Epifanio Miranda Casilan was born Oct. 7, 1906, on Leyte island in the Philippines.
The exact date of his enlistment in the Navy is unclear, but on Jan. 19, 1929, he was a mess attendant third class when he sailed from Manila to San Francisco aboard a military transport.
Mr. Casilan applied for U.S. citizenship in November 1938.
Eddie, as he was known, served on several ships before he was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona in February 1941. He was an officer’s steward third class when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
He was survived by his widow, Alice Marie Ballard Casilan. She was from Norfolk, Virginia, and he was based at the Navy yard there when they met. When they married in North Carolina in May 1939, he wrote on the license application that his parents were G. Joseph and Marrie Casilan and that they were dead.
As a native of the Philippines, Mr. Casilan was discriminated against by the Navy. Sailors from the Philippines and Guam or who were Black, could sign up for only one job before the start of World War II: mess attendant. Messmen cooked, cleaned and performed other services. They could advance to become stewards or cooks for officers, but that was their limit.
Sources: Declaration of intention for U.S. citizenship; Navy muster roll; transport ship manifest; Census; North Carolina marriage license. Thanks to New York teacher Jason McDonald for helping with the research. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.