WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Democrat Daniel Inouye, the U.S. Senate's most seniormember and a Medal of Honor recipient for his bravery during World WarII, has died. He was 88.
He died of respiratory complications, according to the Associated Press.
Aspresident pro tempore of the Senate, Inouye was third in line ofpresidential succession -- after Vice President Biden and House SpeakerJohn Boehner. First elected to the Senate in 1962, Inouye's tenure issecond only to Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Perhaps morethan any other politician, Inouye has been a dominating presence inHawaii's history. He has represented Hawaii continuously since itachieved statehood in 1959, first in the U.S. House and then in the U.S.Senate, where he used his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committeeto send federal dollars back home for a host of projects. Inouye hasserved on the commitee since 1971, and became chairman in 2009.
Inouyewas a proud supporter of "earmarks," the special pet projects ofsenators, which were banned in the Senate in 2010. Inouye won approvalfor $392.4 million in earmarks in fiscal 2010, according to thenon-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Throughout his life,Inouye was a witness to some of the nation's most historic moments,first as a teen-aged Red Cross volunteer who tended to the wounded whenthe Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was keynote speaker at thetumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Inouyewould later serve as a member of the Senate committee investigating theWatergate scandal in the 1970s and chairman in the 1980s of the panelinvestigating the Reagan administration's sale of arms to Iran, whoseproceeds were used to fund Nicraguan rebels in what became known as theIran-Contra affair.
Yet it was on the battlefields in Europeduring World War II where Inouye first earned distinction. At a timewhen the federal government placed thousands of Japanese Americans intorelocation camps, Inouye and his Asian-American peers petitioned theWhite House for the right to serve in the military. He dropped out ofschool to join the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up ofsecond-generation Japanese-Americans known as Nisei.
In 1944,Inouye narrowly avoided death in France when a bullet struck him in thechest and hit two silver dollars he carried in his shirt pocket for goodluck. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 for hisheroism in 1945 during a battle in Italy near the town of Terenzo.Inouye and his unit were pinned down by fire. Already wounded by abullet to his mid-section, Inouye was lobbing hand grenades at the enemywhen his right arm was almost completely severed by an enemy grenadelauncher.
With his left arm, Inouye reached over to pry the livegrenade out of his debilitated arm. Hours later while receivingtreatment at an Army hospital, Inouye's right arm was amputated. Duringhis recovery in the hospital, Inouye became friends with a fellowAmerican soldier named Bob Dole -- who later became a U.S. senator fromKansas. Inouye and Dole would often work together on issues when Dolewas Senate Republican leader.
More than a half-century after thebattle at Terenzo, President Bill Clinton awarded Inouye and 21 otherJapanese-American soldiers the Medal of Honor, the nation's highestcivilian honor. At the ceremony in 2000, Clinton said the nation owes"an unrepayable debt" to Inouye and his fellow soldiers. "Rarely has anation been so well-served by a people it ill-treated," Clinton said.
Inouye won election to a ninth Senate term in 2010 with 75% of the vote.
He is survived by his wife, Irene, a son, Ken, and a granddaughter named Maggie. Inouye's first wife, Margaret, died in 2006.