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He volunteered for a special U.S. Army unit of Japanese-Americans — including several who attended the Saturday-night ceremony. Mr. Inouye lost his right arm in a battle with Germans in Italy. That scratched his dream of becoming a surgeon. He went to law school and into politics instead.

He became known as an economic power in his home state as part of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he steered federal money toward Hawaii to build roads, schools and housing.

Colleagues and aides lined the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to bid aloha to Mr. Inouye during a rare ceremony to demonstrate the respect he earned over decades.

He was eulogized by Mr. Obama, who arrived early Saturday in Honolulu for his annual Christmas family vacation. The president said during a service at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday that Mr. Inouye’s presence during the Watergate hearings helped show him what could be possible in his own life.

Visitors began signing condolence books at the governor’s office on Friday, with additional books available at the Saturday service.