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Puerto Rican Military History

Tony Santiago, a.k.a. "Tony the Marine," is the Editor of our Puerto Rican Medal of Honor Channel and Puerto Rican Military History Channel. He is a writer and administrator for Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, specializing in Puerto Rican related topics. email

Puerto Rican Medal of Honor
Puerto Rico's Military History
65th Infrantry WebSite

Puerto Rican Korean War hero dies on March 2.

Sergeant First Class Modesto Cartagena (July 21, 1921-March 2, 2010), was a soldier who served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Puerto Rican regiment also known as "The Borinqueneers", during World War II and the Korean War. He was the most decorated Puerto Rican soldier in history.

Cartagena was raised in the mountains of Cayey, Puerto Rico to a poor family during the Great Depression. Cartagena enlisted in the U. S. Army in San Juan and was assigned to the 65th Infantry, which was also known as the Borinqueneers, because it was made up entirely of Puerto Rican enlisted men, a segregated unit. Read more.


Misc Articles

Emilio Navarro, ball player

Joe Sanchez: SuperCop

Joseph Acaba: Astronaut

The Marine and the Girl Next Door

Tony and the Flag

Two Unsung Hispanic Heroes of 9-11.pdf
Puerto Rico's Gag Law
PFC Carmen Garcia
HBO's 'The Pacific'.pdf
Puerto Rican link to the American Civil War
Intentona de Yauco
Brigadier General Rafael O'Ferrall - 'Orgullo Hispano'
Remains of Hero Finally Return Home
The story of PFC Jose Ramon Sanchez
Captain Ivan Castro
Tribute to Our Female Soldiers
Puerto Rican Women in the Military
Rear Admiral Frederick Lois Riefkohl
a Maunabo Native
The Marine Navy Cross Memorial Day 2007, a reunion
Captain Juan de Amezquita


y dear friends,

I would like to share with you what happened in my recent trip to Puerto Rico. As you all know, I have written many articles about the contributions which Hispanics have made to the United States, out of love and with the intention of educating the public in general. I do not seek nor have I ever asked for any type of recognition. That is why I was surprised when the Senate of Puerto Rico presented me with a Resolution last November and that the President of the Puerto Rican Senate, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock, invited me to attend the unveiling of the names of Puerto Rico's fallen heroes in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" this Memorial Day with all expenses paid. Picture on the right, (L-R), Mrs. McClintock, myself, Senator McClintock and my wife, Milagros.

I went to Puerto Rico with my family and to my pleasure, was surprised to see how my island had changed in the last 18 years, it was wonderful. This humble servant was expecting to attend the ceremonies on Memorial Day as a simple spectator, therefore, I was totally unprepared to what happened to me and I would like to share this with my closest friends.

On Monday, May 26, 2008, I was publicly recognized by the Government of Puerto Rico as a Historian who has written the biographies of prominent Puerto Ricans who have served in the military. I was invited to the Puerto Rican Capitol Building and in the presence of my wife Milagros, members of the Puerto Rican Senate and the Camera, was presented with a gift by the President of the Puerto Rican Senate, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock. Also, present in my recognition was the former President of the United States Bill Clinton and his wife, New York State Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Brigadier General Hector Pagan, the Deputy Commanding General of the United States Army Special Warfare Center and School, presented me with a medal of excellence. I was also recognized in speech given by Mr. De La Luce, in representation of Luis G. Fortuño, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the United States Congress, during the ceremonies held in front of the Capital Building in which the names of Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers were unveiled. When McClintock made his speech and mentioned my name, he made me stand up and I received the applause of those present.

As I have said before, I do not believe that I deserve such recognition's, but what really made me feel good was when my granddaughter and children told me how proud they were of me. I am sending a couple of pictures to share with you.

Tony Santiago
Tony the Marine


Puerto Ricans in World War II
By Tony (The Marine) Santiago

The participation of Puerto Ricans in World War II as members of the Armed Forces of the United States included guarding American military instalations in the Caribbean and active combat particpation in both the European and Pacific theatres of the war. Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent participated have participated as members of the U.S. Armed Forces in every conflict in which the United States has been involved in since World War I.

Puerto Ricans who had obtained U.S. citizenship as a result of the signing of the Jones-Shafroth Act on March 2, 1917 were expected to serve in the military if they met the required qualifications. When a Japanese carrier fleet launched an unexpected air attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Puerto Ricans were required to bear arms in defense of the United States. During World War II, over 53,000 Puerto Ricans served within the U.S. military.[1] Soldiers from the island, serving in the 65th Infantry Regiment, participated in combat in the European Theater - in Germany and Central Europe. Those who resided in the mainland of the United States were assigned to regular units of the military and served either in the European or Pacific theaters of the war. In some cases they were subject to the racial discrimination which at that time was widespread in the United States.[1]

For the first time, Puerto Rican women were permitted to become members of the military. Their options were restricted to either as nurses or in administrative positsions. It would also be the first time that some of the island's men would play an active role as commanders.
The military did not keep statistics in regard to the total number of Hispanics who served in the regular units of the Armed Forces and therefore, it is impossible to determine the exact amount of Puerto Ricans who served in World War II.

Leadup to World War II

The seeds of a full scale World War were planted in Asia in 1937 when Japan invaded China and in 1939 in Europe when Germany invaded Poland. In October 1940, the 295th and 296th Infantry Regiments of the Puerto Rican National Guard, founded by Major General Luis R. Esteves, were called into Federal Active Service and assigned to the Puerto Rican Department in accordance with the existing War Plan Orange.

During that period of time, Puerto Rico's economy was suffering from the consequences of the Great Depression and unemployment was widespread. Unemployment was one the reasons that some Puerto Ricans choose to join the Armed Forces.

Most of these men were trained in Camp Las Casas in Santurce, Puerto Rico and were assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment, a segregated unit made up mostly of Puerto Ricans. The rumors of war spread and the involvement of the United States was believed to be a question of time. The 65th Infantry was ordered to intensify its maneuvers, many of which were carried out at Punta Salinas near the town of Salinas in Puerto Rico.[3]Those who were assigned to the 295th and 296th regiments of the Puerto Rican National Guard received their training at Camp Tortuguero near the town of Vega Baja.

World War II

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war and Puerto Ricans living on the island and on the U.S. mainland began to fill the ranks of the four major branches of the Armed Forces. Some volunteered for patriotic reasons, some joined in need of employment, and others were drafted.

In 1943, there were approximately 17,000 Puerto Ricans under arms, including the 65th Infantry Regiment and the Puerto Rico National Guard. The Puerto Rican units were stationed either in Puerto Rico or in the Virgin Islands.

France's possessions in the Caribbean began to protest against the Vichy government in France, a government backed up by the Germans who invaded France. The island of Martinique was on the verge of civil war. The United States organized a joint Army-Marine Corps task force, which included the 295th Infantry (minus one battalion) and the 78th Engineer Battalion, both from Puerto Rico for the occupation of Martinique. The use of these infantry units were put on hold because Martinique's local government decided to turn over control of the colonies to the French Committee of National Liberation.[4]

In 1943, the 65th Infantry was sent to Panama to protect the Pacific and the Atlantic sides of the isthmus. The 295th Infantry Regiment followed in 1944, departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico to the Panama Canal Zone. Among those who served with the 295th Regiment in the Panama Canal Zone was a young Second Lieutenant by the name of Carlos Betances Ramirez, who one day become the only Puerto Rican to command a Battalion in the Korean War.[5]That same year, the 65th Infantry was sent to North Africa, arriving at Casablanca, where they underwent further training. By April 29, 1944, the Regiment had landed in Italy and moved on to Corsica.[6]

On September 22, 1944, the 65th Infantry landed in France and was committed to action on the Maritime Alps at Peira Cava. The 3rd Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Juan Cesar Cordero Davila, fought against and defeated Germany's 34th Infantry Division's 107th Infantry Regiment.[7] There were 47 battle casualties, including Sergeant Angel Martinez from the town of Sabana Grande who became the first Puerto Rican to be killed in action from the 65th Infantry. On March 18, 1945, the regiment was sent to the District of Mannheim and assigned to military occupation duties. The regiment suffered a total of 23 soldiers killed in action.[8] [9]

On January 12, 1944, the 296th Infantry Regiment departed from Puerto Rico to the Panama Canal Zone. On April 1945, the unit returned to Puerto Rico and soon after was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii. The 296th arrived on June 25, 1944 and was attached to the Central Pacific Base Command at Kahuku Air Base.[10]

Puerto Ricans who were fluent in English or who resided in the mainland were assigned to regular Army units. Such was the case of Sgt. First Class Louis Ramirez who was assigned to the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, which landed at Normandy on D Day (Battle of Normandy), June 6 and advanced into France during the Battle of Saint Malo, where they were met by enemy tanks, bombs and soldiers. PFC Fernando Pagan was also a Puerto Rican who resided in the mainland and who was assigned to unit Company A, 293 Combat Engineering Battalion which arrived in Normandy on June 10, four days after D-Day. Others, like Frank Bonilla, were assigned to the 290th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, which later fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Bonilla was the recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for his actions in combat. One Puerto Rican who earned a Bronze Star Medal in the Battle of the Bulge was PFC Joseph A. Unanue, whose father was the founder of Goya Foods. Unanue had trained for armored infantry and went to the European Theater as a gunner in A company, 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division. His company landed in France in December of 1944, just before the Battle of the Bulge. [11][12]

Sergeant First Class

Sergeant First Class Agustin Ramos Calero was one of many Puerto Ricans who distinguished themselves in combat. Calero's company was in the vicinity of Colmar , France and engaged in combat against a squad of German soldiers in what is known as the Battle of Colmar Pocket . Calero attacked the squad, killing ten of them and capturing 21 shortly before being wounded himself. Following these events, he was nicknamed "One-Man Army" by his comrades. A Silver Star Medal was among the 22 decorations and medals which he was awarded from the US Army for his actions during World War II, thus becoming the second most decorated soldier (the most decorated US soldier was Audie Murphy) in the United States Military during that war.[13]

PFC. Santos Deliz was assigned to Battery D, 216 AAA, a gun battalion, and sent to Africa in 1943 to join General George S. Patton's Third Army. According to Deliz, Patton demanded the best from all under him, including cooks and kitchen hands Deliz once recounted an experience which he had with General Patton: "[Patton] went in to inspect [and] he scolded me because I had rations over the amount I should've had. The rations were food the GIs didn't want, so instead of dumping it, I sometimes gave it to the people who were around there." Deliz was the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal.[14]

Some Puerto Ricans served in the Army Air Corps. Among those who served in the Army Air Corps were Captain Mihiel "Mike" Gilormini and T/Sgt Clement Resto.

Captain Mihiel "Mike" Gilormini served in the Royal Air Force and in Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a flight commander whose last combat mission was attacking the airfield at Milano, Italy. His last flight in Italy gave air cover for General George C. Marshall's visit to Pisa. He was the recipient of the Silver Star Medal, the Air Medal with four clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross 5 times. Gilormini later became the Founder of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard and retired as Brigadier General.

T/Sgt Clement Resto served with the 303rd Bomb Group and participated in numerous bombing raids over Germany. During a bombing mission over Duren, Germany, Resto's plane, a B-17, was shot down . He was captured by the Gestapo and sent to Stalag XVII-B where spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. Resto, who lost an eye during his last mission, was awarded a Purple Heart, a POW Medal and an Air Medal with one battle star after he was liberated from captivity.[15][16]

Puerto Rican women

When the United States entered World War II, Puerto Rican nurses volunteered for service but were not accepted into the Army or Navy Nurse Corps. In 1944, the Army Nurse Corps decided to actively recruit Puerto Rican nurses so that Army hospitals would not have to deal with the language barriers. Among them was Second Lieutenant Carmen Dumler, who became one of the first Puerto Rican female military officers. A total of 200 women from Puerto Rico served as nurses.

Not all the women served as nurses, some women served in administrative duties in the mainland or near combat zones. Such was the case of Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak who belonged to the 149th Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. The 149th Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) Post Headquarters Company was the first WAAC Company to go overseas, setting sail from New York Harbor for Europe on January 1943. The unit arrived in Northern Africa on January 27, 1943 and rendered overseas duties in Algiers within General

Puerto Rican Nurses
Camp Tortugero

Dwight D. Eisenhower s theater headquarters. Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak, a member of this unit, was the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Women's Army Corps as an interpreter and in numerous administrative positions. [20] [21]

Another was Lieutenant Maria Rodriguez Denton, who was the first known woman of Puerto Rican descent who became an officer in the United States Navy as member of the WAVES. The Navy assigned LTJG Denton as a library assistant at the Cable and Censorship Office in New York City. It was Lt. Denton who forwarded the news (through channels) to President Harry S. Truman that the war had ended.

Puerto Rican commanders

In addition to Lieutenant Colonel Juan Cesar Cordero Davila, eight Puerto Ricans who graduated from the United States Naval Academy served in command positions in the Navy and the Marine Corps.[22] They were Rear Admiral Frederick Lois Riefkohl USN, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the Naval Academy and recipient of the Navy Cross; Rear Admiral Jose M. Cabanillas, USN, who was the Executive Officer of the USS Texas which participated in the invasions of North Africa and Normandy (D-Day); Rear Admiral Edmund Ernest Garcia, USN, commander of the destroyer USS Sloat who saw action in the invasions of Africa, Sicily, and France; Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr., USN, who was the first Hispanic to become a four-star Admiral; Captain Marion Frederic Ramirez de Arellano, USN, submarine commander of the USS Balao (SS-285) credited with sinking two Japanese ships; Rear Admiral Rafael Celestino Benitez, USN, a highly decorated submarine commander who was the recipient of two Silver Star Medals; Colonel Jaime Sabater, USMC, Class of 1927 and Lieutenant General Pedro Augusto del Valle USMC, the first Hispanic to reach the rank of General in the Marine Corps.

Rear Admiral Frederick Lois Riefkohl , who was the Captain of the USS Vincennes, was assigned to the Fire Support Group, LOVE (with Transport Group XRAY) under the command of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner's Task Force TARE (Amphibious Force) during the landing in the Solomon Islands on August 7, 1942..[23]

Prior to World War II, Rear Admiral Jose M. Cabanillas served aboard various cruisers, destroyers and submarines. In 1942, upon the outbreak of World War II, he was assigned Executive Officer of the USS Texas (BB-35). The Texas Participated in the invasion of North Africa. by destroying ammunition dump near Port Lyautey. Cabanillas also participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-day.

Rear Admiral Edmund Ernest Garcia was the commander of the Destroyer USS Sloat and saw action in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and France.

Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr., served aboard the USS San Juan (CL-54) and was involved in providing artillery cover for Marines landing on Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V. 

Captain Marion Frederic Ramirez de Arellano was a submarine commander in the Navy who was awarded two Silver Star Medals, the Legion of Merit, and a Bronze Star Medal for his actions against the Japanese Imperial Navy. Not only is he credited with the sinking of at least two Japanese ships, but he also led the rescue of the lives of numerous downed Navy pilots.

Rear Admiral Rafael Celestino Benitez, who was at the time a Lieutenant Commander, saw action aboard submarines and on various occasions Weathered depth charge attacks. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver and Bronze Star Medals. Benitez would later play an important role in the first American undersea spy mission of the cold war as commander of the submarine USS Cochino in what became known as the "Cochino Incident".

Colonel Jaime Sabater, during WWII, commanded the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines during the Bouganville amphibious operations.
Lieutenant General Pedro Augusto del Valle, a highly decorated Marine, played a key role in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Battle of Guam, became the Commanding General of the First Marine Division. Del Valle played an instrumental role in the defeat of the Japanese forces in Okinawa and was in charge of the reorganization of OkinawA.


During World War II, the United States Army was segregated. Puerto Ricans who resided in the mainland and who were fluent in English served alongside their "White" counterparts. "Black" Puerto Ricans were assigned to units made up mostly of African-Americans. The vast majority of the Puerto Ricans from the island served in Puerto Rico's segregated units, like the 65th Infantry and the Puerto Rico National Guard's 285th and 296th regiments. Racial discrimination practiced against Hispanic Americans, including Puerto Ricans in the United States East coast and Mexican-Americans in California and the Southwest was widespread. Some Puerto Ricans who served in regular Army units were witnesses to the racial discrimination of the day.

In an interview, PFC Raul Rios Rodriguez said that during his basic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he had encountered a strict drill instructor who was particularly harsh on the Hispanic and black soldiers in his unit. He stated that he remains resentful of the discriminatory treatment that Latino and black soldiers received during basic training. We were all soldiers; we were all risking our lives for the United States. That should have never been done, Never." Rios Rodriguez was shipped to Le Havre, France, assigned to guard bridges and supply depots in France and Germany with the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

Another soldier, PFC Felix López-Santos was drafted into the Army and sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey for training. López -Santos went to Milne Bay and then to the small island of Woodlark, both in New Guinea, where he was in the communications department using telephone wires to communicate to the troop during the war. In an interview, López-Santos stated that in North Carolina he witnessed some forms of racial discrimination, but never experienced it for himself. He stated "I remember seeing some colored people refused service at a restaurant," López -Santos said. "I believe that I was not discriminated against because of my blue eyes and fair complexion."

Post World War II

The American participation in the Second World War came to an end in Europe on May 8, 1945 when the western Allies celebrated "V-E Day" (Victory in Europe Day) upon Germany's surrender, and in the Asian theater on August 14, 1945 "V-J Day" (Victory over Japan Day) when the Japanese surrendered by signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

On October 27, 1945, the 65th Infantry who had participated in the battles of Naples-Fogis, Rome-Arno, central Europe and of the Rhineland sailed home from France. Arriving at Puerto Rico on November 9, 1945, they were received by the local population as National heroes and given a victorious reception at the Military Terminal of Camp Buchanan. The 295th Regiment returned on February 20, 1946 from the Panama Canal Zone and the 296th Regiment on March 6. Both regiments were awarded the American Theatre streamer (The 295th was also awarded the Pacific Theatre streamer) and were inactivated that same year.

Many of the men and women who were discharged after the war returned to their civilian jobs or made use of the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill. Others, such as Major General Juan Cesar Cordero Davila, Colonel Carlos Betances Ramirez, Sergeant First Class Agustin Ramos Calero and Master Sergeant Pedro Rodriguez continued in the military as career soldiers and went on to serve in the Korean War.
Some of the Puerto Ricans from the mainland who had not completed their full active duty in the military service were reassigned to the 65th Infantry in Puerto Rico. According to remarks made by Frank Bonilla in an interview, he discovered that there was a divide among the soldiers. The Puerto Ricans who had emigrated to the mainland were seen as American Joes.  while Puerto Ricans from the island considered themselves pure  Puerto Ricans. Bonilla is quoted as saying:

"The Puerto Rican soldiers paid little, if any, attention to the playing of the 'Star Spangled Banner,  Bonilla at first thought the soldiers were being disrespectful to the United States, especially since they stood at attention whenever La Borinqueña,  the Puerto Rican anthem, was played. The soldiers in the regiment, although proud to be U.S. citizens, felt that they were a Puerto Rican army, not a US army,  Mr. Bonilla said. These men had a select unit pride because they had had more time overseas and in combat areas than the American units.  Bonilla eventually earned a Ph.D. from Harvard and held faculty appointments at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Standford University and the City University of New York. He became a major leader in Puerto Rican studies.

El Monumento de la Recordación

According to the 4th Report of the Director of Selective Service of 1948 a total of 51,438 Puerto Ricans served in the Armed Forces during World War II. These numbers only reflect those who served in Puerto Rican units. Unfortunately, the exact total amount of Puerto Ricans who served in World War II in other units, besides those of Puerto Rico, cannot be determined because the military categorized Hispanics under the same heading as whites. The only racial groups to have separate stats kept were Blacks and Asians.[31] [32]

The names of the 37 men who are known to have perished in the conflict are engraved in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Memorial Monument) monument which honors the memory of those who fallen in the defense of the United States and which is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[33]. 

1. a b Introduction: World War II (1941 -1945). Hispanics in the Defense of America. Retrieved on March 19, 2007.
2. Hector Marin. Puerto Rican Units (WWII). Hispanics in Americas Defense. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
3. Bruce C. Ruiz (November 1, 2002). Major General Luis Raúl Esteves Völckers. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
4. Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fairchild (1961). The Caribbean in Wartime. U.S. Army in World War II: Guarding the United States and Its Outposts. Center of Military History, United States Army. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
5. Carlos Betances Ramirez
6. Military History. American Veteran's Committee for Puerto Rico Self-Determination. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
7. LTC Gilberto Villahermosa (September 2000). World War II. "Honor and Fidelity" - The 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea 1950 - 1954 (Official Army Report on the 65th Infantry Regiment). U.S. Army Center of Military History. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
8. W.W. Harris (2001). Puerto Rico's Fighting 65th U.S. Infantry:From San Juan to Chowon. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-056-2.
9. Juan Cesar Cordero-Davila. ZoomInfo (2000). Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
10. Shelby, Stanton (1984). World War II Order of Battle. New York: Galahad Books.
11. Juan De La Cruz. Combat engineer Fernando Pagan went from Normandy to Belgium and Germany, where a sniper nearly killed him. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
12. Jennifer Nalewicki. Louis Ramirez recalls brutality of war; but what still shines through is the camaraderie. U.S. Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
13. Who was Agustín Ramos Calero? (PDF). The Puerto Rican Soldier (August 17, 2005). Retrieved on November 19, 2006.
14. Chris Nay. Santos Deliz. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
15. Memories of a Jug Driver. World War II Pilots. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
16. T/SGT. Clement Resto. Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
17. Discrimination. History.com. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
18. D Arcy Kerschen. Despite war s end and brother s horror stories, man was intent on joining military. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
19. Juan de la Cruz. Man survived jungle fever, suicide attacks and kangaroos during service in Pacific. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
20. Judith Bellafaire. Puerto Rican Servicewomen in Defense of the Nation. Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation. Retrieved on October 10, 2006.
21. Katie Kennon. Young woman's life defined by service in Women's Army Corps. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on October 10, 2006.
22. USNA graduates of Hispanic descent for the Class of 1911, 1915, 1924, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1939, 1943, 1947. Association of Naval Service Officers. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
23. David H. Lippman. World War II Plus 55. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
24. *Robert F. Dorr (January 26, 2004). Damn the Torpedoes! Former VCNO excelled in combat, technical roles. Navy Times. Archived from the original on January 21, 2004. Retrieved on October 21, 2006.
25. CAPT Marion Frederic Ramirez de Arellano. USNA graduates of Hispanic descent for the Class of 1911, 1915, 1924, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1939, 1943, 1947. Association of Naval Services Officers (February 27, 2007). Retrieved on March 15, 2007.
26. a b *Sontag, Sherry; and Christopher Drew, with Annette Lawrence Drew (1998). Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage. Public Affairs. ISBN:006097771X.
27. Puerto Rico Archives
28. Lieutenant General Pedro A. Del Valle, USMC. History Division. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved on October 10, 2006.
29. The Puerto Rican Soldier. El Pozo Productions (2001). Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
30. Anne Quach. Frank Bonilla became major figure in Puerto Rican studies. US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
31. Minority Groups in World War II. U.S. Army Center of Military History. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
32. World War II By The Numbers. The National World War II Museum (2006). Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
33. Monumento de la Recordacion. Searching For Our Roots (February 10, 2006). Retrieved on March 18, 2007.

Hispanics in the Defense of America. America USA (1996-2007). Retrieved on March 19, 2007.
Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fairchild (1961). U.S. Army in World War II: Guarding the United States and Its Outposts. Center of Military History, United States Army. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
US Latinos and Latinas & World War II. University of Texas at Austin (1990-2007). Retrieved on March 18, 2007.

Further reading
(1997) 65th Infantry Division. Turner Publishing. ISBN 1563111187.
del Valle, Pedro (1976). Semper fidelis: An autobiography. Christian Book Club of America. ASIN B0006COTKO.
Esteves, General Luis Raúl (1955). ¡Los Soldados Son Así!. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Star Publishing Co.. Retrieved on March 20, 2007.
Gordy, Bill (1945). Right to be proud: History of the 65th infantry division's march across Germany. J. Wimmer. ASIN B0007J8K74.
Lederer, Commander William J., USN (1950). The Last Cruise: The Story of the Sinking of the Submarine, U.S.S. Cochino. Sloane. ASIN B0007E631Y.
Special Thanks to:
My friends Ercheck and Ben Cartwright who helped in the copyediting and to
my friend Miguel Hernandez who provided me with much needed information

Puerto Rican Military History

The military history of Puerto Rico dates back to the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadores battled against the native Taínos. The island was ruled by the Spanish Empire for four centuries, during which the Puerto Ricans defended themselves against invasions from the British, French, and Dutch. The island was invaded by the United States during the Spanish-American War, and Spain officially ceded it under the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris which ended the war. It is now a United States territory and Puerto Ricans, as citizens of the United States, have participated in every major conflict involving the United States from World War I onward. The following is a history of the military events in which Puerto Ricans have participated.

