19th Century to Pre-WWII
Dating back to the early 19th century, various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipiino, Southeast Asian, Asian Indian, and Polynesian, served onboard Navy ships in Pacfiic areas. In the later part of the century, USS Ashuelot's crew was four-fifths Asian born. Some of USS Maine's crew were of Asian American origin when the vessel sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba, in February 1898, bringing the Spanish American War. Following the war, the Philippines and other Pacific islands became territories, resulting in more Asian Americans joining the U.S. Navy. In January 1915, Fireman First Class Telesforo de la Cruze Trinidad, a Filipino, rescued two Sailors after a boiler explosion onboard USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser #6) and received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. In 1919, USS Rizal (DD-174) was commissioned and had a predominately Asian American crew.
Image: NH 83753: USS Seattle (CA-11), 1923. Mess Stewards with guitars, a mandolin, and a mascot dog. NHHC Photograph Collection.