(April 25, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.) A Democratic senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye was a staggeringly brave man. He served as a medical volunteer when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but it wasn’t until 1943 that the United States permitted military service to men of Japanese ancestry. Inouye promptly signed up. In the next two years, he distinguished himself in service of the war effort, eventually winning the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Leading a unit in France, he was shot in the chest. He survived because some lucky silver coins blocked a bullet. In Italy, he was shot again as he guided an infantry platoon against an entrenched battery. Just as he had pulled the pin from a grenade, he was struck by an enemy grenade, which lopped off much of his right arm. Refusing aid, he used his left hand to pry the lit grenade from his now nearly severed right hand and lob it at the Germans. This destroyed the enemy gun nest. Unfortunately, his right arm had to be fully amputated.
Entering politics, Inouye was the first Japanese-American elected to the House, and the first to preside in the Senate.
Inouye was supportive of Jewish causes from the moment he learned about the Holocaust. Convalescing from his war wounds, he heard about the Shoah horrors from a veteran who had been among those who liberated a death camp. Thereafter, Inouye felt a kinship with the Jewish people. He made money to pay for his education by selling Israel bonds, and more than once said that he had considered converting to Judaism.
As the longtime head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Inouye had great power. Over and over, he used that power to help Israel.
As Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor noted that Inouye “led the American support for the development of multi-layered Israeli initiated missile defense system, from Arrow, through David’s Sling, to Iron Dome.” He ensured that Israel would not only be allowed to purchase most advanced American weapons systems for its defense, but also be able to develop its own cutting-edge systems to guarantee its “qualitative military edge” over its enemies.
Honoring his invaluable contribution, Israel named an Arrow defense-missile facility after him, marking the first time that the country has named a military facility after a non-Israeli.
Inouye was also a sponsor of legislation calling for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And he was pointed in giving credit to Israel, knowledgeably remarking that “Israel’s contribution to U.S. military intelligence is greater than all NATO countries combined.”