Fall date is eyed for USS Daniel Inouye commissioning event

The future USS Daniel Inouye, during Builder's Trials in Maine's Kennebec River in December 2020.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: January 5, 2021

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The long-delayed guided-missile destroyer USS Daniel Inouye is tentatively scheduled to be commissioned at Pearl Harbor in the fall with a big pier-side ceremony attended by thousands — if COVID-19 is under control.

The last big Navy ship commissioning in Hawaii was in 2017 when more than 2, 000 people were at Pearl Harbor's Kilo 10 pier to honor Dec. 7, 1941, hero John Finn and the $2 billion San Diego-based destroyer named for him.

Like Finn, Inouye was a war hero and Medal of Honor recipient, but Inouye, who served 53 years in the U.S. House and Senate, became one of the most influential people in modern Hawaii history.

As a result, the arrival and commissioning of the namesake vessel is expected to be a big event. The 509-foot warship, not surprisingly, will be home-ported at Pearl Harbor.

With COVID-19 still a huge concern, "the later in the year (the commissioning) ends up being, the better, right?" said Jennifer Sabas, director of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute in Honolulu.

If vaccinations get the novel coronavirus under control, "the better opportunity we would have to celebrate " with the commissioning, Sabas said. Individuals and organizations including the Navy League are in early stages of planning for the event.

The destroyer USS Michael Murphy, also home-ported at Pearl Harbor, had mementos of its namesake, a Navy SEAL officer who was stationed in Hawaii, on display in the ship, and Sabas said similar plans are being considered for the USS Daniel Inouye.

Lt. Michael Murphy, 29, who was with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, was felled by enemy fire on June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan after stepping into the open to get a radio call out for help for his team, which was under heavy fire.

In the officer's mess Murphy's M-4 rifle, his desert boots, body armor, a black SEAL helmet and his Ka-Bar knife were displayed.

At age 17 following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Inouye was pressed into service by the Red Cross at an aid station at Lunalilo School, where he cared for civilian victims.

The Japanese American served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. On April 21, 1945, in Italy, Inouye used grenades and gunfire to neutralize two German machine gun nests—even though wounded by a sniper's bullet. He kept attacking even after a rifle grenade shattered his right arm, which he would lose.

Discrimination was widespread, and Inouye belatedly received the Medal of Honor with 21 other Asian Americans on June 21, 2000, for their service in World War II.

He joined a wave of young Japanese American World War II veterans graduating from college and returning to Hawaii in the early 1950s, the U.S. House of Representatives said in remembering Inouye, who died in 2012.

The group made a big impact on Hawaii's political system.

"The time had come for us to step forward, " Inouye said in recalling the shift. "We had fought for that right with all the furious patriotism in our bodies, and now we didn't want to go back to the plantation."

Sabas said she's had discussions with the Navy about showcasing information on the ship to educate sailors not only about the journey of the senator, but also the journey of Hawaii.

"The story of Dan Inouye is the story of modern Hawaii, and we should tie the two together, " she said.

Inouye also looked out for the neighbor islands, and Sabas said she has asked the Navy whether it would consider routing the destroyer close to the islands before arriving on Oahu.

The USS Daniel Inouye, part of the Arleigh Burke class of destroyers, completed builder's trials, also known as sea trials, Dec. 19 after spending four days off the coast of Bath, Maine, the Navy said.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works started fabrication on the destroyer in late 2014. Its delivery was pushed back from December 2018 to April 2020 and now into 2021 due in part to the complexity of working on Arleigh Burkes and another type of destroyer, known as the Zumwalt class. The builder also experienced labor issues.

The Navy said the Daniel Inouye is a Flight IIA destroyer equipped with the Aegis Baseline 9 Combat System, which includes integrated air and missile defense capability and enhanced ballistic missile defense capabilities.

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