Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bad Ass Senator

This afternoon I was looking up information about the Akaka Bill that would grant nationhood status on Native Hawaiians.  In reading about Sen. Dan Akaka, I realized I didn't know anything about Hawaii's other U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, also a Democrat.  This guy is a serious bad ass.  First of all, he is like a million years old and should have retired long ago.  I am a firm believer in term limits so I don't think he should be allowed to be a Senator anymore.  But that's not the point.  Here's some background: Inouye has been a U.S. senator since 1963, and is currently the most senior senator after the death of Robert Byrd of West Virginia. He is also the second longest serving U.S. Senator in history after Byrd.  Inouye has represented Hawaii in the U.S. Congress since it achieved statehood in 1959, serving as Hawaii's first U.S. Representative and later a senator. Inouye was the first Japanese-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later the first in the U.S. Senate.

Ok, but none of that makes him anything special.  I was thinking, "ok, great, another worthless career politician."  Not even close.  I could never do his story justice, so I am just going to copy and paste the Wikipedia entry, which was based on a documentary of his life.  Here it is (I highly recommend reading the whole thing):

He was at the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 as a medical volunteer (he wasn't in the military because the military banned Japanese-Americans from serving). In 1943, when the U.S. Army dropped its ban on Japanese-Americans, Inouye curtailed his pre-medical 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 to the Medal of Honor by President Clinton in June 2000.

Inouye was promoted to the rank of sergeant within his first year, and he was given the role of platoon leader. In 1944, he spent two weeks in France searching for the Lost Battalion, a Texas battalion that was surrounded by German forces. 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.

On April 21, 1945, Inouye was wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near Terenzo called Colle Musatello. As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground. Inouye stood up to attack the gunners and was shot in the stomach. Ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his M1 Thompson machine gun. After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.

As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore". Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade. As the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye managed to pry the live grenade from his useless right hand and transfer it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye managed at last to toss the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroy it. He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge. When he awoke to see the concerned men of his platoon hovering over him, his only comment before being carried away was to gruffly order them return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody had called off the war".

The remainder of Inouye's mutilated right arm was later amputated at a field hospital without proper anesthesia, as he had been given too much morphine at an aid station and it was feared any more would lower his blood pressure enough to kill him. Inouye was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in this action, with the award later being upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton.

I don't care what his policies are, this guy is a bad ass.

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