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West Point veteran, family remember late US senator

December 21, 2012

Walker Dyess, bottom right, stands with U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Thad Cochran at the Camp Shelby 442nd Monument dedication in the early 1990s. (Submitted photo)

Daniel Inouye was not that far removed from his parents’ native land of Japan when Japanese air forces attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. A second generation Japanese-American, Inouye was born on Sept. 7, 1924 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Inouye died Monday at the age of 88. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1963 until his death.

Many Nisei (a term referring to Japanese natives born in another country) Japanese Americans identified more with the United States than they did with Japan, and those like Inouye were more than willing to fight for American forces against the Axis powers during World War II.

The U.S. government lifted its ban against Japanese-Americans serving in the military, and Inouye would join and eventually serve with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Inouye would eventually encounter the final and strongest line of defense for the German Army in Tuscany, Italy. He led a brutal attack on the German machine gun lines, which resulted in a gunshot wound to the stomach and a shot from a grenade rifle to his right elbow. He continued to fight until he passed out from a massive loss of blood. His right arm would eventually be amputated without the aid of anesthesia.

He was later awarded the Metal of Honor for his bravery.

The 100th Battalion in which Inouye fought was sent to Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg to train for combat in the European Theater.

Not only was Inouye serving in a segregated army, but he was also Japanese.

According to Inouye, none of that mattered in Hattiesburg.

Retired Col. Dwight Dyess, president of BancorpSouth in West Point, has fond memories of meeting Inouye who was by then a longtime Senator for the state of Hawaii.

“He was the keynote speaker when the 442nd (Mississippi Armed Forces Museum) dedicated its monument at Camp Shelby,” Dyess said following Inouye’s death.

Dyess was a Lt. Colonel at the time, and he was serving as Sen. Thad Cochran’s escort that day. His wife, Kathy, and young son, Walker, were present as well, and it would be the one time Walker met the war hero.
“I was in the second or third grade,” Walker Dyess said of the meeting. “I can remember being mad because I had to wear Khaki shorts that day and a T-shirt that dad had bought me.”

Col. Dyess was attending to his duties with Cochran for most of the day, leaving the family alone periodically, but he knew this was a once in a lifetime chance for his son to meet a true hero.

“I knew they (442nd) were coming for their reunion,” Dwight Dyess said. “We had watched the movie ‘Go for Broke’ about their time in Italy, and I asked Walker if he wanted to meet Sen. Inouye, and he said, ‘Yes sir, I do.’”

Walker’s meeting with Inouye was captured in time by his mother, who photographed him with the hero and Cochran. Years later, and after studying history and politics in college, Walker has a deeper understanding of the importance of the early-1990’s meeting with Inouye.

“Later I heard more about who he was and about his regiment being trained at Camp Shelby,” said Walker Dyess. “At the time, we had a segregated Army, but they were brave to volunteer to fight against the enemies of America.”

Cochran was close with Inouye during their time together on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sen. Inouye, who was my dear friend and our highly respected President Pro Tempore,” Cochran said in a statement after hearing of the Senator’s passing. “It was a privilege to serve with him on the Appropriations Committee where we worked to approve bills to provide funding for the activities and responsibilities of the federal government. He was an outstanding parliamentarian and will be sorely missed by the Senate, his constituents and his many friends.”

Col. Dyess has served as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) over the last decade. His first CASA Conference was in Honolulu, Hawaii under then-Secretary of the Army Tom White.

White led the CASAs to the National Cemetery where he dedicated a wreath for all of the fallen on behalf of himself and all of the CASAs.

“Kathy and I were wearing these Polo shirts that had Hattiesburg on them. One of the docents who was from the World War II era saw the shirts and got excited. In seconds, there were a dozen or more of them who descended upon us, shaking our hands. Two of them got emotional about the time they had spent training in Hattiesburg.”

Dyess says that Inouye told those at the Camp Shelby monument dedication that he could not have been more pleased with how the 442nd, a regiment made up of Japanese Americans, were treated at Camp Shelby in 1943-1944.

Inouye would eventually obtain a law degree from George Washington University, and he served as a territorial senator in Hawaii and saw the islands all the way through to statehood. In 1963, he was elected to the US Senate. He won re-election eight times.

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