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In his own words

LAST UPDATED: 12:03 p.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012

"There would remain ties of tradition and sentiment with the old country, but there would never be any confusion about my parents' allegiance: they were Americans, the proud distillation of the union between the girl from Maui and the boy from Kauai whose forebears had been Buddhists."

—Inouye's 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington."


"She was never to forget the abiding kindness of the people who cared for her in those troubled years and held ever after a special regard for the Hawaiian people."

—On his mother, Kame, who was an orphan raised by several families, including Native Hawaiians; "Journey to Washington."


"And then we saw the planes. They came zooming up out of that sea of gray smoke, flying north toward where we stood and climbing into the bluest part of the sky. And they came in twos and threes, in neat formations, and if it hadn't been for that red ball on their wings, the rising sun of the Japanese empire, you could easily believe that they were Americans, flying over in precise military salute."

—On Dec. 7, 1941; "Journey to Washington."


"I don't know how it got started, but pretty soon our pidgin English expression, 'Go for broke!' became the combat team motto. What did it mean? To give everything we did everything we had; to jab every bayonet dummy as though it were a living, breathing Nazi; to scramble over an obstacle course as though our lives depended on it; to march quick-time until we were ready to drop, and then break into a trot."

—On the 442nd Regimental Combat Team; "Journey to Washington."


"My outfit, E Company, with a normal complement of 197 men, had exactly 40 soldiers."

—On the aftermath a fierce 442nd Infantry battle in France to rescue a Texas regiment; "Journey to Washington."


 "And as I drew my arm back, all in a flash of light and dark I saw him, that faceless German, like a strip of a motion picture film running through a projector that's gone berserk. One instant he was standing waist-high in the bunker, and the next he was aiming a rifle grenade at my face from a range of 10 yards. And even as I cocked my arm to throw, he fired and his rifle grenade smashed into my right elbow and exploded and all but tore my arm off. I looked at it, stunned and disbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore."

—"Journey to Washington."


"The doctors looked at me; they're mumbling among themselves. Two minutes later a chaplain comes up -- opening words: 'God loves you.' I said: 'I know that. I love him too,'" Inouye recounted with a chuckle. "'But I'm not ready to meet him yet!'"

—On the aftermath of being shot three times in combat.


"I closed my eyes. So that was that. From now on they could call me Lefty. I think that was the first moment I thought of myself as an amputee. But it's a funny thing -- neither then, nor during all of the long months of rehabilitation, did I consider myself a cripple or an invalid. It just never became part of my thinking. It isn't part of my thinking today."

—"Journey to Washington."


"I cannot help wondering, whether the people of Hawaii will not think it strange that the only weapon in the Republican arsenal is to label as communists men so recently returned from Italy and France. Let me speak for those of us who didn't come back -- I know I speak for my colleagues on this platform and for good Democratic candidates everywhere in these islands when I say -- we bitterly resent having our loyalty and patriotism questioned."

—1953 campaign debate for the Hawaii Territorial Legislature.


"I gave this arm to fight fascists. If my country wants the other one to fight communists, it can have it. What are you prepared to give?" 

—At a 1953 campaign debate for the Hawaii Territorial Legislature.


"I would like to convey to the mainland some small sense of our spirit of Aloha."

—1959, following his election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I went up to the cemetery at Punchbowl and walked alone among the graves of the good men with whom I had served. I wanted to assure them that I would not let them down, never dishonor the cause and the country for which they had given so much. I wanted to promise them that I was not going to Washington to represent the 442, or the nisei, or any other separate group. I was going to represent all the people of Hawaii and I asked God's help in this, the greatest undertaking of my life."

—1963, reflecting on winning the 1959 election as U.S. congressman for the new state of Hawaii.


"I doubt we can blame all the trouble of our times on Vietnam. Whether we know it or not, the marching feet of youth have led us into a new era of politics and we can never turn back."

—At the 1968 Democratic National Convention.