Conflict with the Taínos

After the success of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World, he followed up soon afterwards with a second voyage. Unlike the first, this voyage was colonial rather than exploratory. On November 19, 1493, Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico. It was inhabited by native islanders known as Taínos, who belonged to the Arawak group of Native Americans. The Taínos called the island "Boriken." Columbus named the island "San Juan Bautista" in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Eventually it took the name Puerto Rico ("Rich Port"), and the capital city became San Juan. The conquistador Juan Ponce de León was among the many men who accompanied Columbus on this trip.

When Ponce de León arrived in Puerto Rico, he was well-received by the cacique Agüeybana, leader of the Taíno tribes in the island. The first colonists, besides the conquistadors, were farmers and miners in search of gold. Ponce de León became the first governor of Puerto Rico, by appointment of the Spanish Crown. In 1508, he founded the first settlement in Puerto Rico, located between the modern-day cities of Bayamón and San Juan, and named it Caparra. Shortly after being named Governor, Ponce de León and the other conquistadors forced the Taínos to work in the mines and to construct fortifications. Many Taínos died as a result of this cruel treatment. In 1510, Agüeybana II (the Cacique's brother) and a group of Taínos led a Spaniard named Diego Salcedo to a river and drowned him, therefore proving to his people that the white men were not gods as they had thought. Upon realizing this, Agüeybana led the first rebellion in the island, against the better armed Spanish forces. The colonists formed a citizens' militia to defend themselves against the attacks. Agüeybana was shot and killed, and the event which was the first military action in Puerto Rico came to an end. (Picture on the right - Cacique Agüeybana greets Ponce de León)

Europeans fight over Puerto Rico

Captain Antonio de los Reyes Correa

Puerto Rico was considered the "Key to the Antilles" by the Spanish, as its location was important as a way station and port for Spanish vessels. In 1540, the Spanish settlers began the construction of the fort El Morro ("the promontory") with revenue from Mexican mines. The initial phase of the construction was completed in 1589. El Morro was the island's main military fortification in San Juan and was guarded by professional soldiers. Puerto Rico's only defense was a handful of soldiers and the local militia, made up of volunteers. These units were able to defend themselves against many pirate attacks. On October 11, 1528, the French, in an attempt to capture the island, sacked and burned the settlement of San Germán. They also destroyed many of the island's first settlements; including Guánica, Sotomayor, Daguao and Loiza;before the local militia forced them to retreat. The only settlement that remained was San Juan.

The English

Juan Ponce de León II, born in San Juan and grandson of Juan Ponce de León, organized a military expedition in the island and established a settlement on the island of Trindad in 1569. Ponce de León built the "town of the Circumcision", probably around modern Laventille. In 1570 this settlement was abandoned, possibly because of the raids by the Caribs which resulted in the death of de Leon's son. Ponce de León II, who had been the first native-born Puerto Rican to assume temporary governorship of the island, retired soon thereafter and led a religious life.

In 1585, war broke out between England and Spain. Fighting was not limited to Europe, but extended to their territories in the Americas. Sir Francis Drake was the vice-admiral in command of the Royal Navy which overcame the Spanish Armada that was attempting to invade England. On November 22, 1595, Drake and Sir John Hawkins invaded the island with 26 vessels. Spanish gunmen from El Morro shot a cannonball through the cabin of Drake's flagship. Unable to take the island, Drake set San Juan on fire; in 1596, Drake died of dysentery after a second defeat while again attacking San Juan. On June 15, 1598, the British fleet, led by George Clifford, landed in Santurce and held the island for several months. He was forced to abandon the island upon an outbreak of bacillary dysentery among his troops. In 1599, 400 additional soldiers and 46 cannons were sent to the island along with a new governor, Alonso de Mercado, to rebuild the city.

The British continued their attacks against the Spanish colonies in the caribbean and were able to take minor islands, including the island of Vieques, which is situated to the east of Puerto Rico. On August 5, 1702, the city of Arecibo was invaded by the British. Only 30 militia members, armed with spears and machetes and under the command of Captain Antonio de los Reyes Correa, defended the city from the British, who were armed with muskets and swords. At the end of the battle, there were 22 British dead on land and eight at sea. The British left in defeat, and the city of Arecibo was saved. Reyes Correa was declared a national hero and was awarded the Medalla de Oro de la Real Efigie ("Gold Medal of the Royal Image") by King Philip V, who also gave him the title of "Captain of Infantry." The Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico was organized in 1741. The Fijo, as it was known, came about because the Puerto Rican criollos had for some time been petitioning the Spanish Crown to allow Puerto Ricans to serve in the regular Spanish army. Up to that time criollos were not allowed to serve as regular, full-time soldiers. The Fijo not only served in the defense of Puerto Rico but in Spain's overseas possessions as well. It covered itself with glory in battles in Santo Domingo, other islands in the Caribbean and in South America, most notably in Venezuela. However, Puerto Rican complaints that the Fijo was being used to suppress the revolution there caused the Crown to bring the Fijo home and in 1815, mustered it out of service.

In 1765, the Spanish Crown sent Field Marshall Alejandro O'Reilly to Puerto Rico to form an organized militia. O'Reilly, known as the "Father of the Puerto Rican Militia," took it upon himself to instill a sense of military discipline in the local troops. The training which he oversaw was to bring fame and glory to the militia in future military engagements. He nicknamed the civilian militia the "Disciplined Militia." O'Reilly was appointed governor of colonial Louisiana in 1769 where he became known as "Bloody O'Reilly".

During the American Revolutionary War, Spain lent the rebelling colonists the use of its ports in Puerto Rico, through which they received financial aid and arms for their cause. Puerto Rican volunteers fought the British, alongside the Continental Army, in the Battle of Massachusetts in 1775, under the command of Captain General Torre. An incident occurred in the coast of Mayagüez, in 1777, between two Continental Navy ships, the ''Eudawook'' and the ''Henry'', and a Royal Navy warship, the HMS ''Glasgow''. Both American ships were chased by the larger and more powerful ''Glasgow''. The American ships were close to the coast of Mayagüez and members of the Puerto Rican militia of that town, realizing that something was wrong, signaled for the ships to dock at the towns Bay. After the ships docked, the crews of both ships got off and some Mayagüezanos boarded and raised the Spanish flag on both ships. The commander of the ''Glasgow'' became aware of the situation and asked the islands governor, Jose Dufresne to turn over the ships. Governor Dufresne refused and ordered the English warship out of the Puerto Rican dock. The governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez (1746-1786), was named general of the Spanish colonial army in North America. In 1779, Galvez and his troops, composed of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanic groups, distracted the British from the revolution by capturing the cities of Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola and St. Louis. Galvez and his troops also provided the Continental Army with guns, cloth, gunpowder and medicine shipped from Cuba up the Mississippi River.

On February 17, 1797, the appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Ramón de Castro, who was also a brigadier general in the Spanish Army, received the news that England had invaded the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Governor Ramón de Castro believed that Puerto Rico would be the next objective of the British and that they would once again attempt to invade the island. He decided to put the militia on alert and to prepare the island's forts against any military action. On April 17, 1797, British ships under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby, approached the coastal town of Loíza, to the east of San Juan. On April 18, British soldiers and German mercenaries ("Hessians") landed on Loíza's beach. Under the command of Brigadier Ramón de Castro, British ships were attacked with artillery and mortar fire from both El Morro and the San Gerónimo fortresses. The British twice tried to take the Martín Peña Bridge, which would lead to San Juan, but after fiercely fighting the Spanish forces and local militia they were defeated in both of their attempts. The invasion had failed because a total of 16,000 Puerto Rican volunteers and Spanish troops fought back and defended the island. The British also attacked Aguadilla and Punta Salinas, but they were defeated, and the British troops that had landed on the island were taken prisoner. The British retreated on April 30, 1797 to their ships and on May 2, 1797 set sails towards north. Because of the defeat given the british forces governor Ramon de Castro petitoned Spanish King Charles IV some recognitions for the victors; he was promoted to Field Marshall and others where promoted and given some pay raises. On December 1797 the British also attacked Aguadilla but they were defeated. The British persited to invade Puerto Rico with unsuccessful skirmishes on the coastal towns of Ponce, Cabo Rojo, Mayaguez until 1802 when the war with England finally came to an end.

