New $1.5 billion-plus Navy destroyer USS Daniel Inouye heading for Hawaii

The future USS Daniel Inouye (SUPSHIP Bath/Naval Sea Systems Command)

The Navy’s new “Go for Broke ” destroyer named for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a World War II hero and one of Hawaii’s most influential statesmen, is sailing to its new home port of Pearl Harbor and a Dec. 8 commissioning at Kilo Pier.

The 509-foot warship and crew of about 350 departed Maine’s Bath Iron Works shipyard Monday with Cmdr. DonAnn Gilmore at the helm, headed for the Panama Canal and then a straight shot to Hawaii.

The more than $1.5 billion USS Daniel Inouye is expected to be in the Aloha State by Thanksgiving—a plus for many of the ship’s families, who are already here.

Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet said on its Facebook page that “the (commissioning ) date aligns with the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Commemoration ” the day before. Both events will be held on Kilo Pier at Pearl Harbor.

The last big ship commissioning in Hawaii was in 2017 when more than 2, 000 people turned out at Pearl Harbor to remember Dec. 7, 1941, hero John Finn and the San Diego destroyer named for him.

With COVID-19 still a concern, however, the Navy and Navy League Honolulu Council are developing a Plan A, B, C and maybe D to honor Inouye, who died in 2012, and the new ship named for him.

“I think the goal has been to think about, how do we continue to do the spirit of what we really want to do but be COVID-safe and figure out what does that mean in terms of numbers of people ?” said Jennifer Sabas, director of the Daniel K. Ino ­uye Institute in Honolulu.

Navy ship commissionings are usually big on pomp and circumstance and big crowds, and this one celebrates a local boy, Medal of Honor recipient and longtime member of the U.S. Senate, making it extra popular.

But with coronavirus protocols, “we have to be flexible ” until there’s a little more clarity “on how far can we do the spacing (of guests ) and still be compliant, ” Sabas said.

Formal invitations will go out, but the plan already includes the possible need for some to watch the commissioning ceremony virtually, she said.

DDG 118—the other designation for the USS Daniel Inouye—is a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyer equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 providing improved integrated air and missile defense, increased computing power and radar upgrades that boost detection range and reaction time against increasingly sophisticated air warfare and ballistic missile threats.

Bath Iron Works is also in production on the future destroyer USS Carl M. Levin, DDG 120, named after a friend of Inouye and fellow Democrat in the Senate, and also planned to be based at Pearl Harbor.

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.

The new destroyer’s motto—Go for Broke—was also that of the 442nd and was a gambling reference to taking a big risk on a bet.

“It was an apt motto for the soldiers of the 442nd, ” the Go for Broke National Education Center wrote. “As Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, and American-born sons of Japanese immigrants during World War II, they needed to put everything on the line to ‘win big.’ For these Nisei, they were fighting to win two wars : the war against the Germans in Europe and the war against racial prejudice in America.”

Sabas said “we’re putting a lot of time and effort into ” not only including Inouye memorabilia on the destroyer, including his Medal of Honor flag and certificate, but also incorporating some of the history of Hawaii with the commissioning of Native Hawaiian weaponry and a painting of warriors on the sea.

When the ship first arrives, there will be a welcome with lei, a haka warrior dance and hula—and a uniquely Hawaii bento box for each sailor from Zippy’s Restaurants that’s a twist on their famously popular Zip Pac.

In this case the sailors will receive a “Dan Pac ” with some of the late senator’s favorite Zippy’s items—corned beef hash, Spam, garlic chicken, fried noodles and rice—Sabas said.

The arrival of the USS Daniel Inouye in Hawaii is a long time coming.

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


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