"I tried everything to stay out of it (the Watergate hearings. ) My leader (Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield) called me five times (to serve on the committee). I turned him down the first four times."

—August 1997, on being recruited to be a member of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities investigating the burglaries of the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate Hotel.


"Mr. Chairman, the hearings which we begin today may be the most important held in this century. At stake is the very integrity of the election process. Unless we can safeguard that process from fraud, manipulation, deception, and other illegal or unethical activities, one of our most precious rights, the right to vote, will be without meaning. Democracy will have been subverted."

—Opening statement on May 17, 1973, as a member of the Senate committee investigating the Watergate scandal.


"The people of the United States were stunned. (President Richard) Nixon projected this squeaky-clean image, and suddenly, we found ourselves listening to this language that would even make a stevedore blush. Those expletive-deleteds convicted him. His own words convicted him."

—June 1997, reflecting on the secret White House tapes in the Watergate scandal.


"The unique genius of the American system was that by dividing power, it promoted sound policy based on reasoned and open discourse and mutual trust between the branches. These hearings this morning and for the days to follow will examine what happens when the trust, which is the lubricant of our system, is breached by high officials of our government. The story is not a pretty one. As it unfolds in these proceedings, the American people will have every right to ask, 'How could this have happened here?' And as we answer that question, the American people will have every right to demand that it will never happen again. Indeed, it should never have happened at all."

—May 7, 1987, opening statement as co-chairman of a Senate-House committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal.


"(There exists) a shadowy government with its own Air Force and its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own idea of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself."

—July 1987, at the Iran-Contra hearings.


"I believe during the past week, we have participated in creating and developing, very likely, a new American hero ... as one who has participated in the making of this new American hero, I found certain aspects of your testimony to be most troubling."

—July 1987, as co-chairman of a Senate-House committee about the testimony of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra Affair.


"Rights guaranteed by the Constitution were sacrificed under the cloak of national security. This has been a common occurrence in the United States, and I think the time has come when we should put a stop to this. In the name of national security it has been fashionable to deny other Americans their constitutional rights."

—April 11, 1988, on reparations for the illegal internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.


"I hope that the mistakes made and suffering imposed upon Japanese-Americans nearly 60 years ago will not be repeated against Arab-Americans whose loyalties are now being called into question."

—May 17, 2003, commencement address at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.


"There are certain things that haunt me, even to this day. War can change a person's character and personality. One week before I got into the service, and put on my uniform, I was a Sunday school teacher. I sang in the choir. My mother was a devout Methodist. Women's Christian Temperance Union. They don't get anymore devout than that. The whole family was that way. And after training and going overseas, I remember killing the first German. And the thing that haunts me is I was jubilant. I was proud."

—March 8, 2008, reflections on his war experience.


"I'm used to racism. I was in an all-Japanese unit fighting with an all-black unit, Puerto Rican unit, Filipino unit. This is in the war. To go to a combat zone and see signs, 'White Officers Only,' you want to shoot that sign off. What war are we fighting here?"

—April 18, 2011.


"Democracy is not a goal we can achieve its something else, way out there. It will always need protection and tending. It is our work toward that goal that helps makes life fair and balanced for everyone and ensures opportunities for all citizens."

—April 2011.


"War was much more than blood and guts. Mr. President, we have an extraordinary Constitution. We have an extraordinary set of laws. But throughout the history of mankind, not just the history of the United States, but the history of mankind, war has always been the justification to leaders to set aside these laws."

—Dec. 7, 2011, Senate floor speech.


"On this day, let us remember all those who have had the courage to put on the uniform and sacrifice for our great nation. Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in."

—Dec. 7, 2012, statement on Pearl Harbor Day.


"People have asked me how I want to be remembered, and I say very simply, that I represented the people honestly and to the best of my abilities. I think I did okay."

—Letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, dated Dec. 17, 2012, the day of Inouye's death.



Compiled by Star-Advertiser staff from Inouye's 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington," Star-Advertiser research, and Peter Boylan, deputy chief of staff for Sen. Inouye.

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