Today Senator Daniel Inouye died at the age of 88, during his ninth term in office. Inouye represented the state of Hawaii since it became a state - literally getting sworn into the House of Representatives on the day that Hawaii joined the Union. In his time as Senator, Inouye was a powerful force, and in his final years was President pro tempore, making him third in line for the presidency, right behind the vice president and the Speaker of the House. I first became a fan of Inouye when he was involved in the Iran-Contra investigation and really stuck it to that son of a bitch Ollie North. During that investigation Inouye said something that probably still rings in the ears of every conspiracy theorist:
"[There exists] a shadowy Government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself."
Inouye had not intended to become a politician; he was originally going to be a surgeon. But World War II happened and all of that changed quite definitively.
Inouye was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed, serving as a medical volunteer. He couldn't join the Army for two more years, until the government finally lifted restrictions on Japanese-American. He joined the Nisei 442nd Infantry Regiment, a unit made up of all second generation Japanese-Americans, many of whom had family in internment camps. Inouye fought in Italy and France; in France he was shot in the chest, but his life was saved by two coins in his shirt pocket.
On April 21st, 1945, Inouye was fighting in Italy, along the Gothic Line, the German's heavily fortified last line of defense as they retreated from the country. Inouye led his men in an attack against a strongly defended road junction, capturing an artillery post. Inouye and his platoon were within 40 yards of the enemy when their advance was halted by three machine gun nests. The platoon was pinned down, but Inouye crawled to the first emplacement and destroyed the machine gun with grenades. Two machine gun nests remained.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Inouye neutralized the second machine gun nest with his Thompson, but he was shot in the stomach by a sniper. The soldier refused to stop, though, despite collapsing from blood loss. He dragged himself within 10 yards of the final machine gun nest. His squad drew fire from the Germans as Inouye got closer, and he stopped, cocked his arm and prepared to throw a grenade.
At that moment a German rifle grenade exploded on his elbow, shredding it, leaving the arm all but severed. It hung in a bloody mess, the grenade still clutched in useless fingers. The grenade was primed. Inouye waved his platoon away, afraid that the fingers would relax and drop the grenade. He used his left hand to pry the grenade out of the mess of meat and threw it into the nest. He followed that with a burst of Thompson fire, holding the gun in his off-hand. Inouye was shot again, this time in the leg, and he finally passed out.
When he came to, one armed and badly hurt, Inouye saw his men crowded around him, worried about his well being. In true badass fashion Inouye ordered them back to their positions, saying "nobody called off the war." Inouye was taken to a field hospital where his arm was amputated without aenesthesia; he had been given too much morphine earlier and there was a fear that aenesthetic would be too much for his system.
Without his good arm, Inouye's career as a surgeon was over. He would go on to be Hawaii's power house in Washington for the rest of his life, never coming even close to losing an election - usually winning with 60-70% of the vote. Inouye planned to run again in 2016, believe it or not, bringing him to ten terms.