Sen. Daniel Inouye, the decorated World War II hero who died Monday at 88, has represented Hawaii since 1959, the year it joined the union.
But Inouye was also jokingly referred to as “Connecticut’s third Senator,” because of his crucial support for this state’s defense industry, said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.
“Senator Daniel Inouye’s death is a tremendous loss not just for Hawaii and the United States Senate, but for the State of Connecticut as well,” Courtney said. “A war hero, Medal of Honor recipient and tireless champion of veterans and our men and women in uniform, Senator Inouye led the effort to save the Seawolf and in 2007 traveled to Connecticut, advocating strongly for doubled submarine production in the state. His efforts earned him the nickname ‘Connecticut’s third senator.’”
As the Senate’s defense appropriation chairman, Inouye led the early 1990s battle to continue the Seawolf class of submarines, after President Geroge H.W. Bush had tried to cease production.
Fifteen years later, in 2007, Inouye travelled to Connecticut as the USS Hawaii was commissioned on the Thames River in Groton. As reported by former Courant staffer Jesse Hamilton, Inouye was front and center among the dignitaries from the Navy and from Hawaii gathered on the pier that day.
“After the speeches about how honored and glad each was to witness the Hawaii brought to life, and after a few traditional Hawaiian songs sung and dances performed with wrist-turning grace, Inouye and the other dignitaries left the stage,” Hamilton wrote. “They walked back along the pier beside the newest fast-attack nuclear submarine, SSN 776, the hulk’s fresh black paint still drying in the sun.
“At that point, asked whether he’ll support the construction of an additional submarine in the coming budget, Inouye said, `I’m going to do my damnedest.’ As he climbed into the back of his car, he added, `We’ll deliver.”’
Inouye’s life was “one of superlatives and firsts,” Courtney said, “but there is no bigger compliment in Washington than the one he earned over his lifetime of service: he was always a man of his word.”