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US warship named after Filipino-American hero

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro at Naval Base Point Loma Harbor Drive Annex. (Andrew Dyer/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

THE United States (US) Navy has officially named one of its guided-missile destroyers after the late Filipino-American hero Telesforo Trinidad, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., led by Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, on January 10 joined the US Navy in the naming celebration of the US Ship (USS) Telesforo Trinindad at the Capitol Hill.

The DFA, on Twitter, said Trinidad, a fireman in the US Navy, was the first and only sailor of Asian descent to receive the Medal of Honor in peacetime.

The celebration, the DFA said, was led by US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, who announced on May 19, 2022 the naming of the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer after Trinidad.

Del Toro also presented the ships’ sponsors, namely: Christine Trinidad, a great-granddaughter of the late petty officer, and retired Rear Admiral Connie Mariano, the first Filipino-American in history to become a US Navy Admiral and the first military woman in American history to be appointed White House Physician.

US Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, who is also of Filipino heritage, and several active military members also of Filipino heritage also attended the event.

In a speech, Del Toro said, “A ship’s commanding officer will change hands, and the crew will come and go, but the sponsors hold a special bond through the ship’s entire lifetime.”

“I am excited for the enduring partnership that Christine and Connie will build with this ship and the crew in the years to come,” he said.

Del Toro also said that he was honored to work with Romualdez “these past 18 months” and to visit the Philippines “to build the strong partnership that is so deserving and has always existed between the Philippines and the United States.”

In reply, Romualdez said, “It is my country’s honor to be invited to today’s event as we name your ship, the USS Telesforo Trinidad (DDG 139) after a Filipino American hero.”

“We sincerely appreciate it and I am sure that the family of the late Telesforo Trinidad is just as proud and honored as we are in the Philippines,” Romualdez added.

Trinidad was a fireman in the US Navy, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Mexican waters near La Paz, on board the USS San Diego on Jan. 21, 1915.

He was the second service member, and the first and only sailor of Asian descent to receive the award in peacetime. Trinidad served during both World Wars before retiring to the Philippines.

The embassy said it greatly appreciated the hard work of its friends and partners, especially Filipino community organizations, in campaigning for the “momentous occasion and in highlighting the honorable military service of those with Filipino heritage.”

In particular, the embassy congratulated the Telesforo Trinidad Campaign Committee, which now officially participates in the USS Telesforo Trinidad Commissioning Committee in partnership with the US Navy.

The US Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) said Trinidad, born on Nov. 25, 1890 in Aklan, enlisted in the US Navy after the United States took possession of the archipelago in the wake of the Spanish-American War.

On Jan. 21, 1915, while steaming in the Gulf of California as part of the naval patrol established to protect US interests and citizens in México, the captain of San Diego (Armored Cruiser 6) decided to conduct a four-hour full-speed and endurance trial to determine if the cruiser could still maintain its officially rated flank speed.

The NHHC said that “at the end of the trials an obstructed tube of one of the ship’s boilers gave way, creating an eventual chain reaction of other boilers.”

The first explosion, in the No. 2 boiler, forced Trinidad from the fire room as Ensign R. W. Cary, Jr. was closing the door.

Trinidad then realized that his crewmate, Fireman Second Class R. W. Daly was still inside. Risking his own life, Trinidad re-entered the smoke-filled fireroom and carried him out to safety while Ensign Cary secured the door.

However, the NHHC said as Trinidad carried Daly through the No. 4 fire room, an explosion of the No. 3 boiler hit Trinidad, burning him in the face.

After seeing Daly to safety and in spite of his own injury, Trinidad then assisted in rescuing another injured crewman from the No. 3 fire room.

“In gratitude for his bravery, the Navy awarded Trinidad the Medal of Honor and a $100 gratuity,” the NHHC said.

Trinidad died at the age of 77 on May 8, 1968, in Imus, Cavite.


(c) 2023 The Manila Times

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