Captain Miguel Enríquez

Spain and Britain were in a constant power struggle in the New World. Puerto Rican privateering of British ships was encouraged by the Spanish Crown. Captain Miguel Enríquez and Roberto Cofresi were two of the most famous pirates. Enríquez was a shoemaker by occupation. In the later years of the 18th century, Enríquez decided to try his luck as a pirate. He showed great valor in intercepting English merchant ships and other ships dedicated to contraband that were infesting the seas of Puerto Rico and the Atlantic Ocean in general. In 1811, Miguel Enríquez participated in the expeditionary force, under the command of Juan Rosello, which fought and defeated the British in the island of Vieques. Miguel Enríquez was received as a national hero when he returned the island of Vieques back to the Spanish Empire and to the governorship of Puerto Rico. In recognition of his services, the Spanish Crown awarded Miguel Enríquez with the Medalla de Oro de la Real Efigie (The Gold Medal of the Royal Image), named him "Captain of the Seas and Land" and gave him a letter of "marque and reprisal" thus granting him the privileges of privateer.

In the case of Captain Roberto Cofresi, the Spanish government received many complaints from the nations whose ships he attacked. The Spanish government, which normally encouraged piracy against other nations, was pressured and felt obliged to pursue and capture the famous pirate. Cofresi and his men attacked eight ships, amongst them an American ship. In 1824, Captain John Slout of the U.S. Naval Forces and his schooner "Grampus" engaged Cofresi in a fierce battle. The pirate Cofresi was captured along with eleven of his crew members and was turned over to the Spanish Government. He was sent to jail in El Castillo del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cofresi was judged by a Spanish Council of War, found guilty and executed by firing squad, on March 29 1825.

The British were not the only enemies that Spain faced in the Caribbean during this period. France had threatened to invade the Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo. In 1808 the Spanish Crown sent their Navy under the command of Puerto Rican Admiral Ramon Power y Giralt to prevent the invasion of Santo Domingo by the French by enforcing a blockade. He was successful and was proclaimed a hero by the Spanish Government.

The Dutch

The Netherlands was a world military and commercial power by 1625, competing in the Caribbean with the British. The Dutch wanted to establish a military stronghold in the area, and dispatched Captain Balduino Enrico (Boudewijn Hendricksz) with the task of capturing Puerto Rico. On September 24, 1625, Enrico arrived at the coast of San Juan with 17 ships and 2,000 men. The governor of Puerto Rico, Juan de Haros, was an experienced military man, and, expecting an attack in the section known as Boqueron, had that area fortified. However, the Dutch took another route and landed in La Puntilla. De Haro realized that an invasion was inevitable and ordered 300 men stationed at El Morro Castle and the city of San Juan evacuated. He also had former governor Juan de Vargas organize an armed resistance in the interior of the island. On September 25 Enrico attacked San Juan, besieging El Morro Castle and La Fortaleza (the Governor's Mansion). He invaded the capital city and set up his headquarters in La Fortaleza. The Dutch were counterattacked by the civilian militia on land and by the cannons of the Spanish troops in El Morro Castle. The land battle left 60 Dutch soldiers dead and Enrico wounded. The Dutch ships at sea were boarded by Puerto Ricans who defeated those aboard. After a long battle, the Spanish soldiers and volunteers of the city's militia were able to defend the city from the attack and save the island from an invasion. On October 21, Enrico set La Fortaleza and the city ablaze upon his retreat. He then tried to invade the island by attacking the town of Aguada. He was again defeated by the local militia and abandoned the idea of invading Puerto Rico.

Revolt against Spain

South America

The Spanish colonies began to revolt against Spanish rule during this period. Brigadier General Antonio Valero de Bernabe was a Puerto Rican military leader who became known in Latin America as the "Liberator from Puerto Rico". Valero was a recent graduate of the Spanish Military Academy when Napoleon Bonaparte convinced King Charles IV of Spain to permit him to pass through Spanish soil with the sole purpose of attacking Portugal. When Napoleon refused to leave, the Spanish government declared war. Valero joined the Spanish Army and helped defeat Napoleon's army at the Battle of Zaragoza. Valero became a hero; he was awarded many decorations and was promoted to the rank of colonel.

When Ferdinand VII assumed the throne of Spain in 1813, Valero became critical of the new king's policies towards the Spanish colonies in Latin America. He developed a keen hatred of the monarchy, resigned his commission in the army, and headed for Mexico. There he joined the insurgent army headed by Agustín de Iturbide, in which Valero was named chief of staff. He fought for Mexico's independence from Spain, and was victorious. After the Mexican victory, Iturbide proclaimed himself Emperor of Mexico. Since Valero had developed anti-monarchist feelings following his experiences in Spain, he then revolted against Iturbide. Things didn't go well, and he tried to escape, but was captured by a Spanish pirate, who turned him over to the Spanish authorities in Cuba, where he was imprisoned. Valero escaped with the help of a group of men that were pro-Bolívar. Upon learning of Bolívar's dream of creating a unified Latin America, including Puerto Rico and Cuba, Valero decided to join him. Valero stopped in St. Thomas, where he established contacts with the Puerto Rican independence movement. He then traveled to Venezuela, were he was met by General Santander.

He next joined Simón Bolívar, and fought alongside "The Liberator" against Spain, gaining his confidence and admiration. Bernabe was named Military Chief of the Department of Panama, Governor of Puerto Cabello, Chief of Staff of Colombia, Minister of War and Maritime of Venezuela, and in 1849 was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

Puerto Rico

On April 13, 1855, a mutiny broke out among the artillerymen in Fort San Cristóbal. They were protesting against an extended two years of military service imposed by the island's Spanish governor, Garcia Cambia. The mutineers pointed their cannons towards San Juan, creating a state of panic among the population. Upon their surrender, the governor had the eight men arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Many Spanish colonies had gained their independence by the mid-1850s. In Puerto Rico there were two groups: the loyalists, who were loyal to Spain, and the independentistas, who advocated independence. In 1866, Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances, Segundo Ruiz Belvis, and other independence advocates met in New York City where they formed the Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico. An outcome from this venture was the plan of sending an armed expedition from the Dominican Republic to invade the island. Several revolutionary cells were formed in the western towns and cities of Puerto Rico. Two of the most important cells were at Mayagüez, led by Mathias Brugman and code named "Capa Prieto" and at Lares, code named"Centro Bravo" and headed by Manuel Rojas. "Centro Bravo" was the main center of operations and was located in the Rojas plantation of El Triunfo. Manuel Rojas was named "Commander of the Liberation Army" by Betances. Mariana Bracetti (sister-in-law of Manuel) was named "Leader of the Lares Revolutionary Council." Upon the request of Betances, Bracetti knitted the revolutionary Flag of Lares (Bandera de Lares). (Picture/Fort San Cristóbal)

The Spanish authorities found out about the plot and were able to confiscate Betance's armed ship before it arrived in Puerto Rico. The Mayor of the town of Camuy, Manuel Gonzalez (leader of that town's revolutionary cell), was arrested and charged with treason. He learned that the Spanish Army was aware of the independence plot, and escaped to warn Manuel Rojas. Alerted, the revolutionists decided to start the revolution as soon as possible, and set the date for September 28, 1868. Mathias Brugman and his men joined up with Manuel Rojas's men and with about 800 men and women, marched on and took the town of Lares. This was to be known as "el Grito de Lares." The revolutionists entered the town's church and placed Bracetti's revolutionary flag on the High Altar, as a sign that the revolution had begun. They declared Puerto Rico to be the "Republic of Puerto Rico" and named Francisco Ramirez its President. Manuel and his poorly armed followers proceeded to march on to the town of San Sebastián, armed only with clubs and machetes. The Spanish Army had been forewarned, and awaited with superior fire power. The revolutionists were met with deadly fire. The revolt failed, many revolutionists were killed, and at least 475, including Manuel Rojas and Mariana Bracetti, were imprisoned in the jail of Arecibo and sentenced to death. (Pictured is Ramón Emeterio Betances

