The story of the 65th Infantry Regiment Borinqueneers is one that can appeal to almost everyone. The legendary Borinqueneers, los Borinqueños, were the largest and longest-standing, segregated Latino-American military unit in U.S. history.
Hailing from Puerto Rico, the Borinqueneers overwhelmingly distinguished themselves in service, sacrifice and heroism. They fought very bravely in WWI, WWII, and Korea, all the while enduring the additional hardships of segregation and discrimination.
They were ordered ... to exclude rice and beans from their rations, even though most were young soldiers a long way from home in both distance and cultural heritage.
- Larry Bystran
Today, an all-volunteer, non-partisan, nationwide initiative called the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. recognizes this unit and preserves the rich history of their truly unique and noteworthy service for future generations of Americans.
Similar segregated military units have already received the Congressional Gold Medal: the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Code Talkers, the Montford Point Marines, and the Nisei Soldiers. All of these were well-merited. The Borinqueneers must be added to this list now. It’s high time that we paid them back just a little!
The youngest of our Borinqueneer heroes are in their 80’s, having served in the Korean conflict. This is our one chance to exert some influence in Congress, and make sure that the Borinqueneers are recognized while some of them are still alive. This great cause is extremely worthy and just, and if you’re Puerto Rican, regardless of your political feelings on the ultimate status of the special island, it should touch your soul very deeply.
During Korea, the 65th Inf. Reg. Borinqueneers earned 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,771 Purple Hearts. 750 of the 65th were killed in action, and more than 100 are still missing in action. They never came home. Those who did were never the same.
The Borinqueneers are credited with the final battalion-sized bayonet assault in U.S. Army history. In early 1951 while fighting in Korea, two battalions of the 65th fixed bayonets and charged straight up hill toward the enemy, over running them and overtaking the enemy’s strategic position. General Douglas MacArthur had high praise for the unit.
Despite this renowned record of service during an extremely difficult and dirty war, the Borinqueneers routinely faced additional hurdles brought on by wide disregard for their distinct and often misunderstood and ridiculed differences in culture and language, as well as the ugly specter of discrimination. At one point, the proud soldiers were ordered to “shave off your moustaches until you can prove that you’re men.”
They were also ordered to paint over the beloved word “Borinqueneers” on their military vehicles, and to exclude rice and beans from their rations, even though most were young soldiers a long way from home in both distance and cultural heritage.
We should not allow the legendary Borinqueneers to become a fading footnote in American history and in the history of Latino-Americans and Puerto Ricans in the U.S.
On behalf of the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, I urge you to contact your one U.S. House of Representatives member and your two U.S. Senators. Passage of the Congressional Gold Medal legislation requires two-thirds of each chamber to become co-sponsors of the bill. That’s 290 U.S. House members and 67 U.S. Senators. For most of us who have never contacted our U.S. legislators before, simple instructions are available on the alliance’s website at http://www.65thCGM.org and Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BorinqueneersCGMAlliance.
Please support this great cause and contact Congress ahora!
Larry Bystran serves on the national steering committee of Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance.