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Daniel Inouye
Daniel Inouye
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Daniel Inouye Interview

Medal of Honor

September 27, 2010
Washington, D.C.

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  Daniel Inouye

Thank you Senator, for sitting down with the Academy today. We'd like to discuss your experiences in the war. There is a story about a face-to-face encounter you had with an enemy soldier that had a big impact on you. Could you tell us about that?

Daniel Inouye: It was in a house. Well up until then I'd killed many Germans, I won't tell you. This is one secret, because you must keep in mind that if you run across a dog driving, would you ever forget that? You could never forget that, that bump. It'll haunt you for the rest of your life. Imagine if you killed a human being. You're not going to forget that. Well I killed many, but this was at a time when I was still a sergeant, not an officer yet. And the machine gun on the second floor had been firing at us and killed one of the men and I was angry. We charged up there, there were three Germans, two were dead and one was alive, but he was sitting on the floor, back against the wall, his legs were wounded. His hands were up, "Kamerad! Kamerad!" And I didn't speak German worth anything, so I proceeded towards him. Then suddenly he stuck his hand in his jacket, like this. My initial and natural reaction was, this fool is going for his gun. So I swung my rifle up, hit his face on the butt, and he was dead. His hand flew out and up came a packet of photographs of his wife and kids. That's what he wanted to show me, that he was a father, he was married, he's got children, so be good to me. I killed him. You don't forget that.

That's a situation of that a lot of people probably can't understand.

Daniel Inouye: I told the chaplain, I said, "I don't think I can continue doing this." He says, "Well the war is still on, and if we don't put them away, they're going to put us away." So reluctantly, I went along. I didn't enjoy my work. Up until then I must admit I enjoyed it, and men who have served, some of them have experienced this. To this day I can not fathom this, but I was a young corporal -- a sergeant -- leading a contact patrol from my battalion to the next battalion. We were walking along the trail and all of a sudden I looked up on a hill, not too far away, and here's this German. He's crouched, he's defecating. Nothing glamorous about it. And I told them, "That's mine. Get down." I set my sights carefully, pshh, boom. And the men all came up to me, "Terrific Dan, terrific!" Killed a human being, terrific, and I felt good. You know? I'm a Sunday school teacher and I felt good. When I think about it, that's one of the horrors of war, that you can change a person, train them to hate, train them to kill. It's a terrible thought. You would think that no one can change you, your soul, your heart, your compassion. But here I was, I shot this German and I was proud, and the men around me came around, "Terrific, Dan!" How can you forget that? That was number one.

Daniel Inouye Interview Photo
Daniel Inouye Interview Photo

I had heard a story Senator, about two coins in your pocket?

Daniel Inouye: Oh that was my good luck coin.

This is a secret I don't know if I should share with you, but in my younger days, when I was a sergeant, I ran the biggest crap game in the regiment. That's achievement! But not to make money. I gave them away 'cause I didn't want to write home and tell my mother I'm a gambler, because you know she would die. So I didn't save anything. I gave it all away, so my game was very popular. The losers got their money back, and I saved two silver dollars, and I carried them with me in a bag, a little packet, as a good luck charm, because those two dollars had saved my life. 'Cause a bullet struck the coin, went off, instead of entering my body. So I kept them. The day I got my final injury, I looked for my coins, they were gone. It must have slipped out, so I knew something was going to happen. In fact, I told the platoon leader of the next platoon. I said, "Today I get it." He said, "You're crazy." I said, "No. I know I get it. I hope it's not too bad."

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