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USS Daniel Inouye warship visits Kona

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  • Petty Class 1st Officer Chace Bee
  • Second Commanding Officer David Hale of the USS Daniel Inouye

The crew of the USS Daniel Inouye visited the Big Island over the weekend, giving the public a chance to tour one of the military’s newest destroyers.

For many, the 509-foot vessel was a strange site just outside of Kailua Bay. A warship has not anchored off the Kona coast in over a decade.

The ship is named in honor of Hawai‘i’s late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. For his combat heroism, which cost him his right arm, Inouye was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart with Cluster.

Dozens of people waited at Kailua Pier on Friday afternoon for a zodiac ride over choppy waters to the destroyer. Among them was retired U.S. Navy veteran Susan Bickell.

She said it was weird setting foot on a ship again, taking her back to the 1980s when she worked as a radioman on the USS Cape Cod.

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“I’m expecting to see something new but a ship is a ship; it will be familiar,” she said.

The USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) arrived at its new homeport, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, on Nov. 18, 2021, following a two-day voyage around the Hawaiian Islands — a tribute to the memory and legacy of Sen. Inouye and his lengthy career of service to the people of Hawaiʻi.

“We feel this is Hawai‘i’s ship,” said Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth, who toured the vessel on Friday.

The Navy’s 68th Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer was christened at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine in 2019. It was commissioned on Dec. 8, 2021, one day after the 80th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Commemoration.

The ship carries the “Go for Broke” motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in which Sen. Inouye served during World War II. According to the United States Senate website, the 442nd became one of the most decorated military units in U.S. history.

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The ship is equipped with Aegis Baseline 9, which provides improved Integrated Air and Missile Defense capabilities, increased computing power, and radar capable of quickly detecting and reacting to modern air warfare and Ballistic Missile Defense threats. Behind all the firepower, there are various places on the vessel that memorialize Hawaiʻi’s war hero.

In the mess hall, the back wall pays tribute to the 442nd. Where crew members go to pick up food is a map of the Hawaiian Islands and all the places Sen. Inouye liked to eat. On the Big Island, one of his favorite eateries was Teshima’s in South Kona.

Two of Sen. Inouye’s pistols and various Hawaiian artifacts are on display.

Petty Officer 1st Class Chace Bee, a sixth-generation Hawaiʻi resident and second-generation Navy recruit, is among the ship’s crew. Born and raised on the Big Island in Waiākea, Bee was inspired by his grandfather to join the Navy in 2010.

Bee hadn’t been on a ship in Hawaiʻi until the USS Inouye. He said he’s excited to be closer to home and serve on a vessel with Inouye’s namesake.

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“The name alone has historic meaning,” Bee said. “It has ties to family, home and friends.”

Second Commanding Officer David Hale took over command of the USS Inouye in January.

“It’s hard not to appreciate his impact and legacy as his fingerprints are all over everything throughout the state,” Hale said on Sen. Inouye.

The 50 crew members came onshore over the weekend to explore the Big Island community and to do a beautification project at the West Hawaiʻi Veterans Cemetery in North Kona.

Sen. Inouye was about service his whole life. Following the war, he practiced law in Hawaiʻi before entering territorial politics in 1954. When Hawaiʻi became the 50th state, Inouye became one of its first representatives in the U.S. Congress.

In 1962, he won election to the U.S. Senate. He was a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he chaired from 2009 to 2012, and also served as the Senate’s president pro tempore from 2010 until his death in 2012.

In 2013, Senator Inouye was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming the first — and to date, only — senator to receive both the Medal of Freedom and the Medal of Honor.

The USS Inouye is traveling to Maui, where it will make a port call to Lahaina this week.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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