September 27, 2022

The Glory Days

Armed with the regiment motto “Honor and Fidelity” as their moral compass, the Borinqueneers achieved a myriad of accomplishments. Over 65,000 Latinos served in World War II and the majority hailed from the 65th Regiment. For their bravery, members would earn numerous Silver and Bronze Stars, as well as the Purple Heart. A pivotal military exercise on the island of Vieques dubbed “PORTREX” or Puerto Rico Exercise was crucial to their success. After defending the island against 32,000 troops on the ground, the Borinqueneers proved they were a force to be reckoned with. This coup would deploy the regiment to Korea in 1950. Just a year later in 1951 General Douglas McArthur praised the unit for their bravery at the onset of the Korean War. MacArthur once wrote of the unit: “I am indeed proud to have them under my command,” he once wrote. “I wish we could count on many more like them.”

The Bloody Battle

The Borinqueneers enjoyed triumphs and endured loss over the course of the Korean War. According to the Korean War Casualty file, 2,771 Purple Heart Awards were given to members of the 65th Regiment. The regiment is most known for the successful bayonet assault of North Korean troops in December 1950. They also were praised for protecting the Third Division in February 1951. Despite their courage in over nine different battles, in 1953, 915 soldiers were court martialed and charged with “desertion”. The government and public were outraged and demanded an explanation. The US Army backed down and admitted that issues within the unit, including a change of commanders, a language barrier and decreasing morale, led to a breakdown in the troop. The Army quickly overturned all of the sentences. The Korean War would go down as one of the bloodiest battles in Puerto Rican military history with 750 casualties reported. By the end of the war, the Puerto Rican soldiers were integrated into the general Army population.

Today, The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, a volunteer organization, is dedicated to honoring the 65th Regiment’s legacy. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given to persons

“who have performed an achievement that has had an impact on American history and culture.”

If you want to honor the Borinqueneers, or simply learn more visit www.65thcgm.org.

Photo property of El Pozo Productions

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