Army STARRS Authors

Medal of Honor Recipient Daniel K. Inouye – A Life of Service

STARRS believes it is important to tell the stories Medal of Honor recipients because they loved their country and fellow service members so much they were willing to go above and beyond and take extreme risk without regard for self (“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones life for ones friends,” John 15:13).

Someone who believes their country is evil and distrusts the service members around him would not be willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.  This is why patriotism, unity, trust, camaraderie, and loyalty are important for mission success in the military. CRT destroys all this. 

By STARRS Board Member, Patti Stuart, USAFA ‘87

Daniel Inouye was born in Hawaii in 1924, raised by Japanese immigrant parents who encouraged him to serve others. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daniel volunteered with the Red Cross to help the injured.  After graduating high school in 1942, he attempted to enlist, but the U.S. government banned citizens of Japanese descent from serving.  While Daniel was in college, studying pre-med, the decision was reversed and Daniel left school, immediately enlisting in the U.S. Army.

He was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a regiment made up exclusively of Japanese American men.  Daniel was assigned as a sniper in the summer of 1944 when his regiment was sent to fight in the Italian theater and later sent to France.  It was there his unit successfully rescued the First Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment, which had been surrounded by German forces.

The 442nd suffered devastating casualties.  Inouye himself narrowly escaped death when a bullet struck him in the chest, but was stopped by the lucky silver dollars he always carried.  In recognition of Inouye’s courage and leadership, he was given a rare battlefield commission that made him a second lieutenant. Second Lieutenant Inouye also received the Bronze Star Medal for his heroism.

Back in Italy in April 1945, the 442nd was tasked with an assault on a German-held ridge near San Terenzo.  Unfortunately, Inouye noticed that same day he had lost his lucky silver dollars.  As he led the assault, three German machine guns opened fire on the platoon.  A bullet pierced Inouye’s torso, but he continued to advance, shouting encouragement to his platoon and throwing grenades.  He crawled to within five yards of the enemy emplacement and threw two more grenades, killing the enemy machine gunners. He then killed the crew of a second machine gun with his submachine gun.

As he proceeded to pull the pin on another grenade and prepared to lob it at a third machine gun nest, a German soldier appeared with a rifle grenade and shot Daniel point blank, destroying his right arm. Inouye yelled to his men to keep back, pried the live grenade from his mangled arm, and hurled it at the enemy soldier.

Despite Inouye’s grievous injuries, he continued advancing and firing his submachine gun with his uninjured left arm. When the smoke cleared, Inouye and his men killed a total of 25 enemy soldiers and captured eight others in the successful attack.

Inouye underwent a series of surgeries, including one to amputate his right arm on May 1. His hopes of being a surgeon were dashed.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery and spent the next two years recuperating.  He was honorably discharged from the US Army in 1947 with the rank of captain.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, he was elected to serve as one of Hawaii’s first delegates to the US House of Representatives. He went on to win election to the US Senate in 1962 and served a total of 53 years in the House and Senate.  He never lost an election during his entire political career.

On June 21, 2000, Inouye and 19 other Japanese American veterans of the 442nd Regiment were awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton.

From:  Medal of Honor Recipient Daniel Inouye Led a Life of Service to His Country | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans (

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