Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Hawaiian Democrat regarded as one of the nation's most influential politicians, died on Monday at age 88 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center due to respiratory complications. He was the second longest serving senator in U.S. history,
In addition to his political accomplishments over his 50-plus years in elected office, Inouye earned the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, for his multiple displays of selfless heroism during the U.S. Army's 1945 campaign in Italy and France.
According to the late senator, his life was dramatically impacted as a second generation Japanese-American when, while in high school in Hawaii, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Two years later, Inouye volunteered to join the Army's 442nd Infantry Regiment, comprised entirely of American soldiers of Japanese descent, which is considered to be the most decorated infantry unit in U.S. history.
During his political career, which began in 1959 as a Hawaii congressman, Inouye had played a key role in several congressional investigations, including Watergate and Iran-Contra. Inouye, who at the time of his death was the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, was elected to the Senate in 1962, where he remained until his death on Monday.
According to his office, the senator's last word was "Aloha," a Hawaiian word used as a greeting and farewell.
Five remarkable facts about Sen. Daniel Inouye
1.Three heartbeats away: Due to his seniority, Inouye was the president pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in the presidential line of succession, following the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. As a result of his position, Inouye was the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. history.
2. High school medic: Despite being in high school at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Inouye served as a medical volunteer during the military assault.
3. Medal of Honor recipient: On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded leading an attack on German forces in Tuscany, Italy. After being shot in the stomach by a German machine gunner, Inouye ignored his wound and advanced on the German machine gun nest, killing its occupants with hand grenades and his Thompson submachine gun.
Despite having an open wound, Inouye refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on a second German machine gun post, which he was able to destroy before collapsing from blood loss.
Despite his wounds, Inouye managed to crawl to a third German position on a ridge, where a German soldier tossed a grenade near Inouye, causing severe damage to his right forearm and hand. Inouye used his other arm to throw a grenade into the last German gun nest, killing its occupants. Inouye later had his right arm amputated at a field hospital.
Inouye received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, for the actions described above.
4. Luck and bravery: During his military service, Inouye was wounded multiple times in several separate engagements during the Army's 1945 campaign in Italy and Southern France. In one instance, Inouye was leading a platoon against a German stronghold when a bullet struck him in the chest directly above his heart. The round was blocked by two silver dollars he happened to have stacked in his shirt pocket. Inouye was later promoted from the rank of sergeant to a second lieutenant for his multiple acts of bravery during the campaign.
5. History in the making: Inouye took office in the House of Representatives on Aug. 21, 1959, the same day Hawaii ceased to be a U.S. territory and became the nation's 50th state.
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