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Medal of Honor Action


Interview begins with the interviewer stating that Senator Inouye is and always will be the most influential Japanese-American to have served in World War II and is the most decorated. Inouye is also one of the most influential Japanese-Americans since the war due to his public career.Interviewer discusses how the interview will be conducted.7 December 1941 was a Sunday. Every Sunday Inouye and his family got ready for church. At about the time of the attack, Inouye was putting on a necktie while listening to the radio and he noticed the commentator was acting beserk. The commentator was saying that Pearl Harbor was being attacked. Inouye thought that this was another fictional production like an Orson Welles program.Inouye called his father and they looked towards Pearl Harbor and they could see the attack happening. They noticed lots of smoke and little puffs in the air from the antiaircraft fire. All of a sudden three aircraft flew directly over them; they were gray and had the red dot indicating they were Japanese. Inouye knew his life had changed.Inouye went to the first aid station, but it had already been destroyed. He was 17 years old, a senior in high school and a pre-med student.A month after Pearl Harbor, the government announced that Japanese Americans would be labeled 4-C, the classification for enemy alien. Inouye considered himself a true American but at this point he was being labeled as an enemy. He joined a group of young men who petitioned the government to let them serve. They got a response about 10 months later indicating that they could indeed form combat units. Inouye is proud to say that when they opened the doors, 80 percent of eligible Japanese Americans joined up.Inouye was a Nisei in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They were shipped from Hawaii to San Francisco. They were on a train that was headed to Mississippi. When they got to Mississippi, they were greeted by about 100 grey dressed Red Cross women who served them coffees and donuts. Within weeks, homes and farms would open up to them. The people of Mississippi were very good to them. Inouye's first USO dance was in Mississippi. He had never danced with a white girl before that USO show. He spent a few weekends at the Roosevelt in New Orleans. Inouye ran the biggest craps game in the outfit and as a reward to the people who had lost their money to him; he rented out a suite at the Roosevelt. Inouye went to New Orleans about 4 or 5 times. He ate at Antoine’s. Inouye was treated well in New Orleans.


Inouye realized that there were problems in every state. Segregation in the south was a problem. He was confident that America was going to come together. In his last battle, they were attached to the 92nd Infantry Division, an all African-American division [Annotator's Note: the 92nd Infantry Division was made up primarily of African-Americans but not entirely]. The hospital was run by the 92nd Division. Inouye had 17 transfusions; he saw who the bottles of blood were donated by. Inouye has 17 pints of African-American blood in him.They landed in Naples; it was an eye opener because the entire city was demolished. People were begging. Young girls were selling themselves. It was a terrible awakening. It was obvious that war was terrible. Inouye's first combat was around Rome. He learned to be a good sergeant around Rome. Inouye started off as an assistant squad leader. Casualties were pretty high so he was moved up quickly.He was considered by his men to be a good patrol leader. On one of his patrols, Inouye found a stack of bodies. Upon his return, the colonel told Inouye to lead the men down the route he just scouted. Inouye started off in another direction and the colonel did not understand so he asked Inouye why they were going a different route. Inouye took the colonel to the bodies and asked him if he wanted his men to see them. They took another route.Inouye never fired a gun until he got into service. His mother was a devout Christian; she did not want guns in her household. She gave Inouye a scolding when he made a slingshot one time. Inouye went to the firing range and was number one in the company. He was a sniper. His first gun was an 03 [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber Springfield M1903 rifle]. Inouye was aware the 100th battalion [Annotator's Note: 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division] was ahead of them and that they were doing very well. They all had relatives in the 100th. They went up to the gates of Rome but they were stopped because they looked so dirty. They sat on the sideline and watched everyone come in.They advanced up to Florence before they were called back to France in late summer of 1944. Their first major battle was to rescue the Texans, the 36th Battalion [Annotator’s Note: "The Lost Battalion" / the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, originally Texas National Guard]. They were regarded as assault troops. The Texas regiments were told to take the hill, and they could not do it. Many of them told themselves that this was the moment they were waiting for, this was a bigger battle. They were going up against an entire division of Germans that had the Texas battalion surrounded. They suffered over 800 casualties, over 200 dead out of that 800. The Texans had about 64 casualties; it was worth it. After the battle they went into a French saloon and the Texans would all stand up to show them respect. They were all made honorary Texans. The division commander wanted to formally thank them. The Texans wanted to honor the Nisei so they had them form up. The commander of the men from Texas said, "I wanted the entire regiment to be here." He did not realize that the entire regiment was present and that the casualties were just that high.


The company that Inouye served in had the highest number of casualties with 42. Even the band was cut in half. In combat they put down their instruments and became stretcher bearers. The band's music sounded glorious, despite a lot of instruments missing. To Inouye, it was obvious that they were going to be looked at differently since their combat record was speaking for them. Other regiments had failed in other assignments, yet they called on Inouye and the 442nd to get tough jobs done. Inouye received a battlefield commission at age 20. He thinks he was too young. A messenger approached Inouye as another engagement was nearing and told him to go see the captain. The captain handed Inouye an envelope that contained his battlefield commission. He thought he was getting court-martialed.Inouye got a physical, he was underweight but it was not a big deal. When he got back to his unit, the battle was already over. When he left to get his commission he had 14 men, when he got back there were only 10 left. Inouye was told to act superior, even though he was the youngest guy in the regiment. After every battle, the guys would take a break, they would go to the village or the city to have fun. Inouye told his men to have fun but they had to be back two days before any action. Inouye's casualty rate for his company was the lowest in the regiment. After he became the platoon leader, he only lost one man who was killed. Some men going into combat are gung ho, some are cautious, and some are not ready for it. About 10 percent of the missions were phony. Inouye made sure to send people on meaningless patrols so they felt part of the team. Inouye wanted to get home.They came to the German line in Italy, which had not moved in months. Two weeks before Inouye was wounded, all of the officers were brought in and everyone was sworn to secrecy. They were told that the war was over because they were negotiating; Inouye was not to tell his men because they were supposed to keep pressing on to keep the political pressure on.


