June 24 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy destroyer bearing the name of the late Daniel Inouye, a long-time senator from Hawaii and a World War II veteran, was christened at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine.
The Democrat served as a U.S. senator from 1963 until his death, in 2012, at age 87.
"I don't think Dan could have imagined how much of an impact that he would have in the 50 years that he served in the Senate," his widow said at the ceremony.
"So let us hope that this ship, which will carry his name, will serve as an inspiration to those not only who will sail on it but to those who will understand that Dan, who was in the military, was opposed to war as someone who saw the horrors of war firsthand. Dan always believed that the best way to ensure that we could avoid war was to have the strongest military that we could."
Both Senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii spoke, wearing leis.
"In 1961, then-Congressman Inouye came to Bath Iron Works for the launching of the USS Leahy, an early indication of the unwavering support for American seapower that marked his service in Congress," Collins said. "He was committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military have the most advanced technology, equipment, and ships. He knew and appreciated the key role the men and women of Bath Iron Works have played in meeting this obligation."
Inouye was at home in Hawaii listening to the radio on Dec. 7, 1941, when news broke that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.
At 17, he tried to enter the military but was denied because Americans of Japanese ancestry were prohibited from enlisting in the U.S. military.
"Almost immediately after the Army lifted its enlistment ban on Japanese-Americans, Sen. Inouye left the University of Hawaii and volunteered to serve in the segregated all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team," Hirono said. "Again, he was only 17 years old."
He fought in World War II as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment and lost his right arm to a grenade. Inouye is the first and only senator to receive the Medal of Freedom and the Medal of Honor.
"From his heroism during World War II to his decades of serving on behalf of the people of Hawaii in Congress, Daniel Inouye dedicated his life to defending his country and improving his world," King said. "The men and women of BIW have built a ship of the highest quality, and those who sail it will do so with the utmost skill and dedication, so that the USS Daniel Inouye can advance the ideals that its namesake fought for every single day."
The Inouye will be the 68th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and is configured as a Flight IIA destroyer. Nine ships in the class are under construction and 11 are under contract, according to the U.S. Navy.
The 509.5-long ships carry a crew of 329, are 9,000 tons and can travel in excess of 30 knots per hour while fighting enemy ships, submarines, missiles and aircraft.