Thursday, June 16, 2011


No Filipino is perhaps more recognized and revered than national hero Jose Rizal. His likeness appears in virtually every Philippine town, and Rizal markers have been placed from Barcelona, Spain to San Francisco, California. That distinction extends even to the American military.

At the end of World War I, the bicameral Philippine Legislature voted to donate a destroyer to the US Navy that eventually became known as the USS Rizal, the only American warship named after a Filipino hero.

The USS Rizal, which bore the hull number “174” was launched on Sept. 21, 1918 and commissioned the following year.

The Jones Law of 1916 paved the way for the establishment of the Philippine Legislature patterned after the US Congress, composed of a House of Representatives and Senate.

Shortly after, it passed a resolution that called for the construction of a warship for the US Navy, which in gratitude, named her after the Philippine’s national hero.

The USS Rizal was Wickes-class destroyer, over 314 feet long and nearly 32 feet wide that had a top speed of 35 knots – much faster than many current Philippine Navy ships. She was armed with 4-inch and 3-inch guns, and could fire both torpedoes and depth charges.

She was initially deployed with the US Pacific Fleet to patrol the West Coast until 1920 when she was converted to a minelayer and sent to the Far East.

Fittingly, the USS Rizal was assigned to the Philippines where she became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet’s Mine Detachment unit based at Sangley Naval Station in Cavite City (although she was more often seen docked at Subic) for a decade.

With a nearly all-Filipino crew, she often anchored in the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Chefoo and Chinwangtao (modern-day Yintao and Qinhuangdao near the Yellow Sea and across what is today North Korea), and Hongkong. The ship also sailed as far as Guam and Japan.

In December 1930, the USS Rizal was ordered back stateside where she was retired in August 1931 and sold as scrap 6 months later under the London Naval Treaty among the US, United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy that aimed to regulate submarine warfare and put ceilings on naval shipbuilding.

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