Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
Hopefully his memory will inspire generations to do even a fraction
of what he was able to do.
Airports are given names for a lot of good and the occasional bad reasons. Honolulu’s primary aviation link to the world, with its renaming, the passengers moving through the terminal will be introduced or reacquainted with this exceptional American.
As the Senator from Hawai’i, the only state not part of the American continent and the only state in which travel from all counties to their neighboring island must be by air or sea, it is not surprising that Senator Daniel K. Inouye was interested in transportation and sat on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Thus, it is also not surprising that Honolulu’s airport would be renamed after the senior Senator from the 50th State.
While Ken Inouye said that his Dad did not want anything named after him, Irene Hirano Inouye, his wife aptly noted that “Dan spent more than 50 years flying between Honolulu and Washington, DC representing the people of Hawaii. The iconic tower upon which his name is now affixed is a beacon and beckoning symbol to visitors and residents alike. I know he is pleased and smiling down on us.”
The State Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 88 Senate Draft 2 in the 2016 session calling on the airport to be renamed after Senator Daniel K. Inouye. The resolution passed unanimously. [Obviously, the Senator was not consulted.]
The dedication ceremony was held in front of a panel at the terminal; this special exhibit chronicling his life and career is located in the Overseas Terminal near gate 24.
What is amazing is the Senator’s record—
• At the age of 17, he served as a medical volunteer during Pearl Harbor.
• In 1943, when the Army first allowed Nisei to volunteer , he joined the segregated all-Nisei442nd Regimental Combat Team. Within a year Inouye had been promoted to Sargent and soon thereafter he received a field promotion to Second Lieutenant, the youngest officer in his regiment.
• In his next engagement, the Hawaiian’s valor was so exceptional that he was awarded the Medal of Honor:
- Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured.
- By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
• Inouye also earned:
- the Distinguished Service Cross
- the Bronze Star
- the Purple Heart with Cluster
- Grand Cross of the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1993
- Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by President of France
- Israeli Chief of Staff Medal of Appreciation
- the Philippine Order of Sikatuna
- honorary member of the Navajo Nation and titled “The Leader Who Has Returned With a Plan”
- Presidential Medal of Freedom
• In 1953, Daniel Inouye was elected to the Hawaii territorial House of Representatives, and was immediately elected majority leader. He served two terms there, and was elected to the Hawaii territorial senate in 1957.
• Midway through Inouye’s first term in the territorial senate, Hawaii achieved statehood. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Hawaii’s first full member, and took office on August 21, 1959, the same date Hawaii became a state; he was re-elected in 1960.
• In 1962, he began the second longest Senate term of service:
- Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee between 1976 and 1979
- Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee between 1987 and 1995
- Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee between 2001 and 2003
- Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee between 2007 and 2009
- Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee between 2009 and 2012
- Chairman of a special committee (Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition) from 1987 until 1989
- In 2009, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
- President pro tempore, the officer third in the presidential line of succession
The Senator’s death symbolized the end of bipartisanship. His closest friend and ally in that august body was Senator Ted Stevens (Republican of Alaska). They got things done in spite of very different political views.
For example, in 2005, Inouye was a member of a bipartisan group of fourteen moderate senators, known as the Gang of 14. The goal of the coalition was to develop a compromise on his party’s use of the judicial filibuster. The Republican leadership was frustrated by the minority’s blocking of President Bush’s judicial nominees and intended to use the “nuclear option”, a term recently seen in news reports and actually implemented. To avoid this precedent, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an “extraordinary circumstance”, and others would be afforded a vote by the full U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is the Senator’s political protegee, said the name change helps ensure that the next generation does not forget the famous senator’s many contributions. When people see the signage, Hanabusa said, she hopes that they will ask, “Who is Daniel K. Inouye?” “After all, his stories that we know and cherish aren’t going to be remembered, but (the signage) will prompt people,” she said. Hopefully, Hanabusa said, his memory will inspire “generations to come to do even a fraction of what he was able to do.”
No doubt that the Senator’s record of achievements will catch the attentions of many future Hawaiians!!!
The good news is that unlike the renaming of other airports (BAL → BWI), the three-letter code of Honolulu (HNL) will not be changed.