The Hero Behind the USS Daniel Inouye DDG-118

Daniel K. Inouye was a Japanese American man who was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, 17 year-old Daniel served as a medical volunteer helping those who had been injured. A little over a year later, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed, and Daniel set his premed studies aside to join the almost entirely Japanese American regiment. Inouye quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to Sergeant in his first year. In 1944, he was shipped off to Europe where he spent some time in combat in Italy and France. During his time in France, he received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant, making him the youngest officer in his regiment.

On April 21, 1945, Lieutenant Inouye was leading an attack on the Colle Musatello Ridge in Italy. The ridge was a heavily fortified German strongpoint on the Gothic Line and one of the final German defense points in Italy. While leading his platoon in a flank attack, the group began taking fire from three German machine guns in covered positions. Daniel stood up to fire at one of the gunners and was wounded badly by a bullet to his stomach. Despite his injury, he kept firing and throwing explosives at the enemy machine gun. He wiped out the first machine gun and moved his aim to the next, all while refusing medical treatment for his gunshot wound. He cleared the second gunner’s location and then collapsed to the ground from blood loss. 

While his squad continued to fire on the 3rd gunner’s bunker, Lt. Inouye crawled towards the enemy and got into position within 10 yards. Once in close enough range, he grabbed his last grenade and raised his arm to throw it into the bunker. One of the enemies spotted Inouye at the last second and fired a rifle grenade round at him. The round struck the Lieutenant in his right arm, removing almost the entire limb from his elbow down. The explosive round did not detonate, which saved Inouye from instant death. His severed arm fell to the ground with the grenade still clenched tightly in his fingers, the trigger unreleased. Some of the Lieutenant’s men began rushing towards him, but he halted them in fear that the explosive may have gone off at any second. With great courage, Daniel pulled the live grenade from his severed hand and launched it into the German bunker, killing the remaining enemies inside. He stumbled back to his feet and grabbed his rifle with the working arm he had left. He continued firing on the enemies, killing one more before he was shot again, this time in the left leg. This injury sent him tumbling down the ridge. Lt. Inouye awoke to his platoon surrounding him at the bottom of the ridge with worried looks on their faces. Despite his meager condition, he ordered the men to get back to work and is quoted as saying, “Nobody called off the war!!” 

Lieutenant Inouye made a full recovery and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He went on to become a United States Senator and the first U.S. Representative for the state of Hawaii. The hero recently had a Navy ship named after him, the USS Daniel Inouye DDG-118. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was launched in October of 2019 and christened by his widow, Irene Harano Inouye. 


Mitchel Hightower

I am a recent graduate from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in marketing.

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