US Navy urged to name next ship after Fil-Am navyman’s 1915 heroics

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 13 2021 03:38 AM

More than a century after an Asian-American man's heroic deed that earned him a US Navy medal of honor, a group of advocates are urging a top Navy official to name the next US Navy ship after him.

One hundred and five years ago, Filipino Fireman Second Class Telesforo Trinidad became the first and only Asian-American thus far to receive the US Navy Medal of Honor, the highest possible recognition in the US naval force.

Today, a group called USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign, a non-profit organization, is campaigning and urging the secretary of the US Navy to name the next US Navy ship after Trinidad.

Trinidad showed extraordinary heroism when a boiler exploded on board USS San Diego in January 1915. Trinidad was driven out by the explosion but immediately returned to rescue a fellow sailor who had been injured, taking him to safety. Trinidad assisted in the rescue of another man despite the second explosion, which burned his face.

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The campaign is led by 2 retired senior military officers, Navy Capt. Ron Ravelo, the only Filipino-American who held command of a US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier, and retired US Air Force Col. Nonie Cabana, who said naming a future US Navy ship after Trinidad is all about celebrating his heroism in the 1915 accident.

"He risked his life knowing that he might die doing that, that's why," he said. 

"This legacy that he left, like 'ship and shipmates above self' must be permanently etched to our hearts because this guy or this sailor navy risked his life knowing that by going into the boiler with the explosion he could very well die in doing so. It shows again that Filipino sailors have proven themselves to be proud and humble people that they will risk their life when the time comes," Cabana added.

Historian Cecilia Gaerlan said remembering Trinidad's heroics, especially on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrates the generations of Filipinos who served in uniform.

"We have to recognize that since 1901 when President McKinley signed the executive order creating the insular force, the Filipinos have been officially in the US Navy since 1901, that's 120 years so I think it's about time the Filipinos get recognized for serving the US Navy faithfully and loyally for 120 years," Gaerlan said.

According to Cabana, the general order to award a Medal of Honor to Trinidad was signed by the secretary of the Navy in Washington D.C., on April 1, 1915. 

A century later today, the USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign is hoping the current secretary of the US Navy will sign an order naming a new US Navy ship after him.

Details on how to support this campaign is available on their website.