When Japanese bombers hit Pearl Harbor, everything changed for Daniel Inouye. The 17-year-old watched as bombs hit the Navy's Pacific Fleet, an act that would pull the United States into World War II.
Inouye said, 'We looked towards Pearl Harbor and puff! All the smoke. And you could see puffs of the anti-aircraft shells exploding. And then, all of a sudden, three aircraft flew right over us. Green color with the red dot in the wing. I knew my life had changed"
He even went to the Red Cross aid station assisting injured sailors and civilians. In 1942, he tried to enlist in the Army when he graduated high school, but they said no due to his Japanese heritage.
In fact, with Executive Order 9066, President Franklin Roosevelt had over 100,000 Japanese Americans placed in internment camps, but not in Hawaii. It would have had devastating effects on the economy. A year later, Roosevelt created the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The team was Japanese-Americans from Hawaii, a unit Inouye joined immediately, pausing his pre-med studies. By the summer of 1944, he was fighting in Italy making a name for himself.
In 1945, they went back to Italy and mounted an assault on a ridge in San Terenzo, occupied by the Germans in tough terrain. Near the beginning of the operation, Inouye was hit in the stomach by a sniper but pressed on.
He encouraged his men to keep on, too, as German gunners kept firing on them. Inouye crawled up to a machine gun nest, killed the soldiers with a set of grenades, and took over. Nearing the third, he pulled out a live grenade and went to throw, but he was hit in the arm by a rifle grenade. He dug the grenade out of his mangled right hand and threw it at the German soldier.
An injured Inouye and his team made it to the top, killed 25 German soldiers, and captured eight more. He had numerous injuries, including gunshot wounds to the leg and chest, plus a blown-up arm.
At the hospital, he was given 17 blood transfusions with no anesthesia. Eventually, his arm was amputated, and his dream of being a surgeon was gone. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was to Medal of Honor 55 years later. Now, he has a warship named in his honor.