Others fled and went into hiding. Mathias Brugman was hiding in a local farm where he was betrayed by farm hand named Francisco Quiñones. He was captured and executed on the spot. Fearing another revolt, the Spanish Crown disbanded the Puerto Rican Militia, which had been composed almost entirely of native-born Puerto Ricans in 1869, and organized the Volunteer Institute, composed entirely of Spaniards and their sons. (Picture/Lares Flag)



In 1869, the incoming governor of Puerto Rico, Jose Laureano Sanz, in an effort to ease tensions in the island, dictated a general amnesty and released all who were involved with the Grito de Lares revolt, from prison. Many of these former prisoners joined the Cuban Liberation Army and fought against Spain. Among the many Puerto Ricans who volunteered to fight for Cuba's independence were Juan Ruís Rivera and Francisco Gonzalo Marin a.k.a. "Pachín Marin". (Picture/Gen. Juan Ruís Rivera)

Juan Ruís Rivera was released from prison for his participation in the Lares revolt. He joined the Cuban Liberation Army and was given the rank of General. He fought alongside Gen. Maximo Gomez in Cuba's Ten Years' War. He later fought alongside Gen. Antonio Maceo and upon Maceo's death was named Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Liberation Army. After Cuba gained its independence, Gen. Juan Ruís Rivera became an active political figure in the new nation.

Francisco Gonzalo Marin was a renowned poet and journalist in Puerto Rico who joined the Cuban Liberation Army upon learning of the death of his brother Wecenlao, in the battlefields of Cuba. Marin, who was given the rank of Lieutenant, befriended and fought alongside Jose Marti. On November 1897 Lt. Marin died from the wounds he received in a skirmish against the Spanish Army.

Spanish-American War

The United States declared war on Spain in 1898, following the sinking of the battleship "USS Maine (ACR-1" in Havana harbor, Cuba, beginning the Spanish-American War. One of the United States's principal objectives was to take control of Spanish possessions Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Atlantic, and the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific.

On May 10, 1898, Spanish forces, under the command of Capt. Angel Rivero Mendez, in the fortress of San Cristobal in San Juan exchanged fire with the USS Yale (1889), and on May 12 a fleet of 12 American ships bombarded San Juan. On June 25, the USS Yosemite arrived in San Juan and blockaded the port. On July 25, General Nelson A. Miles entered the southern town of Guánica with 3,300 troops and with the exception of some minor skirmishes, went practically unopposed. One of the most notable skirmishes between Spanish forces and Puerto Rican volunteers with the Americans occurred on July 26. The Spanish forces engaged the 6th Massachusetts in a firefight in what became known as the Battle of Yauco. Two Spanish soldiers died. The Americans were well received by the Puerto Rican population in general, making the invasion much easier, and the Spanish surrendered without other major incidents. The total casualties of the Puerto Rican campaign were 450 Spanish and Puerto Rican dead or wounded, plus four dead and 39 wounded Americans.

On August 8, 1898, the Spanish-American War ended, and upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States. The Spanish troops had already left by October 18, and the United States named General John R. Brooke as military governor of the island. On July 1, 1899, "The Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry, United States Army" was created, and approved by the United States Congress on May 27, 1908. The regiment was a segregated, all-volunteer unit made up of 1,969 Puerto Ricans

In 1897, before the onset of fighting in Puerto Rico, Juan Alonso Zayas, born in San Juan, was a Second Lieutenant in the Spanish Army when he received orders to head for the Philippines to command of the 2nd Expeditionary Battalion stationed in Baler. He arrived in Manila, the capital, in May 1897. There he took a vessel and headed for Baler, on the island of Luzon. The distance between Manila and Baler is 62 miles (100 km); if traveled through the jungles and badly-built roads, the actual distance was 144 miles (230 km). At that time a system of communication between Manila and Baler was almost non-existent. The only way Baler received news from Manila was by way of vessels. The Spanish colonial government was under constant attack from local Filipino groups who wanted independence. Zayas's mission was to fortify Baler against any possible attack. Among his plans for the defense of Baler was to convert the local church of San Luis de Tolosa into a fort.

The independence advocates, under the leadership of Colonel Calixto Vilacorte, were called "insurgents" (''tagalos'') by the Spanish crown. On June 28, 1898, they demanded the surrender of the Spanish army. The Spanish governor of the region, Enrique de las Morena y Fossi, refused. Immediately, the Filipinos attacked Baler in a battle that was to last for seven months. Despite being outnumbered and suffering hunger and disease, the battalion did not capitulate. In the meantime, Zayas and the rest of the battalion were totally unaware of the Spanish-American War that was going on. On August 1898, the hostilities between the United States and Spain came to an end. The Philippines became a U.S. possession under the accordance of the Treaty of Paris. The battalion at Baler found out about the Spanish-American War and its aftermath in May 1899, and surrendered on June 2, 1899. They were unaware that they had been fighting for a possession that was no longer theirs. The 32 survivors of Zayas Battalion were sent to Manila, where they boarded a ship for Spain. In Spain, they were given a hero's welcome and became known as ''los Ultimos de Baler''—"the Last of Baler".

20th century

Puerto Rican National Guard

In 1906, a group of Puerto Ricans met with the appointed Governor Winthrop, and suggested the organization of a Puerto Rican National Guard. The petition failed because the U.S. Constitution prohibits the formation of any armed force within the United States and its territories without the authorization of Congress. (Picture/Major General Luis R. Esteves)

On June 19, 1915, Major General Luis R. Esteves of the U.S. Army became the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. While he attended West Point, he tutored fellow classmate Dwight D. Eisenhower in Spanish; a second language was required in order to graduate. Esteves graduated first in his class. He was a Second Lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry Division of the army under the command of John J. Pershing when he was sent to El Paso, Texas in the Pancho Villa Expedition. From El Paso, he was sent to the town of Polvo, where he was appointed mayor and judge by its citizens. Esteves helped organize the 23rd Battalion, which would be composed of Puerto Ricans and be stationed in Panama during World War I. He would also in the future play an key role in the formation of the Puerto Rican National Guard.

World War I

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the U.S. Congress approved the Jones-Shafroth Act, which granted Puerto Ricans citizenship. As a result, many Puerto Ricans became eligible for the military draft. On May 3, 1917, the Regiment recruited 1,969 men. The 295th and 296 Infantry Regiments were created in Puerto Rico. The first shot of World War I (by the US) was not fired in Europe, it was fired in Puerto Rico by a Puerto Rican serving in the US Army, Lieutenant Teofilo Marxuach. Lieutenant Marxuach was officer of the day at El Morro Castle, at the entrance to San Juan Bay, when war was declared. An armed supply ship for German submarines in the Atlantic, the Odenwald, tried to force its way out of the bay. Lieutenant Marxuach opened fire from the walls of the fortress and forced the ship to return to port and be interned.

Pedro Albizu Campos (photo on the left), who later became the leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, held the rank of lieutenant in the 375th Infantry Regiment which was stationed in Puerto Rico and never saw combat action. On May 17, 1917, the Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry was sent to guard the Panama Canal in defense of the Panama Canal Zone. In New York, many Puerto Ricans joined the 396th Infantry Regiment which was mostly composed of Afro-Americans. They were not allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts; however, they were permitted to fight as members of a French unit in French uniforms. They fought along the Western Front in France, and their reputation earned them the nickname of "the Harlem Hell Fighters" by the Germans. Among them was Rafael Hernandez Marin, considered by many as Puerto Rico's greatest composer. The 396th was awarded French Croix De Guerre for battlefield gallantry by the President of France. The Porto Rico Regiment returned to Puerto Rico on March 1919 and was renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment under the Reorganization Act of June 4, 1920.

The need for a Puerto Rican National Guard unit became apparent to Major General Luis R. Esteves, who had served as instructor of Puerto Rican Officers for the Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry at Camp Las Casas in Puerto Rico. His request was met with the approval of the government and Puerto Rican Legislature. In 1919, the first regiment of the Puerto Rican National Guard was formed, and General Luis R. Esteves became the first official Commandant of the Puerto Rican National Guard.

Puerto Rico suffered greatly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and many Puerto Ricans moved to the East Coast of the United States looking for jobs and a better way of life. On the island, the unemployment rate continued to rise. Many of the Puerto Ricans who were unable to find a job looked to the Armed Forces of the United States as a source of employment. Not only were they paid better than at the few other available jobs, but they were also guaranteed three meals a day, clothing, and shelter.

