I received an email from the Naval Historical Center in Washington asking for help in locating sources for a forthcoming survey of the role of Asian-Americans in the 20th century, with emphasis on their experiences as more roles opened up to them within the service. The text of the message is below. I didn’t have any sources to hand, but got permission to post an appeal. If anyone knows any sources or wants to share his experiences, write to me and I will forward the lead to the Naval Historical Center. Better yet, post up in the comments section below. The email said:
I’m working on a U.S. Navy book project relating to Asian-Americans serving in the U.S. Navy and am interested in the role of Filipinos as stewards in the early 20th century as well as their wider participation in other rates as those opened up in the 1960s-70s and later. Do you have any advice on book citations and/or Filipino contacts who could shed light on this very interesting topic?
One of the things we’ve discovered is that whenever our historians talk about integration and diversity to sailors, the subject is most often bout African Americans, and in a lot of ways rightly so. But they lways get questions from Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and ilipino sailors which boil down to, “what about us?” So, in response, we’re going to put together a survey book on the whole subject of diversity from the 1780s to the present.
So, basically, if anyone has any information or suggestions on Asians & Asian-Americans in the U.S. Navy from the beginnings all the way down to the present day, then I am very interested.
I sometimes think that if any American author wanted to create a version of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, the ideal character would be based on a Filipino Navy steward. Fraser’s fictional Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE: witness to history and scoundrel extraordinaire, found himself present at major moments in world events, ranging from the Charge of the Light Brigade to eve of the 20th century. Yet the fantastic adventures of Flashman might easily be surpassed by the collective memory of the Filipino steward. Who was with Kimmel at Pearl Harbor, with Spruance during the Battle of Midway, attended FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan during the long and eventful years of crisis? And when more roles opened up to them, who helped keep the sea against America’s enemies, stood at watch in the dark on all the seven seas? They have no name but deserve better than oblivion. And maybe the Navy Historical Center project will help capture something of their memory before we forget what ought never be forgotten.
If you have any leads or comments, do write.