Coast Guard celebrates Asian-Pacific members
Posted by PA3 Casey Ranel, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The month of May is recognized as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States. May was chosen because of two important anniversaries; the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by many Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869.
Asian-Pacific Americans have made their mark in Coast Guard history and continue to do so today. There are some that are recognized helping forge the Coast Guard’s core value of devotion to duty.
In January 1879, Chiao-Shun Soong joined the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service at the age of sixteen and chose to sail aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin, then homeported in Boston. He also served on the Coast Guard Cutter Schuyler Colfax, homeported in Wilmington, N. C., before ending his career with the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service in 1881.
Samual Amalu joined the Coast Guard’s predecessor, the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1906, and during his tenure, he served at the Kilauea Light. The light was built in 1913 and is the northernmost lighthouse in Hawaii, and it guided the first transatlantic aviators to the islands in 1927. Amalu was a carpenter, an engineer, a painter and a machinist. These trades pegged him as the renowned dean of lighthouse keepers.
Manuel Ferreira, a native of Maui, Hawaii started his lighthouse keeper career with the U. S. Lighthouse Service, in 1908. When he retired from the Coast Guard in 1946, he had served as the lighthouse keeper for seven lighthouses.
Florence Ebersole Smith-Finch, the daughter of a Filipino mother and an American father, was a member of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, (also known as the SPAR’s), during World War II. She was the only SPAR to receive the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. This medal was authorized, Nov. 6, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The medal was issued to commemorate the service performed by personnel of the Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard who served from Dec. 7, 1941 until March 2, 1946.
Jack N. Jones was the first Asian-American Coast Guard Academy graduate in 1949. Capt. Jeffrey Lee was the first Korean-American to graduate from Coast Guard Officer Candidate School and was the first Korean-American to command a 95-foot patrol boat, an icebreaker and a high endurance cutter. He was also commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton when the ship and its crew seized more than $1.6 million dollars worth of contraband in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and also shared in the largest drug bust in maritime history by capturing 19.5 metric tons of cocaine.
Gilbert Kanazawa was the first Japanese-American to attain the rank of Captain in the Coast Guard and Ensign Mark Unpingco was the first Asian-Pacific Islander from Guam to become a dive officer after graduating the Marine Engineering Dive Officer course at the U. S. Navy Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla.
From enlisted and reserve members to officers, Asian-Pacific Americans have been raising the bar and have been widely recognized as some of the greatest leaders in our service’s history. Today they continue to leave their mark in Coast Guard history by their exemplary devotion to duty.