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Daniel Inouye, 1st Japanese-American elected to US House and US Senate

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Sen. Inouye died today, and was the most senior member of Congress at the time. He served in Europe in an all Japanese-American unit and served with distinction. His unit was the most decorated of all units in WWII. He lived a life of service to his state of Hawaii.


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It is a curiousity to me that a post intended for recognition only, will take on a life of its own, with discussion.

Thank you, sag, puzzaddled, treker, Carole, and judipie, patsquire, and David.

I posted a draft of the "Infamy" speech, earlier this month, and was amazed at the discussion that one engendered. Though I have not intended to start discussions, as a teacher, it has been a nice experience for me to be able to exchange thoughts and use my knowledge.


Thanks for the Hawaiian lesson - I went to look that one up! and the greetings. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thanks RH for the post and the conversation space, too.


Thanks, David. Nice to see you again too. I made my point, and I don't disagree with anything that followed.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! (Or as the Senator probably said many times, [phonetically] Melly Kalikamaka and Hola-maka-hiki-ho.)


Wow, I could not agree more, RH. Anything after 1898, what a story this country has lived...and what a story it has decided to tell itself! That's what bugs me about that lumpy rug with all the stuff swept under it...


A bit of a digression from Sen. Inouye, here, but the men in Gould's Massachusetts 54th had to have been much more hopeful than the blacks who fought in the Spanish-American War, the Great War, and, then, WWII.

By the time of the Spanish-American War many blacks were not so sure about what the US was trying to accomplish, particularly in the Philippines. They could empathize with the Filipino people who wanted their independence, yet some in power in the US thought the Filipino people were not ready to govern themselves. After the Great War blacks returned to the US and faced lynchings, making the determination of the Tuskegee Airmen even more remarkable.


I appreciate the vigorous dialog here and have to say I had been missing PSq just before this post. Thanks to both for your engagement.

Sen. Inouye's last word was apparently, "Aloha" - as I understand it, a word that serves as greeting and farewell because it means "Peace" or something close to it.

Like Gould's Massachusetts 54th and the Tuskegee Airmen, Sen. Inouye's comrades fought for an ideal when they had personal experience of the nation's ignorance / denial of the ideal. This is a basic fact. Their example may have led to changes in the nation and the military, but it came before that reality. They claimed a nation that did not fully or willingly claim them. That service, to that higher ideal, I gladly honor. That fight, for that higher ideal, is still ongoing. We can't let the flag hide that. Until our children are taught the whole story, not just Washington-Crossing-the-Delaware, not just Pearl-Harbor, we will never live up to our high calling as a nation.


Patsquire, I appreciate your wish to differentiate, but the use of the term, concentration camp. doesn't begin to define what happened in Nazi Germany. And many have addressed that, as the links I provided show. They were "death" camps in Germany, and while they were also concentration camps, they were primarily "death" camps intended to eliminate an entire group of people. FDR called the places that the Japanese-Americans were to be taken "concentration camps." The primary definition of "concentration camps" doesn't include the concept of death. Internment was merely a euphemism for concentration.

Nor did I compare the deaths of so many, to the experiences of the people in camps here. I compared the 'starvation' to the 'psychological damage' of being held, when most in the camps here were citizens of the US. Psychological damage, which has long been ignored, not only for the general citizenry, or for those incarcerated in the "camps" in WWII, but for the people who went to defend this nation in both world wars. It was called shell shock, in the aftermath of the Great War, and PTSD today. But not properly addressed as a condition which needed medical/psychological treatment.

The actions in the death camps have been seared in my memory since I was young and saw the television play, Judgement at Nuremberg, along with my father and grandmother. It was a television production before it was a film at the movies. It included the stark, graphic photos which are still with me, in my mind's eye, today. I have taught about the Holocaust, about Civil Rights in America, about the incarceration of the Japanese-Americans, about the establishment of a country for the Jewish people, and a whole host of other issues that have affected humanity. My approach to the Holocaust was impassioned, to convey to my students the horror of it all.

As to Sen. Daniel Inouye's Congressional Medal of Honor, it is also unfortunate that it was awarded so long after the fact. But that is not what should be the focus of his life. It is what he achieved after having to abandon his desire to be a medical doctor, that should be the focus. My father, who served in WWII, and was an older man at the time of his enlistment, he was 32 in December, 1941, did not like the celebrations that included soldiers marching in their too tight uniforms. He felt that most of the soldiers who had faced war were not eager to relieve it. He termed those marching in our small town "sunshine soldiers" and perhaps he knew about their military experience. He had, as an example, my maternal grandfather who had served in the trenches in Europe in the Great War. My father's rank, at the end of WWII was that of 2nd Lieutenant. He was respectful of others who had also served, one of his first cousins had been a POW after his plane was shot down over Germany, and another first cousin was a nurse in that war.

