“Filipinos in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard during the Vietnam War” by Ray L Burdeos Author House $24.99 180 pages.
Ray L. Burdeos a Galveston Island local tells a story that is a flashback to the mid-20th century when American society was evolving.
The U.S. military needed stewards in the Navy and Coast Guard so it recruited the most eligible and eager young Filipino men.
White men and African-Americans were no longer filling steward positions.
A potential candidate needed a “calling card” before he could process into the military. An aptitude test and a physical were hurdles that these young men had to navigate before the Navy or Coast Guard would accept them.
“Whenever the U.S. is involved in war or conflict overseas some of the U.S. Coast Guard ships are under the U.S. Navy Command.”
Burdeos and his fellow recruits filled the quota for the Coast Guard. The Navy was more glamorous to young men but the Coast Guard offered them equal opportunity.
Burdeos is one among the 12 biographies presented. These men were remarkable when the military recruited them and their post-military career indicates they continued to be remarkable.
The recruitment began in 1955. Burdeos as well as the others came of age then and set the precedent that would continue until 1992. The green recruits were admitted into active service but not legally admitted for permanent residence in the United States of America.
“Technically they were undocumented aliens.”
Burdeos sets the stage for his biography by giving some Philippine history.
The country is composed of 7107 islands; nearly 2000 are inhabited. By 1565 Spain conquered and ruled the territory for 300 years. After the Spanish-American War the Republic of the Philippines was ceded to the United States.
The Japanese attacked the archipelago on the same day they attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Dec. 7 1941. U.S. troops in the Philippines were captured by the onslaught of Japanese fighters and the infamous Bataan death march followed.
Soon after this history refresher Burdeos introduces readers to others like him. Licerio C. Lagda HMCM USN (Ret) along with serving in the military has recently retired from the University of the Philippines where he was an English literature professor.
Victor Sarmiento CWO4 USCG (Ret) served in the Vietnam Conflict. When the ship returned to Honolulu after Vietnam patrol duty in July 1969 Sarmiento became an American citizen. The president’s executive order allowed undocumented alien military personnel to become citizens.
Although Rogelio L. Reyes QMCM USCG (Ret) had earned a college degree in navigation he put it aside to become a steward in the U.S. Navy. Burdeos writes of his adventures on icebreaking vessels.
Burdeos also writes a painful autobiographical chapter about a love he lost because he had the temerity to date the captain’s beautiful white daughter. Enough said.
The nostalgia and history contained in this book are reminders of another time. Things have certainly changed but the United States still recruits globally for the work force it needs.
Judith Farrell a high school teacher lives in League City.