The mountain was at the opening of a valley. It was an important valley because of troop movements and positioning. The 442nd [Annotator's Note: 442nd Regimental Combat Team] was able to occupy that area. It was 21 April 1945. Inouye had misplaced his field jacket and the chief sergeant lent him one of his jackets. It was a German jacket. Inouye stood out.They kept knocking out positions. Inouye was wounded; he was shot through the stomach. There was no pain when he was shot. His messenger was right behind him and he informed Inouye that there was blood coming out of him. Inouye was using a Thompson submachine gun. He knocked out two more nests but a German soldier in the third nest shot a rifle grenade and it knocked his arm off.The grenade Inouye was preparing to throw was in his right hand which was no longer taking orders from his brain. He picked up the grenade and threw it at the machine gun nest. The men that Inouye fought against were not Germans, but Italians. The Italians were good soldiers. Inouye was still conscious; he leaned up against a tree and continued to bark orders. Inouye told the medic to cut it off but the medic was not having any of that. When Inouye looks back, he cannot believe that he did those things. It took nine hours for Inouye to be evacuated. They began the battle in the morning and it ended around 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon. Inouye directed his men where they needed to reinforce the position. When he got to the field hospital he was put into a giant tent; there were stretchers lined up everywhere. When they came to Inouye they more or less said “good luck to this one”. The chaplain came by and said, "Son God loves you." Inouye said “I know he does but I am not ready to see him yet”. The chaplain called over to the doctors, they reevaluated him and put him into surgery. Inouye had 17 transfusions at the field hospital. African-American blood saved his life. A week before the Medal of Honor action, the regimental commander to the guys that the Germans would not expect them to climb the cliffs. Their commander told them that if anyone fell, they were not to scream. When they got to the top of the ridge, the Germans were just making breakfast. They wiped out the company. That enabled the breakthrough for the line to advance.


Inouye helped liberate a village as well. One of the churches in the village had a high steeple. He asked the priest if they could go up the steeple and use it as an observation post. The platoon that Inouye was leading led the charge into the town. The village elders came to see Inouye; they were all dressed up in tuxedos. They were honoring him for his help in liberating the town. The men went up to Inouye and told him to take his pick of girls. Inouye had a sister and a mother back home, and he would do everything to protect them; he told the men that they should be doing the same thing with their women. All of the women ran up to him and hugged them. They marched out the next morning to go to battle. When Inouye's platoon came through, they threw flower petals at them. He was proud to see that Americans were conducting themselves with the utmost dignity under the most trying of conditions. For Inouye, the war was over.Inouye's dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon was shot because of him losing his arm.He and Bob Dole were good friends in one of the hospitals. Dole planned and laid out his political career for Inouye.Inouye got onto Capitol Hill in 1959, he sent Dole a telegram saying, "I am here, where are you?" Dole's career choice influenced Inouye to become a public servant. Inouye had to censor every letter from the men in his unit. The folks back home did not have to go through the mental turmoil that people go through today. The men today come back and spend time at home in between deployments. During World War II, they just stayed over there. Inouye did not have any depression in his recovery. He made it a point to enjoy himself. He first hospital assignment was in Atlantic City. He got a kiss from Miss America in Atlantic City. She came down from the stage and shook hands with all of the patients.


Inouye respects the United States because they were able to say after the war that it was wrong that Japanese-Americans were interned. No other country in the world does that. America has apologized and for that Inouye is forever grateful. Before 7 December [Annotator's Note: 7 December 1941, the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor] America was a good nation, trying its best to keep up with the rest of the world. After World War II we became a super nation, for 1 reason, because the people were together. Everyone was involved in some form or fashion. Little kids were collecting pennies, copper wire, and other things to help. People grew victory gardens. Today, 1 percent of the population is involved in the military. Inouye makes it a point to thank the men that stand in harm’s way.When Inouye got home they were all heroes, they had parades. He was young, and as a result of the G.I. Bill he got a law degree. It was the first time any country had passed legislation like the G.I. Bill. 20 percent of America participated in that war. Inouye is third in line to succeed the President. He is convinced that change can take a little while, even though it may be hard. Inouye wants the youth of America to know that they live in a great place. We acknowledge our mistakes which is not easy. Inouye is highly optimistic about the future. Since 1959, he has seen the ups and downs of Congress, but they always move forward. There are 33 words that are sacred to the members of Congress. They are from the paragraph in the US Constitution stating that all men are equal.It was an honor for the interviewer to meet with Inouye and to hear his story first hand. The interview shows Inouye a newspaper and journal from a town in Italy. Inouye's photograph is on the back of the journal.

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