A dedicated Army veteran is taking on a new mission to help the families of those he served with 74 years ago. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Domingo Los Banos was born in Wahiawa and moved to Kaua’i when he was in the 4th grade. In 1944, he joined the Army.
“First Filipino Infantry Regiment, U-S Army. I was 18 at the time.”
He served as the unit first sergeant and deployed to the Philippines two years after General Douglas MacArthur escaped from the Island of Corregidor.
“Three hundred of the local boys, we joined the task force that went to the Philippines. We were the ones that were watching the activities of the enemy. Part of MacArthur’s ‘eyes and ears’ and help him keep his promise to the people of American and the Philippines of I shall return.”
Los Banos received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest U.S. civilian award, for his service in the Philippines. He’s now one of 5 members still alive from the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment and would like to help family members receive the award.
“We’re having difficulty in getting in touch with the next of kin. But, we found out that wherever these people are buried, on military cemeteries, they can get the 214 forms from those mortuaries, which is vital to the information that’s needed in a blank form that they need to fill up. Once they fill out that blank, put it in the proper authorities, they can get the gold medal.”
The 214 is a department of defense form that documents a person’s military service. Los Banos also participates in ceremonies that honor 17 Filipino Scouts who died aboard the USS Seawolf in 1944. A bell at Submarine Base Pearl Harbor rings 52 times, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, for the submarines lost in World War II. Three-thousand five-hundred crew members also lost their lives.
“U-S-S Seawolf, SS197, sunk 3 October 1944 by friendly forces on her 15th war patrol. One hundred men lost.”
Los Banos represents the Veterans of Foreign Wars Waipahu Post 1572 at these ceremonies. He says he will turn 93 in September but is making a promise to get the word out to 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment families. He’s committed to keeping that promise just as he did for the one he made in the Philippine Jungle 74 years ago.
“Before I went into that battle, I prayed, God, get me out of harm’s way and I’ll be a teacher. So, he pulled me out, safe, so I school at Springfield College, Massachusetts, and then I started with my teaching career. Then I got to be a principal and I got to be a district superintendent of Leeward for 11 years.”
More than 260-thousand Filipino veterans are eligible to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.