A group of Filipino-Americans, including retired and active service members of the United States Armed Forces, has launched an initiative to name a US Navy Warship after Telesforo Dela Cruz Trinidad, the first Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor from the US government for his “extraordinary heroism” by saving the lives of his fellow sailors 106 years ago today.
The USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign (USSTTC), a non-profit advocacy group that is currently spearheading the move, said the naming of a United States Navy ship after Trinidad will recognize the shared history and values of the two allies, “forged in war and peace, which continues to this day with the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty”.
Based on the accounts published on the website of the National Medal of Honor Museum in the United States, then US Navy Fireman Trinidad was onboard USS San Diego (ACR-6) on January 21, 1915 sailing in the Gulf of California when the ship encountered a boiler explosion. Trinidad was driven out of fire room No. 2 but at once returned and picked up two injured fellow sailors and brought them to safety despite himself being severely burned and without consideration of his own safety.
The Medal of Honor, the highest distinction being bestowed by the US government to military service members, was awarded to highlight the importance of service and sacrifice for shipmates and country not only in times of war but also during day-to-day operations.
In advocating for the naming of a US warship after Trinidad, the USSTTC believes that this will not only recognize the long-standing contributions of Filipino Americans to the security and freedom of the United States, but also the “strong alliance existing between the US and the Philippines since 1898 and the US Navy’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion”.
The USSTTC noted that no US 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 our nation, 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,” the group said in a statement.
During the American Occupation in the Philippines following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, President William McKinley signed an executive order in 1901 allowing the recruitment of 500 Filipinos in the Navy and 6,000 Filipinos in the Army to serve as part of the Insular Force of the War Department.
Trinidad was born on November 25, 1890 in New Washington, Aklan. He enlisted in the US Navy as part of the Insular Force in the Philippines in 1910 and served during World War I and World War II until his retirement in 1945.
Trinidad lived in Imus, Cavite until his passing on May 8, 1968, at the age of 77.
After 106 years, Trinidad still holds the distinction of being the first and only Asian American (and first and only Filipino) in the US Navy to receive a Medal of Honor that was awarded to him on April 1, 1915.
The USSTTC is co-chaired by two retired senior officers of the US. Armed Forces, Navy Captain Ron Ravelo who holds the distinction of being the only Filipino-American who held the command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and retired USAF Col. Nonnie Cabana.