AP

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced Thursday that the future destroyer will be named USS Telesforo Trinidad in honor of the Philippine sailor who rescued two crew members when their ship caught fire more than a century ago.

Telesforo De La Cruz Trinidad is the only Filipino in the U.S. Navy to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He received this award for his actions at the USS San Diego in 1915 and at a time when it could be awarded for non-combat prowess.

“Since taking the oath of office as secretary, I have wanted to honor his heroic deeds by naming the ship after him,” Del Toro said in a statement issued Thursday. “This ship and its future crew will be an important part of strengthening our superiority at sea, as well as highlighting the rich culture and history of our naval heritage.”

The news delighted Asian Americans, veterans and civilians in both the United States and the Philippines, who called for the name. They said the ship also honors tens of thousands of Filipinos and Americans of Filipino descent who have served in the U.S. Navy since 1901, when the Philippines was United States territory.

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Trinidad, who died in 1968 at the age of 77, was aboard the USS San Diego in January 1915 when boilers exploded, killing nine people. He was among more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers who served in World War II, including thousands who died during the brutal March of the Death of Bataan in the Philippines in 1942.

The future Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer will be named Trinidad, Del Toro said. A statement Thursday said the destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet.

In January 2020, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modley named a nuclear aircraft carrier in honor of Doris “Dora” Miller, an African-American sailor who received a Naval Cross for his actions during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

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