PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- The U.S. Navy on Wednesday commissioned the USS Daniel Inouye, named after the long-serving U.S. senator from Hawaii and decorated World War II veteran.
Inouye and other Japanese Americans were initially prevented from enlisting for service after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. After the policy was changed, his unit of Japanese American soldiers became one of the most decorated, with Inouye earning the Medal of Honor and, now, a guided missile destroyer bearing his name.
The military restricted attendance at the event due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts and streamed the ceremony online. Among those in attendance was Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, who gave the keynote address Tuesday at the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"There is absolutely no more of a fitting name for this ship than Senator Daniel Inouye, who fought the Nazis on the front lines and strengthened our national defense in Congress," Del Toro said at the commissioning ceremony. "Senator Inouye will always serve as the North Star for our military and for me personally."
The Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer will be based at Pearl Harbor in Inouye's home state.
Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress when he was elected to the House in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. He won election to the Senate three years later. When he died at the age of 88 in 2012, he had served nearly 50 years in the Senate, more than anyone in American history except the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Inouye played key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals and served as chairperson of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
In World War II, Inouye served in the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit comprised mostly of Japanese Americans that is one of the most decorated in U.S. history.
"After President Roosevelt made the decision to allow Japanese Americans to volunteer, he and thousands of others volunteered for that service and to go into harm's way because they believed in America when America did not believe in them, and for that they were willing to fight in order to fight," Inouye's son, Ken, said at the ceremony.
Inouye received the Medal of Honor for his heroism while leading a charge on a machine gun nest in Italy. He lost his right arm when it was shattered by a German hand grenade.
"Generation upon generation of brave Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made our military and our country stronger, but we cannot fully realize the legacy of Daniel Inouye until all Americans feel welcome and valued in our nation's military," Del Toro said, "We must recruit, retain, mentor, educate and promote the best of our nation. That includes all the Daniel Inouyes that our country has to offer."
The USS Daniel Inouye borrows its motto -- "Go For Broke" -- from the 442nd.
At more than 9,000 tons (8,165 metric tons), the 510-foot (155-meter) ship can easily top 30 knots and can take on enemy ships, submarines, missiles and aircraft. Its combat system uses powerful computers and a phased-array radar to track more than 100 targets. It's also equipped with ballistic missile defense capability.
Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.