Thursday, September 16, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Dan Inouye Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Honolulu-born Dan Inouye has served in the U.S. Senate since
1962. In May 1973, the Hawaii senator was a Senate committee
member looking for answers during the Watergate hearings.

Senator gives all for
state, nation

By Richard Borreca


When Dan Inouye came back from World War II, a decorated combat veteran, he knew things would be different in Hawaii.

As the Almanac of American Politics notes, Inouye would do more than just play a role in modern Hawaii, he was destined to become the largest, most important figure in Hawaii's public life.

Inouye returned a war hero, who won the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, Purple Heart with cluster and 12 other medals and citations. In the closing months of the war Inouye, while assaulting a German machine gun nest, lost his right arm. He spent 20 months in Army hospitals recovering from the wounds.

If there was a turning point in Inouye's life, it happened in an Atlantic City hospital where the young Inouye was talking with another wounded soldier from Hawaii, Sakae Takahashi.

"Danny was younger," Takahashi recalled.

"We started talking about what are we going to do. I think, I gave him the idea it is time we got involved in politics.

"We didn't want to go back to the prewar plantation days. There were a lot of things that could be done politically," Takahashi said.

Inouye joined the Democratic Party and soon became a favorite of John Burns, who was organizing what would become Hawaii's modern Democratic Party.

"Danny in those early days became close to Jack Burns and Jack was instrumental in supporting Danny. Also Danny got a lot of support from the returning veterans," Takahashi recalled.

Former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi, another early supporter and organizer of the Democratic Party in the 1950s, recalled Inouye's usual quiet demeanor.

"He wasn't loud. He was a pleasant guy, but he was adamant about his positions," Fasi said.

Fasi added that while Burns may have been Inouye's mentor, it was Inouye's wife, Margaret, who was his secret weapon.

"His wife was very instrumental in teaching him to speak," Fasi said. "If anybody was responsible, she was responsible for his wonderful oratory."

Inouye went to law school, served as a city deputy prosecutor and was elected to the territorial Legislature in 1954. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was Hawaii's first congressman.

In 1962, Inouye was elected to the U.S. Senate, and he has been there ever since.

In office, he is quiet, polite but deliberate. He is a strong supporter of the Democratic Party and the Senate as a political institution.

News anchorman Tom Brokaw picked Inouye's life story as one of a handful to illustrate his best-selling book, "The Greatest Generation."

He's highly regarded on both sides of the aisle for his middle-of-the-road Democratic Party principles and his measured, almost stately style.

Inouye served on the Senate Watergate Committee, investigating President Nixon, and was chairman of the Senate committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal during Ronald Reagan's administration.

"He was a teen-ager when he saw those Japanese planes, 'with pilots that looked like me,' " Brokaw said. "And he knew his world was changed forever.

"What he did not know at the time was how much he would shape the new world through his bravery and his commitment to public service and the end of discrimination," Brokaw said.

Inouye was born Sept. 7, 1924, in Honolulu. He is married to Margaret S. Awamura and they have one son, Daniel.

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