese Americans and sticking them in camps. And the racism was felt even in the military, where the Japanese American soldiers had to deal with segregation, and were asked/commanded to take on some of the most dangerous missions in the war, often being the front line soldiers taking on the biggest number of casualties.
The fact that Inouye was able to perform as he did in the field under these circumstances elevates his already heroic deeds during the war to a whole other level.

May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Oh my heavens. Thanks for the informative post, Dr. G.

Loki said...

An excellent post, but I think it's instructive to consider that not only was Daniel Inouye serving in the US Army at a time when his family and other Japanese Americans were being rounded up into concentration camps, but that he was originally only awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. It wasn't until June 21, 2000 that President Bill Clinton awarded him with the Medal of Honor for his actions - one of several awards that were revised in the wake of investigation for possible racial bias in the manner in which such honors were bestowed.

Sharon said...

"the reason he joined the Army during WW II was that it was an option to the Japanese internment camps."
He was in Hawaii. No Japanese Americans in Hawaii were interred. Japanese Americans weren't allowed to enlist until 1943. If Inouye didn't deserve the Medal of Honor, nobody did.

A most colorful description of his military activitties can be found at
http://www.badassoftheweek.com/inouye.html

RehabRN said...

Grumpy:

Yes, I've known the story of Sen. Inouye for a long time. We grew up as WWII history buffs d/t a relative who was killed in Europe during that war.

Even better...Sen. Inouye wasn't the only brave one. The 442nd, which he was part of, was as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. (see here: http://www.historynet.com/japanese-american-442nd-regimental-combat-team-july-96-world-war-ii-feature.htm)

Just makes you wonder when we complain nowadays. Guess they really were the greatest generation!

Anonymous said...

"The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. All who lived on the West Coast of the United States were interned, while in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans composed over one-third of the population, an estimated 1,200 to 1,800 were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens." (Wikipedia)

Before the war, Inouye was a pre-med student. After the war, he abandoned his plans to become a surgeon, and instead obtained a degree in political science and became a lawyer.

It seems that not only was he loyal, and bravely courageous, a fighter for rights, but pragmatic in many ways.

Anonymous said...

Slate had a nice piece on Obama's eulogy that I recommend everyone read:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/12/barack_obama_s_eulogy_to_daniel_inouye_told_us_more_about_the_president.html

MDaisy said...

Thank you for remembering our military heroes.

Anonymous said...

Adviso: Slate's piece is a disgrace both to Danny and to our President. Better, yet, read President Obama's original transcript of his eulogy. An eloquent and transfiguring statement of the power of man working within the Senate of the US for justice. I hope there was someone singing Danny Boy at the funeral.

taradon said...

Great post, Officer Cynical. Where's your blog - I'd love to check it out.

 
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