Sunday diversion / real live hero at 22, public servant until 88 edition

rest in peace, brother Inouye
US Senator from Hawaii Daniel Inouye died this week at age 88, after having been the longest serving member of the Senate since Robert Byrd’s passing in 2010. That means he was about 63 when some of you from the mainland may have come to know of him when he chaired the Senate committee investigating the Iran-contra constitutional scandal in 1987, only about 39 when he first came to my attention as a member of the Senate Watergate committee, and only 22 or 23 when he did this, leading to two years in Army hospitals, a Distinguished Service Cross and (belatedly) the Congressional Medal of Honor (per the New York Times obit):

On April 21, 1945, weeks before the end of the war in Europe, he led an assault near San Terenzo, Italy. His platoon was pinned down by three machine guns. Although shot in the stomach, he ran forward and destroyed one emplacement with a hand grenade and another with his submachine gun. He was crawling toward the third when enemy fire nearly severed his right arm, leaving a grenade, in his words, “clenched in a fist that suddenly didn’t belong to me anymore.” He pried it loose, threw it with his left hand and destroyed the bunker. Stumbling forward, he silenced resistance with gun bursts before being hit in the leg and collapsing unconscious.

Read that again, please, slowly, noting how early in the paragraph “[a]lthough shot in the stomach” appears and how “enemy fire nearly severed his right arm” is in the middle of the paragraph, then pausing especially around what “[s]tumbling forward” in that last sentence might have involved. (Talking Points Memo has the full citation for his Medal of Honor; the wonderful Wiki has more, including a more detailed description of what he did that day in Italy.)

It was one thing that he was refused service at a barbershop in postwar San Francisco with the remark “[w]e don’t serve Japs here” while he had “his empty right sleeve pinned to his officer’s uniform”; it was quite another when nearly 30 years later the lawyer for one of the Watergate bad guys referred to Senator Inouye as “that little Jap” (both stories in this Washington Post obit).

Really: read the links from Wiki, TPM, NYT and the WashPo.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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