You say that Sen. Inouye's military achievements can never be overstated or celebrated too frequently, yet even Sen. Inouye did not call up his military service as a Senator, to gain any political ground. He was most offended by military, at the time of the Iran-contra hearings who felt that because they were military they were above the law. Respect veterans, honor them, but what else they achieve that needs recognition. Sen. Inouye didn't rest on his laurels, nor did others like him.


I don't see how drawing the distinction between such huge differences could be misinterpreted, and I said at the outset that we violated our own citizens' rights. I've been an energetic, active civil rights advocate most of my life, given many speeches, been on TV many times, and lobbied the halls of congress and the state legislatures for decades. What the United States did to our own civilians in WWII was deplorable and a disgrace.

However, when a man earns the Congressional Medal of Honor in combat his military achievements can never be overstated, or celebrated too frequently. And when the man rises above that level of devoted service to his country, and spends the rest of his life in the political arena with the integrity Senator Inouye demonstrated over and over again, working to make America the best it can be, he has my permanent respect and admiration. And he worked tirelessly for decades to heal the wounds his government inflicted on Japanese-Americans while he fought the fascists and the Nazis.

I'm not defending America's crimes against our fellow citizens during WWII, but I certainly am drawing the line when our government's actions are compared to the Holocaust. Yes, roseheather, I think we can put a value on the differences, six million lives' worth.


Thank you, David for coming by. As to Sen. Inouye, his was a voice of quiet determination, and of integrity, in Congress. He was a representative for his native Hawaii from statehood, in 1959, until his death. He fully intended to run again in 2016 but he also said that if any felt that he was no longer capable that they would take measures to have him replaced because Hawaii deserved the best for representation in Congress.

The importance of his military service is akin to the service of the Tuskegee airmen. Inouye left medical school when, in 1943, the government determined that Japanese-Americans could serve in segregated units. Men like Inouye, and the Tuskegee airmen, only wanted to defend their country, and did so regardless of the discrimination they faced. It is their determination that is the lesson for today's students. They served regardless of the treatment they were subject to. Appropriately Pres. Truman desegregated the military in 1948.


I enter the fray with some trepidation, only because honoring Sen. Inouye should be the point. So I'll start with that - can we celebrate his accomplishments outside of the military? Or must we continue to be fixated on military accomplishments as the only valid ones in this nation? He did a few things as a Senator, didn't he?
And I'll go on to say in response to PSq's post: three squares a day, while your house, business, job, reputation, and future are held hostage by a government you thought was your own, is far from fair treatment. And putting a bunch of people who haven't done anything at all wrong all together in one place is called concentration; if the housing is barracks, it's a camp. Why can't the USA get over the fact that it has done abominable things to people in and outside of this land and start being honest with itself? Why is it so important to so many to wave the flag in front of these hateful things and say, "see how good we are and have ever been"?


I have been thinking of your comment, Patsquire, and I would wonder if we can put a "value" on starvation vs. psychological damage to humans from being incarcerated.

I did a search for internment v. concentration. One source says that those in Nazi Germany are more correctly called Death camps. "Concentration" does not mean a death camp. In fact, Roosevelt called them "concentration" camps when he issued the executive order. OR OR OR


An interview summary from Sen. Inouye's visit to the Federal Center which was named for him, Sen. Dole, and Sen. Hart, all who as young men, were rehabilitated there when the building was the Percy Jones Hospital, an extension of the Fort Custer Military presence in Battle Creek, during and, for a while after, WWII. See:


Senator, and former Second Lieutenant Inouye, was indeed a great and distinguished American. He exemplified the best among people who choose to serve our country. However, it is one thing to violate citizens' rights and place them in internment camps where they were well fed and housed, and quite another to place them in concentration camps where they were starved to death, tortured to death and gassed by the millions. Please, let us not lose sight of these vast distinctions.


Thank you, sag, puzzaddled, treker, Carole, and judipie.

Carole, the experience for so many who were placed in the dentention camps was horrid. There was a story made available for high school students about 15 to 20 years ago, how some neighbors, of Japanese-Americans who had to leave their orchards in the NW, returned to find that their neighbors had kept the orchards going for them. I think I am remembering that correctly. So many just also picked up and moved forward, leaving behind the hurt inflicted on them. Perhaps we learned, when Arab-Americans were subject to suspicion, to go a bit more cautiously in wrongly accusing.

He was a wonderful example of the power of forgiveness and service.


Rose, I worked for a Japanese import firm for 5 years in the early 60's. They also had a retail store which I ran. The husband and wife were placed in what was really an American concentration camp in Arizona (named "Camp Topaz") during WWII. Their children were born there. I saw firsthand some of the pain this inflicted on them and their family.

This experience made me marvel even more at Senator Inouye's service to our nation. He truly was a remarkable American.



He was a member of a very distinguished group of American servicemen. He was a Medal of Honor recipient. I salute him. RIP indeed.


A caring and thoughtful tribute, Rose.