nouye has spoken in strict confidence of how he felt when he first killed a German soldier. And how he felt the subsequent times, and how those feelings have stayed with him. "We pretended to be calloused and insensitive because we understood the fatal consequences of caring too much," he writes in Journey.
The casualty rate was horrendous among the "go for broke" Niseis. In one year of fighting 12,000 men were needed to replenish units whose original strength was 4,500. 85% of all eligible Nisei men served in the war.
As Inouye moved from battle to battle, he wrote home that he was having a great time. Unfortunately, the Honolulu newspapers often headlined "Sargeant Inouye Leads the Troops to Attack..." His family was constantly worried. Just before the war ended a fellow soldier whose life Inouye had saved returned to Hawaii and visited Inouye's parents. They asked him what was the last thing he had seen Dan doing. Going up and down the hill looking for a ring, the soldier replied. It came out that the 1 1/2-carat diamond ring Inouye had lost in battle had been bought with gambling profits. Kame Inouye was scandalized.
Inouye's platoon would spend three weeks in combat and three weeks off. He ran a tight ship. His proudest achievement is having only one man killed under his command. And that was because "he didn't obey my direction to stay put and started crawling around." Inouye fought in all but two of the 442nd's battles, a heroic feat in itself. One he missed was the legendary November 1944 mission to rescue 1,000 men of the Texas Battalion which had become trapped behind German lines. As his unit was leaving Inouye was summoned back to regimental headquarters to receive a battlefield commission. By the time he reached his unit two days later, the lost battalion had been rescued at high cost to the 442nd. In Inouye's platoon only 10 of 19 men remained in action. Inouye credits having missed that battle to the two lucky silver dollars he had carried with him throughout the war.
On April 21, 1945, the day after Inouye discovered his lucky dollars missing, E Company was ordered to take a heavily defended ridge in Italy called Colle Musatello. Journey gives a vivid account of the fateful battle. Inouye's platoon was to attack the left flank. It fought its way through to the main defenses before the frontal assault could catch up. The German bunkers were only 40 yards away, and Inouye had to decide immediately whether to charge or fall back to wait. Inouye decided to go for broke, leading the assault. He took a bullet in the stomach but managed to throw a grenade into the first of three machine gun emplacements. With two more grenades he knocked out the second. His men charged the third. They had to fall back but the diversion let Inouye drag himself up to grenade range. He stood and cocked his arm back to throw. A rifle grenade smashed into his arm, blowing it into a limp, bloody mass.
"Some of my men were rushing up to help me," Inouye writes. "'Get back!' I screamed. Then I tried to pry the grenade out of that dead fist with my other hand. At last I had it free. The German was reloading his rifle, but my grenade blew up in his face. I stumbled to my feet, closing on the bunker, firing my tommy gun lefthanded, the useless right arm slapping red and wet against my side. It was almost over. But one last German, before his death, squeezed off a final burst, and a bullet caught me in the right leg and threw me to the ground. I rolled over and over down the hill. Some men came after me, but I yelled, 'Get back up that hill! Nobody called off the war!'"
Two days later the German resistance ended in that sector. Nine days later the war in Italy was over. A week after that Germany surrendered unconditionally.
During the 20 months Inouye spent in Army hospitals recovering from the loss of his right arm and other wounds he learned about the Jewish death camps from an officer just shipped from Germany. He read up on Jewish history, and when Israel was formed, he became a registered Israeli bond salesman without commission. In 1951 he considered conversion but was stopped by his Methodist mother.
Inouye came home a captain with a Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with cluster and 12 other medals and citations. On his way back he stopped in Whittier, California in full uniform to visit his namesake. Inouye fondly remembers Mrs. Klinefelter ecstatically running into the house yelling, "Your grandson is here!" During a stopover in San Francisco Inouye learned that being a war hero didn't exempt him from racial prejudice. "We don't cut Jap hair," a barber told him.
Soon after his return Inouye attended the wedding party of a man from his platoon and got drunk enough to be carried home. Years later he learned that his mother cried all that night and wrote a letter resigning from presidency of the Women's Christian Temperance Union: "Dear Sisters, I have failed. There's a drunkard in the house. Loving in Christ." Home life resumed. Inouye discovered that his mother had saved all the money he had sent.
The amputation forced Inouye to give up his dream of becoming a surgeon. He took a battery of tests and was counseled to become a minister, teacher, social worker or politician. Despite the arguments of a minister that the church could use someone who had seen "the other side of life", Inouye chose politics. As a first step he re-enrolled at UH under the GI Bill.
In the fall of 1947, after a football game, Inouye and friends went to the Seaside Inn, a popular lounge that later gave way to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. In the parking lot a barefoot Inouye was introduced to Margaret Shinobu Awamura by her escort. Captivated by the girl's beauty, Inouye thought, "Buddy, you just lost her." Three days later he called her for a date. "Excitement, challenge, a risk taker and an oversized ego," is what Inouye thinks Margaret saw in him.
It turned out the Awamura and the Inouye families had known each other for a long time. Margaret was the second of six daughters. Born on June 23, 1924, she is three months older than her husband. She had been named Shinobu because her parents had been expecting a boy. She was well versed in dancing, sewing, piano and other arts to "draw suitors into the family," Inouye says. She had a master's degree in counseling from Columbia University and was an assistant professor teaching speech at UH at the time they met.
For their first date, which happened to be on Thanksgiving Day, Inouye took her to the Fort Shafter Officers' Club where they were joined by his friends. It was more of a gettogether than a real date but Inouye saw enough to empty his bank account, buy an engagement ring at a good discount from the jewelry department where his father worked, and propose after dinner on their second date two weeks later.
They married on June 12, 1949. Margaret continued teachng to support them. The following June Inouye graduated with a degree in economics/government. He spent the next two years at George Washington University Law School. In June of 1952 Inouye returned to Hawaii and began studying for the bar exam. He also spent a good deal of time helping to incorporate Central Pacific Bank, now Hawaii's third largest, where he served as a director until this year. The Japanese banks had been taken over at the outbreak of war and there was a need for a Japanese community bank. What with the pressures of the bar exam and starting the bank, the months following law school were stressful ones.
The bar exam results were positive, and in the spring of 1953 Inouye went to work for a year as assistant prosecutor. After that he opened his own practice. "I found it difficult to have a boss above me." He worked on "everything except the domestic law" because he doesn't believe in divorce. He also took on many pro-bono matters for inmates and the poor. He maintained his practice for four years.
Outwardly Inouye had accepted the loss of his right arm, even feeling a sense of pride. It wasn't until the summer of 1954 that he saw himself in a dream as a one-armed man. Taking that as a sign that his rehabilitation was complete, he joyfully woke Margaret. But he still found himself unable to cry. He feared he had lost the capacity for deep emotion.