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If you like Daniel Inouye's story, you might also like:
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Daniel Inouye
Daniel Inouye
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Daniel Inouye Interview (page: 6 / 6)

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  Daniel Inouye

What was basic training like? Did you get more or less training than other units?

Daniel Inouye: We got more than the usual amount of basic training because we trained as a unit. Not to train us off to be shipped off to some division, or some regiment. We were a special unit, and as such we became a combat team. We had our own artillery, our own engineers, our own medic. So it was a unit that could be deployed anywhere. Self-sufficient.

How long was the basic training?

Daniel Inouye: Eleven months. That's long, because usually it's about six months. We had to train to do battle as a unit, not just to fire as individuals.

Did you learn something after you joined the military that you hadn't known before you signed up?

Daniel Inouye: You must keep in mind that my mother was a devout Methodist. She was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Saloon busters, you know? So going to church was part of my life. At the time of December the 7th, I was a Sunday School teacher. Sang in a choir. I would say I was a good Christian boy. Read from the Bible. I still do. The Ten Commandments. And so here I am now in uniform, and we get out to the firing range, and I find that I'm the best shot in the company. I couldn't make sense of it, because I had never fired a gun in my life. And the instructor said, "That's why you're good. You don't have any bad habits. You just follow instructions." So my first assignment, which lasted about a month, I was a sniper. But then they made me an assistant squad leader, so they gave me a couple of stripes. I was too young for that.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

You were an assistant squad leader?

Daniel Inouye: Yep. I became assistant squad leader, and went overseas as such. But in the first battle, everything happens, the squad leader gets killed, I become squad leader. And before you know it I was platoon leader. It was a mess.

Why do you say that you were too young for that?

Daniel Inouye: Eighteen? Shaved twice a week. There was only one person younger than me. I had to convince my fellow soldiers that I was worthy of being a sergeant. These guys were older, bigger, and I'm a Sunday School teacher. I had to do a lot of things to prove myself to them. Don't mess with me.

We have one more question about the 442nd Regiment. Was it integrated?

Daniel Inouye: It was segregated. In the beginning, most of our officers were white, but as we moved along in the war, my colonel had a policy, if there were men worthy of leadership, we make them leaders. On my 20th birthday they submitted my name. I had no idea. I figured I was too young at that age. But one day I found out I was a lieutenant.

In 2000 President Bill Clinton honored you with the highest military decoration the United States can bestow, the Medal of Honor. This was 55 years after the war. Do you think that was too late?

Daniel Inouye Interview Photo
Daniel Inouye: No, I was surprised. It was something. I knew that a study had been made, because a bill had been introduced to see if Distinguished Service Crosses could be upgraded, not just for us, but throughout the Army, and 21 of us got upgraded. I've always felt that if I am deserving of the Medal of Honor, there are many, many others who are. I felt a little bad receiving it, so I received it on behalf of the fellows, because there's no such thing as a single-handed war. There's always a support group, and if you didn't have people who supported you, you couldn't fight a war.

In 2009, you were appointed the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. One question that is on a lot of American's minds right now is how do we dig our way out of our debt?

Daniel Inouye: That's a good question. The bill that we have provided, which has always been passed by the Senate, as it's part of the Administration's request, but it was always balanced. So much money income, so much we spend. But it's a heavy load, because I'm also chairman of the subcommittee on defense appropriations and we're engaged in two wars now, plus a few other small ones around the world, and it takes a lot of money. The other thing is...

Most people may not think about it, but the aftermath of war is very costly. Costly not just in lives, but the treatment. Because of the efficiency of our transportation system, the efficiency of our medical technicians, people are surviving. If you go to Walter Reed right now, you'll see dozens of double amputees, and you'll see triple amputees and quadruple amputees, which was almost impossible in World War II. They did not survive. We had one of the highest casualties in Europe, my regiment. We were also the most decorated in the history of the United States. But no double amputee survived, and I know we had several. No brain injuries survived. So what happens? Imagine yourself as a wife, and you have to look at a brain-injured husband for the rest of your life, and he can't talk to you. But we're paying for this. That's the easy part, money payment. But how do you pay for the misery? So if we can, we should be able to avoid war.

Senator, what does the American Dream mean to you? How do you define the American Dream?

Daniel Inouye: It's a dream where you live a life that's powerful, one in which you can get married if you want to, raise kids if you want to, get educated to the limit of your capacity, and do what makes you happy, because we all are looking for the good life. We don't want to go through life with just fighting, fighting, fighting. I've gone through life. I got into Congress when we had just started Vietnam. Before that, I had friends going to Korea. My brothers went to Korea. And these were war after war after war. Today, we have a powerful military that serves as a deterrent, but the enemy we have today is not like World War II, where you sign a piece of paper and the war is over. Today they're not in uniform. In my time we knew what the enemy looked like, we knew his weapons systems and such. Today, your cab driver may be the person, you have no idea. I don't know how we got into this fix, but we're there.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Thank you so much for talking with us today, Senator. Aloha.

Daniel Inouye: Aloha.

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This page last revised on Mar 24, 2011 22:02 EST
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