Honolulu, Hawaii, US
1LT, 442nd Regimental Combat Team
12/17/2012, Bethesda, MD
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.
Inouye was born on September 7, 1924 in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Kame (née Imanaga) and Hyotaro Inouye. He is a Nisei Japanese-American (an American-born child of Japanese immigrants) and grew up in the Bingham Tract, a Chinese-American enclave within the predominantly Japanese-American community of Mo’ili’ili in Honolulu. He graduated from Honolulu’s President William McKinley High School.
He was at the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 as a medical volunteer.
In 1943, when the U.S. Army dropped its ban on Japanese-Americans, Inouye curtailed his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most-highly decorated unit in the history of the Army. During the World War II campaign in Europe, he received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded, by President Clinton in June 2000, to the Medal of Honor.
Inouye was promoted to the rank of sergeant within his first year, and he was given the role of platoon leader. He served in Italy in 1944 during the Rome-Arno Campaign before he was shifted to the Vosges Mountains region of France, where he spent two weeks searching for the Lost Battalion, a Texas battalion that was surrounded by German forces. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant for his actions there. At one point while leading an attack, a shot struck him in the chest directly above his heart, but the bullet was stopped by the two silver dollars he happened to have stacked in his shirt pocket. He continued to carry the coins throughout the war in his shirt pocket as good luck charms.
He died of respiratory complications and had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since earlier this month. His office said his last word was “Aloha,” the traditional Hawaiian word for “hello” and “goodbye.”