Remembering Senator Daniel Inouye on Victory in Europe Day
Today, May 8, is celebrated as Victory in Europe Day. Sixty-eight years ago on this day victory over Germany was celebrated, Allied Forces rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.
Ten years ago today, to mark the 58th anniversay of VE Day, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), spoke with CNN about his experiences serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. Inouye, born in Honolulu of Japanese descent, was 17 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. When he became of draft age in 1942, the U.S. military considered him an "enemy alien." When the War Department later created the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to be comprised of Japanese-American young men, Inouye enlisted. He went on to serve four years in the European Theater, fighting to prove his loyalty to the U.S.
On December 17, 2012, Daniel Inouye passed away at age 88, a war hero and the second-longest serving U.S. Senator in the legislative body's history. To honor him and all those who served during World War II to achieve victory in Europe, we look back at his 2003 CNN inteview.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This is the 58th anniversary of V.E. Day. On May 8, 1945, President Harry Truman announced that World War II had ended in Europe, and it is a special day for Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat from Hawaii, a genuine hero of that war.
CNN's Candy Crowley returns to that era with an American soldier.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: On the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, a 17-year-old boy peddling through the chaotic streets of Honolulu looked up to the skies and screamed, "You dirty Japs."
This is the story of an American soldier.
SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D), HAWAII: Soon after December the 7th, the United States government decided that all Japanese were enemy aliens. So therefore, I was declared to be foreign enemy alien, and as a result could not serve my nation.
CROWLEY: As Japanese-Americans were put in interment camps, thousands petitioned the president, fighting to get in the fight to prove themselves American. When the war department relented, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed, and sent to the battle front in Europe.
INOUYE: Everyone said the same thing in a different way. I hope I don't bring dishonor to the family, or I hope I don't bring embarrassment. I hope I don't turn out to be a coward.
CROWLEY: They were the go for broke regiment, fighting for their country and a place in it. When a Texas battalion was surrounded by Germans and out of supplies, they called in the 442nd.
INOUYE: I looked upon this as the great opportunity. It was obvious that the way we were pushed in, we were expendable, because there were no holds barred when we went in.
And the battle lasted about five days and there were 800 casualties, are we (ph) speaking of 10 or 15 here. There were 800 casualties in five days, but I've yet to hear anyone say it wasn't worth it, because after that, I don't think anyone, at least not men in the uniform, questioned our loyalty, whether we're Americans or not.
CROWLEY: Second Lieutenant Dan Inouye fought his last battle on a hillside in Italy. It was three weeks before victory in Europe, April of '45. Though severely wounded, Inouye pushed forward, throwing grenades into a nest of German machine guns.
INOUYE: If I told you that I was shot in the leg and my gut and my arm, all in the same battle, in a period of about three hours, and during that time I felt absolutely no pain, so help me.
CROWLEY: He lost an arm for his country, but talks only of what he gained.
INOUYE: This war and the injury made it possible for me to meet other Americans.
CROWLEY: He spent 20 months in Michigan at a rehab facility, reveling in the American-ness of his experience.
INOUYE: I had my first stuffed cabbage in Akron when my Polish buddy took me home and says come on home, let's spend the weekend. And the Polish dancers and all that, and then I go to Detroit with a couple of the African-American officers, and I -- they got me a date. I'd never seen a black woman before.
CROWLEY: The G.I. bill sent him to college and law school. Hawaiians, once they achieved statehood, sent him to Congress. And as the new millennium opened, U.S. Senator Dan Inouye received the medal of honor, the highest military award for valor in action against an enemy force.
And that is the story of an American soldier.
Here you can watch a segment from Ken Burns's documentary The War in which Inouye discusses his motivations for service.