World War II

In 1942, Tech4 Carmen Contreras-Bozak was a member of the 149th WAAC Post Headquarters Company which was the first WAAC Company to go overseas, setting sail from New York Harbor for Europe on January 1943. The unit arrived in Northern Africa on January 27, 1943 and rendered overseas duties in Algiers within General Dwight D. Eisenhower s theatre headquarters. Contreras-Bozak was the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Women's Army Corps as an interpreter and in numerous administrative positions

When the United States declared war against the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany, recruiters were sent to the island. In 1944, the Army Nurse Corps decided to actively recruit Puerto Rican nurses so that Army hospitals would not have to deal with the language barriers. Among them was Lieutenant Carmen Durnier, who became one of the first Puerto Rican female military officers. In 1942, the 65th Infantry underwent an extensive training program, and in 1943 it was sent to Panama Canal Zone to protect the Pacific and the Atlantic sides of the isthmus.

In 1944, the regiment was sent to North Africa, arriving at Casablanca, where they underwent further training. By April 29, 1944, the Regiment had landed in Italy and moved on to Corsica. On September 22, 1944, the 65th Infantry landed in France and was committed to action on the Maritime Alps at Peira Cava. There was a total of 47 battle casualties. The first Puerto Rican to be killed in action from the 65th Infantry was Sergeant Angel Martinez, from the town of Sabana Grande. On April 20, the 65th overran a sub-camp of the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. On March 18, 1945, the regiment was sent to the District of Mannheim and assigned to military occupation duties. In all, the 65th Infantry participated in the battles of Naples-Fogis, Rome-Arno, central Europe and of the Rhineland. On October 27, 1945, the regiment sailed from France, arriving at Puerto Rico on November 9, 1945. The regiment suffered a total of 23 soldiers killed in action. Other Puerto Ricans who played an important role during the war were Admiral Horacio Rivero, who would become the highest ranking Hispanic in the history of the U.S. Navy, he provided artillery cover for the Marines landing on Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, and Okinawa; and Lieutenant General Pedro del Valle (photo on the right), the first Hispanic Marine Corps general, who played a key role in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Battle of Guam, became the Commanding General of the First Marine Division. Del Valle played an instrumental role in the defeat of the Japanese forces in Okinawa and was in charge of the reorganization of Okinawa.

Revolt against the United States

In the mid-1940's, Puerto Rico had various pro-independence groups. One such group was the Puerto Rican Independence Party which beleived in gaining the islands independence through the electroral process. Another group was the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party which believed in the concept of armed revolution. On October 30, 1950 the nationalists, under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos staged uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayaguez, Naranjito, Arecibo, Utuado, San Juan and Jayuya.

The most notable of these occurred in Jayuya in what became known as El Grito de Jayuya. Nationalist leader Blanca Canales led the armed nationalists into the town and attacked the police station. A small battle with the police occurred and one officer was killed and three others wounded before the rest dropped their weapons and surrendered. The nationalists cut the telephone lines and burned the post office. Canales led the group into the town square where the 'light blue version' of the 'Puerto Rican Flag was raised (it was against the law to carry a Puerto Rican Flag from 1898 to 1952). Canales gave a speech in the town square and declared Puerto Rico a free Republic. The town was held by the nationalists for three days. (Picture/Blanca Canales)

The United States declared martial law in Puerto Rico and sent the Puerto Rico National Guard to attack Jayuya. The town was attacked by air by U.S. bomber planes and on land by artillery. Even though 70% of the town was destroyed, news of this military action was prevented from spreading outside of Puerto Rico. It was called an incident between Puerto Ricans. The top leaders of the nationalist party were arrested, including Albizu Campos and Blanca Canales, and sent to jail to serve long prison terms. Griselio Torresola was in the United States where, together with fellow nationalist Oscar Collazo, he decided to assassinate President Harry S. Truman. On November 1, 1950, they attacked the Blair House where Torresola and a policeman lost their lives. Oscar Collazo was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by President Truman, and he eventually received a presidential pardon.

The Korean War

On August 26, 1950, the 65th Infantry departed from Puerto Rico and arrived in Pusan, Korea on September 23, 1950. It was during the long sea voyage that the men nicknamed the 65th Infantry "Borinqueneers". The name is a combination of the words "Borinquen" (which was what the Tainos called the island before the arrival if the Spaniards) and "Buccaneers". The men of the 65th were the first infantrymen to meet the enemy on the battle fields of Korea. Among the hardships suffered by the Puerto Ricans was the lack of warm clothing during the cold and harsh winters. The enemy made many attempts to encircle the Regiment, but each time they failed because of the many casualties inflicted by the 65th. On December 1950, the U.S. Marines found themselves at the Chosin Reservoir area. In June 1951, The 65th was part of a task force which enabled the Marines to withdraw from the Hauack-on Reservoir. When the Marines were encircled by the Chinese Communist troops close to the Manchurian border, the 65th rushed to their defense. As a consequence, the Marines were able to return safely to their ships.

Among the battles and operations in which the 65th participated was the Operation "Killer" of January 1951, becoming the first Regiment to cross the Han River. On April 1951, the Regiment participated in the Uijonber Corridor drives and on June 1951, the 65th was the third Regiment to cross the Han Ton River. The 65th was the Regiment which took and held Cherwon and they were also instrumental in breaking the "Iron Triangle" of Hill 717 on July 1951. On November 1951, the Regiment fought off an attack by two Regimental size enemy units, with success. Colonel Juan Cesar Cordero Davila was named commander of 65th Infantry on February 8, 1952, thus becoming one of the highest ranking ethnic officers in the Army. On July 3, 1952, the Regiment defended the MLR for 47 days and saw action at Cognac, King and Queen with successful attacks on Chinese positions. On October the Regiment also saw action in the Cherwon Sector and on Iron Horse, Hill 391, whose lower part was called "Jackson Heights". On September of 1952, the 65th Infantry was holding on to a hill known as "Outpost Kelly". Chinese Communist forces which had joined the North Koreans, overran the hill in what became known as the Battle for Outpost Kelly. Twice the 65th Regiemnt was overwhelmed by Chinese artillery and driven off.

Mass court-martial

Col. Cordero Davila was relieved of his command by Col. Chester B. DeGavre, a West Point graduate and a "continental" officer from the mainland United States and the officer staff of the 65th was replaced with non-Hispanic officers.

DeGavre ordered that unit stop calling itself the Borinqueneers, cut their special rations of rice and beans, ordered the men to shave off their mustaches and had ome of them wear signs that read "I am a coward".

It is believed that humiliation, combat exhuastion and the language barrier where factors that influenced some of the men of Company L in their refusal to continue to fight.

On December 1954, One hundred and sixty-two Puerto Ricans of the 65th Infantry were arrested, Ninety-five soldiers were court martialed and Ninety-one were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 18 years of hard labor. It was the largest mass court-martial of the Korean War. The Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens moved quickly to remit the sentences and granted clemency and pardons to all those involved.

An Army report released in 2001, blamed the breakdown of the 65th on the following factors: a shortage of officers and noncommissioned officers, a otation policy that removed combat-experienced leaders and soldiers, tactics that led to high casualties, an ammunition shortage, communication problems between largely white, English- speaking officers and Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican enlisted men, and declining morale. The report also found bias in the prosecution of the Puerto Ricans, citing instances of continental soldiers who were not charged after refusing to fight in similar circumstances, before and after Jackson Heights.

Though the men who were court martialed were pardoned, there currently is a campaign for a formal exoneration.

On June 1953, the 2nd Battalion conducted a series of successful raids on Hill 412 and on November the Regiment successfully counterattacked enemy units in the Numsong Valley and held their positions until the truce signing between all parts involved.

