BERKELEY – In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in keeping with this year’s theme of “Advancing Leaders through Purpose-Driven Service,” the USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign (USSTTC) honors thousands of Filipinos and Americans of Filipino descent who have served faithfully in the U.S. Armed Forces since 1901, when President McKinley signed an Executive Order allowing the recruitment of Filipinos as part of the Insular Force of the War Department.
Today, the USSTTC is working on having the first U.S. Navy ship ever to be named after a Filipino sailor who received the Medal of Honor 106 years ago – Telesforo Trinidad.
Trinidad received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism in the line of duty during boiler explosions onboard the USS San Diego (ACR-6) while the ship was underway in the Gulf of California on January 21, 1915. Trinidad brought two crewmembers to safety despite being severely injured, thus embodying the naval professional ethic of “ship and shipmate before self.”
The Medal of Honor, which was awarded during peacetime, highlights the importance of service and sacrifice for shipmates and country not only during a time of war but during day-to-day operations. After 106 years, Trinidad still holds the distinction of being the first and only Asian American (and first and only Filipino) in the U.S. Navy to receive a Medal of Honor which was awarded on April 1, 1915.
Telesforo dela Cruz Trinidad came from humble beginnings and was born on November 25, 1890, in New Washington, Aklan Province, Panay, Philippines. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy as part of the Insular Force in the Philippines in 1910 and served during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) until his retirement in 1945. He lived in Imus, Cavite, Philippines until his passing on May 8, 1968, at the age of 77.
The U.S. and the Philippines have maintained uninterrupted economic, cultural and military ties since 1901 and tens of thousands of Filipinos were enlisted during WWI through WWII. During WWII, the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) were comprised of a majority of Filipinos. Even after the Philippines obtained its independence from the U.S. in 1946, over 35,000 Filipinos were recruited into the US Navy from 1952 to 1992 under a provision of the Republic of the Philippines-United States Military Bases Agreement. In addition, thousands of Americans of Filipino descent enlisted during this same 40-year period and continue to do so until today. The naming of a United States Navy ship after Trinidad will recognize the shared history and values of two allies, forged in war and peace, which continues to this day with the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
No U.S. Navy ship has been named after a Filipino despite 120 years of faithful and loyal service by thousands of Filipinos. During these precarious times of violence against many Asian Americans, the naming of a ship after Trinidad will recognize the long-standing contributions of Filipino Americans to the security and freedom of the U.S., the strong alliance existing between the U.S. and the Philippines since 1898, and the U.S. Navy’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.
For further information, please visit the website www.ussttc.org.
(Bataan Legacy Release)