Domingo Los Banos, a well-known Hawaii educator, World War II veteran and advocate for fellow Filipinos who fought in the war, died Friday morning at age 93, family said.
Born in Wahiawa, Los Banos was one of five brothers who served in the U.S. Army. He went to the University of Hawaii for a year before following his brother Alfred into the service.
Three of the Los Banos brothers served in World War II, one in Korea and another in Vietnam, said his son, Todd.
Domingo Los Banos, then 19, was sent to the Philippines with 300 other recruits from Hawaii as part of the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments.
He faced Japanese soldiers in jungle combat late in the war — at one point topping a hill and coming face to face with an enemy soldier. Los Banos shot first and lived.
Todd Los Banos said his father’s greatest purpose was to promote recognition of Filipino World War II service.
“My Dad was constant ‘go,’ and he had many projects that he’s done through his life,” the son said.
On March 9 he was at Waipahu Elementary School for its 120th anniversary, Todd Los Banos said. The same day, he met friends at the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park.
Serving in 1945 in the Philippines during mopping-up operations, Domingo Los Banos made a promise.
“I said, ‘God, get me out of harm’s way and I’ll become a teacher,’” he recalled in 2018. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, “so I said, ‘Well, I better keep my commitment,’” he said.
Los Banos attended Springfield College in Massachusetts — where he sang with fellow student Don Ho. Todd Los Banos said his father was a Fulbright scholar and spent part of his time in Thailand coaching a Thai basketball team and interacting with the Thai royal family.
Springfield College’s logo included the words “spirit,” “mind” and “body” in a triangle.
“So that’s where I get my guidance about a good life — a balance between your spirit, your mind and your body,” Domingo Los Banos said in 2018.
He took his first teaching job at Waimea Elementary on Kauai, where the family had moved when he was a preteen. He became a principal and eventually a district superintendent in the Leeward area on Oahu.
More than 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers responded to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to duty and fought under the American flag during World War II, including more than 57,000 who died.
Members of Congress presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino World War II veterans at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25, 2017.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said at the time the recognition was a “long-overdue honor for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families.”
“Last Veterans Day, Filipino World War II veteran Domingo Los Banos urged me to make sure our Congressional Gold Medal bill was passed that year,” Hirono said at the time. “I hope that today’s ceremony conveyed to Domingo and every other veteran our gratitude for their service during the war and recognition of the hardship they face in receiving the benefits they earned.”
The ranks of Los Banos’ unit, the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment, have greatly thinned in recent years. In 2018 the Honolulu man pointed to a photo of himself and 15 other soldiers from Hawaii and California at the end of the war.
“I’m the only guy alive,” he noted then. Services for Los Banos are pending, his son said.