The 65th Infantry was awarded battle participation credits for the following nine campaigns: 1. UN Defense-1950, 2. UN Offense-1950, 3. CCF Intervention-1950, 4. First UN Counterattack Offensive-1951, 5. UN and CCF Spring Offensive-1951, 6. UN Summer-Fall Offensive-1951, 7. 2nd Korean Winter 1951-52, 8. Korean Summer-Fall-1952 and 9. 3rd Korean Winter-1952-53. Among the awards were 10 |Distinguished Service Cross, 256 Silver Star Medals and 595 Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the men of the 65th Infantry. According to "El Nuevo Día Newspaper, 30 May 2004" a total of 756 Puerto Ricans lost their lives in Korea, from all four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. More then half of these were from the 65th Infantry (This is without including non-Puerto Ricans). Among the Puerto Ricans from the regiment who distinguished themselves are:

*Brigadier General Antonio Rodriguez Balinas, On December 23 1951, 1st Lieutenant Antonio Rodriguez Balinas fearlessly walked through a lethal hail of enemy fire directly toward the hostile bunker of the enemy, hurled his hand grenades and single-handedly completely destroyed the position and its occupants near Sorgyon-Myon. He was awarded two Silver Star medals.

*Colonel Carlos Betances Ramirez, On October 28, 1952, Col. Betances, who was the first and only Puerto Rican officer to have commanded an infantry battalion in the Korean War, led his men in the victorious Battle of Jackson Heights.

*Master Sergeant Pedro Rodriguez, earned two Silver Star Medals within a seven day period for his actions defending Hills 476 and 398.

*Staff Sergeant Modesto Cartagena, the most decorated Hispanic in history, was a Buck Sergeant in 1951 assigned to Company C, [[65th Infantry Regiment]], 3rd Infantry Division, Cartagena. "With no regard for his own safety," as the official record states, he left his position and charged directly into devastating enemy fire, single-handedly destroying two enemy emplacements on Hill 206, near Yonch'on, North Korea. After taking out the emplacements, he was knocked to the ground twice by exploding enemy grenades. Nevertheless, he got up and attacked three more times, each time destroying an enemy emplacement until he was wounded. His family is leading a petition requesting that he be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Other Puerto Ricans who distinguished themselves during the Korean War were: Private First Class Fernando Luis Garcia (photo on the left), who belonged to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Division and who became the first Puerto Rican recipient of the Medal of Honor when he covered a grenade with his body, saving the lives of his fellow Marines. Major General Salvador E. Felices flew in 19 combat bombing missions over North Korea.

In 1956, the 65th Infantry Regiment was transferred to the Puerto Rican National Guard. 61,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War, including 18,000 Puerto Ricans who enlisted in the continental United States.

On February 12, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur, was quoted in Tokyo saying the following: The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea &are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them. 

Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a tense confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. On October 22, 1962, Admiral Horacio Rivero (photo on the right) was the commander of the American fleet sent by President John F. Kennedy to confront the Soviets by setting up a quarantine (blockade) of the Soviet ships. He therefore was in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by being on the front lines of the vessels. The world feared the possibility of nuclear war. On October 28, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, and Kennedy ordered an end of the quarantine of Cuba on November 20, bringing an end to the crisis. Admiral Rivero served as U.S. Ambassador to Spain from 1972-1975. (Picture/Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr., U.S. Navy)

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, an estimated 48,000 Puerto Ricans served in the four branches of the armed forces. Four Puerto Ricans were awarded the Medal of Honor:

*On November 8, 1966, Captain Euripides Rubio was mortally wounded at Tay Ninh Province, but was able to place a smoke grenade behind enemy lines, saving the lives of his comrades and turning the tide of the battle.

*On November 20, 1967, Private First Class Carlos Lozada (photo on the right) was mortally wounded at Dak To, while providing machine gun cover for his battalion.

*On June 28, 1968, Specialist Hector Santiago-Colon distinguished himself at Quang Tri Province at the cost of his own life while serving as a gunner in a mortar platoon.

*On July 8, 2002, Captain Humbert Roque Versace, became the first Army Prisoner of war in Southeast Asia to posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions while in captivity from 1963 to 1965.

Among those who had distinguished military careers and who participated in the war were:

Major General Salvador E. Felices (USAF ), who in 1968 flew 39 combat bombing missions over North Vietnam in a B-52 Stratofortress, as commander of the 306th Bombardment Wing.

Captain Diego E. Hernandez (USN), who rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and became the first Hispanic to be named Vice Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In Vietnam he flew in two combat missions.

Colonel Hector Andres Negroni (USAF), a historian and author who was the first Puerto Rican graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He had a total of 750 combat hours.

Two Puerto Ricans who served in Vietnam currently hold positions in the Administration of President George W. Bush. They are Dr. Richard Carmona a former Green Beret who was awarded two Purple Heart Medals and was appointed Surgeon General in March 2002, and Major General William A. Navas Jr. who was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy in June 6, 2001.

Operation El Dorado Canyon

On April 14, 1986, in response to acts of terrorism sponsored by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in particular, the Berlin disco bombing of April 6 and against the backdrop of heightened tension and clashes between the Libyan and U.S. navies over Libya's disputed territorial water claims in the Gulf of Sidra, the United States launched a surprise attack on key facilities in Tripoli and other parts of Libya. The attack was code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon.

With the acquiescence of the British government, 24 U.S. Air Force F-111F fighter-bombers took off from U.S. airbases in England. Attacking in the pre-dawn hours of April 15, their main objectives were 22 airfields, terrorist training camps, and other military installations. Captain Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci was one of the pilots who participated in the Libyan air raid (code named Operation El Dorado Canyon). His F-111 was shot down in action over the disputed Gulf of Sidra off the Libyan coast. Ribas-Dominicci and his weapons systems officer, Captain Paul F. Laurence, were the only U.S. casualties. Al-Qaddafi, who was also personally targeted, escaped harm, but his daughter was killed.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

In 1990, 1,700 Puerto Rican National Guardsmen were among the 20,000 Hispanics deployed to the Persian Gulf in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Four Puerto Ricans lost their lives, including Captain Manuel Rivera of the Marine Corps, a Puerto Rican from the South Bronx, who on January 22, 1991 became the first soldier to be killed in Operation Desert Shield. Rivera had planned on applying for admission to NASA as an astronaut candidate. However, he was assigned to U.S. Marine Corps VMA 331 upon the outbreak of Operation Desert Shield. He served as personnel officer, intelligence officer and logistics officer and flew in many support missions. Rivera was killed during a support mission over the Persian Gulf. His body was recovered. On January 30, 1991, the U.S. House of Representatives paid tribute to Rivera. (Picture/Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr., USMC)

Somalian Civil War
Operation Restore Hope was an American military operation with the support of the United Nations which was formed to deliver humanitarian aid and restore order to the African nation of Somalia, which was suffering from a severe famine, anarchy, and domination by a number of warlords following the collapse of Siad Barre's Marxist government and the outbreak of the Somalian Civil War. On January 30, 1993, Private First Class Domingo Arroyo Jr., a Marine from Puerto Rico, became the first of the 44 American soldiers killed during the operation. He was ambushed in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, by Somali warlords.

Afghanistan and Iraq

In the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, among those that have perished are the first three Puerto Rican women to die in a foreign combat zone.

On November 2, 2003, Specialist Frances M. Vega US Army (photo on the left) became the first female Puerto Rican soldier born in the United States to die in a war zone. A ground-to-air missile fired by insurgents in Fallujah hit the Chinook transport helicopter which Vega was in. She was one of 16 soldiers who lost their lives in the crash that followed.

On March 1, 2005 Specialist Lizbeth Robles became the first female Puerto Rican soldier born in the island to die in Irak when her Humvee was involved in an accident. Currently, there are 1,800 Puerto Rican soldiers stationed in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over 1,225 Puerto Ricans have died while serving for the United States.

General William W. Harris was quoted in the Puerto Rico Herald as saying, "No ethnic group has greater pride in itself and its heritage then the Puerto Rican people. Nor have I encountered any that can be more dedicated and zealous in support of the democratic principles for which the United States stands. Many Puerto Ricans have fought to the death to uphold them."

Military installations in Puerto Rico

U.S. Army
· Fort Buchanan: Guaynabo. The only U.S. Army installation in the Caribbean and the largest military base in Puerto Rico.
· Army Aviation Support Facility: Located in Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport (Isla Grande Airport) in San Juan. Hosts two C-12 Huron aircraft and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

Army National Guard
· Salinas Training Area (Camp Santiago): Salinas.
· Fort Allen: Ponce

U.S. Navy
· Navy Radio Transmitter Facility Aguada: Aguada County.
· Pico Del Este Site: Pico Del Este. Hosts the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility.
· Roosevelt Roads Naval Station (defunct): Ceiba

U.S. Coast Guard
· Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen: Rafael Hernández Airport

Air National Guard
· Muñiz Air National Guard Base: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport