People of SU
November 8, 2019
This past Veterans Day weekend was a special one for a Seattle U alumnus. Alfonso Baes, ’53, who passed away in 1989, received a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino World War II veterans in Washington, D.C. Twenty-five other Filipino veterans also were honored. His family, who lives in Florida, accepted the medal on his behalf.
According to a story by Rick Neale at Florida Today, Baes enlisted on July 4, 1945, at Naval Station Samar Island in the Philippines, after Allied forces liberated the nation from the Japanese. He was transferred to Pearl Harbor and served aboard the USS Severn, a fleet oiler, and the USS Fall River, a heavy cruiser.
The Fall River participated in Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb tests in July 1946 at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Baes earned a certificate for serving this mission.
After he was discharged as a stewardsman, Baes worked in canneries in Bremerton and attended Seattle U on the GI Bill, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
According to his daughter, Liberty Rovira, her father's college transcript gave an address of the YMCA in Seattle. She said he worked part-time during the school year as a waiter, then fulltime during summers at the canneries across the Sound.
Baes worked at Boeing and then for the Department of Defense from 1955-75, ending his government employment at Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Chesapeake Division. He then worked for private engineering firms near Washington, D.C., until his death.
The Filipino WWII medal program was created by unanimous Congressional vote and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016. More than 260,000 Filipino troops served in or alongside U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and the medal program belatedly recognized them more than 70 years after the surrender of Japan.
Sunday’s ceremony was organized by the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. Major General Antonio Taguba , US Army, retired, and chairman of the Project, presented Baes's widow, Leonila, with the Congressional Gold Medal. Rovira's son, Miguel, pictured above, joined her in receiving the medal.
"It was a solemn event, with color guards, uniformed escorts and top military officials making the presentations," said Rovira.
The event coincided with the US Marine Corps Birthday and also commemorated the 75th anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s return to liberate the Philippines.
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