|Colonel Juan Cesar Cordero Davila|
|Colonel Juan Cesar Cordero Davila|
|65th Infantry Regiment|
Coat of arms
United States of America
|Branch||United States Army|
|Nickname(s)||"Borinqueneers" (special designation)|
|Motto(s)||Honor and Fidelity|
World War I
Col. Juan César Cordero Dávila
|Distinctive unit insignia|
|U.S. Infantry Regiments|
|64th Infantry Regiment||66th Infantry Regiment|
The 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed "The Borinqueneers" from the original Taíno name of the island (Borinquen), is a Puerto Rican regiment of the United States Army. The regiment's motto is Honor et Fidelitas, Latin for Honor and Fidelity. The Army Appropriation Bill created by an act ofCongress on 2 March 1898, authorized the creation of the first body of native troops in Puerto Rico. On 30 June 1901, the "Porto Rico Provisional Regiment of Infantry" was organized. On July 1, 1908, Congress incorporated the regiment into the Regular Army as the Puerto Rico Regiment of Infantry, United States Army. On May 14, 1917, the Regiment was activated and additional men were assigned, with the unit being sent to serve at Panama. On June 4, 1920, the Regiment was renamed 65th Infantry. During World War II, the Regiment saw action throughout Europe, especially France and Germany, participating in Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno and Rhin. Several Purple Hearts were handed posthumously to members of the 65th Regiment, and the Medal of Honor was granted to Capt. Eurípides Rubio, Héctor Santiago, Carlos Lozada and Fernando García.
The 65th Infantry Regiment participated in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and in what is known in the United States as the War on Terror. On April 13, 2016, the 65th Infantry was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Puerto Ricans have participated in many of the military conflicts in which the United States has been involved. For example, they participated in the American Revolution, when volunteers from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico fought the British in 1779 under the command of General Bernardo de Gálvez (1746–1786), and have continued to participate up to the present-day conflicts in Iraqand Afghanistan. Puerto Rico became a U.S. Territory after the 1898 Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish–American War. The United States appointed a military governor and soon the United States Army established itself in San Juan.
On March 2, 1899, the Army received an assignation of funds and authorization meant to formally organize troops in Puerto Rico. On March 24, 1899, the General Commander of the Puerto Rico Department, Mayor General Guy V. Henry ordered the creation of the Porto Rico Battalion of Volunteer Infantry. Formed by four companies named A trough D and assigned to San Juan, Mayagüez and Ponce, the unit was activated on May 20, 1899, lead by Major Lorenzo Davinson. Shortly afterwards, each company received additional men for a total of 112. Major Ebon Swift replaced Davison as commander. The formalization of this move was notified in General Order 65, issued by the new General Commander Gen. George Davis. On February 12, 1900, the Mounted Battalion was organized and both were later designated Porto Rico Regiment, U.S. Volunteers. The following year, the units were renamed Porto Rico Provisional Regiment of Infantry. The Band and First Battalion were sent to Washington on March 4, 1901, to participate in the inauguration of McKinley.
On 1 July 1901, the United States Senate passed a bill which would require a strict mental and physical examination for those who wanted to join the regiment. It also approved the recruitment of native Puerto Rican civilians to be appointed the grade of second lieutenants for a term of four years if they passed the required tests. On April 23, 1904, Congress authorized the recruitment of the local population as Second Lieutenants, leading to the recognition of Jaime Nadal, Henry Rexach, Pedro Parra, Eduardo Iriarte, Teofilo Marxuach, Eugenio de Hostos, Luis Emmanuelli and Pascual López.On 1905, one of its battalions was sent to March along the First a Brigade of the First Division of the Regular Army during Roosevelt's inauguration.An act of Congress, approved on 27 May 1908, reorganized the regiment as part of the "regular" Army and the "Porto Rico Provisional Regiment of Infantry" was renamed "Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry". Since the native Puerto Rican officers were Puerto Rican citizens and not citizens of the United States, they were required to undergo a new physical examination to determine their fitness for commissions in the Regular Army and to take an oath of U.S. citizenship with their new officers oath. By 30 January 1917, the Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry was training in Camp Las Casas which was located in Santurce, a section of San Juan in what is now Residencial Las Casas.
Different units of the regiment were stationed at other forts throughout the island under the command of William P. Burnham. Lieutenant Teófilo Marxuach, the officer of the day, was stationed at El Morro Castle at San Juan Bay on 21 March 1915. The Odenwald, built in 1903 (not to be confused with the German World War II war ship which carried the same name), was an armed German supply ship which tried to force its way out of the San Juan Bay and deliver supplies to the German submarines waiting in the Atlantic Ocean. Marxuach gave the order to open fire on the ship from the walls of the fort. Sergeant Encarnación Correa then manned a machine gun and fired warning shots with little effect.
Marxuach fired a warning shot from a cannon located at the Santa Rosa battery of El Morro fort, in what is considered to be the first shot of World War I fired by the regular armed forces of the United States against a ship flying the colors of the Central Powers, forcing the Odenwald to stop and to return to port where its supplies were confiscated.
The Odenwald was confiscated by the United States and renamed SS Newport News. It was assigned to the U.S. Shipping Board, where it served until 1924 when it was retired.
Puerto Ricans were unaccustomed to the racial segregation policies of the United States which were also implemented in Puerto Rico and often refused to designate themselves as "white" or "black". Puerto Ricans of African descent were assigned to all-black units. In 1916, the Third Battalion and the companies of service and machine-guns were integrated into the regiment.
When the United States declared war against Germany, the regiment was transferred to the regular Army and on 3 May 1917, recruited 1,969 men, considered at that time as war strength.
On 14 May 1917, the regiment was sent to Panama in defense of the Panama Canal Zone. The regiment returned to Puerto Rico in March 1919 and was renamed "The 65th Infantry Regiment" by the Reorganization Act of 4 June 1920. During this period a young Puerto Rican officer of the Regular Army, Major Luis R. Esteves, was sent to Camp Las Casas to serve as an instructor in the preparation of Puerto Rican officers. In the future, Esteves would become known as the "Father of the Puerto Rican National Guard". In 1923, the 65th provided personnel to the newly created 42th Infantry Regiment.
In 1942 the 65th Infantry underwent an extensive training program and in 1943, it was sent to Panama to protect the Pacific and the Atlantic sides of the isthmus. On 25 November 1943, Colonel Antulio Segarra, succeeded Col. John R. Menclenhall as commander of the 65th Infantry, thus becoming the first Puerto Rican Regular Army officer to command a Regular Army regiment. In January 1944, the regiment was embarked for Jackson Barracks inNew Orleans and later sent to Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia in preparation for overseas deployment to North Africa.
They also served in Casablanca after the Naval Battle of Casablanca, where the regiment underwent amphibious training. This enabled the 3rd Battalion to move on to Corsica, where it was attached to the 12th Air Force and tasked with guarding airfields. Between March and April 1944, the 65th was reassigned to North Africa. On May 3, 1944, the Third Battalion arrived at Napoles. The Battalion was then moved to Corsica and then to France. Salvador Roid commanded the 65th during a this period in Europe, which earned him the Combat Infantryman Badge.
During this time, rumors swirled that the Regiment would be sent to live combat, while officers had already been moved to act as observers. On 22 September 1944, the 65th Infantry landed in France. The Regiment was then moved to Peira Cava in the Maritime Alps, where it entered in action on December 13, 1944, the first time a Puerto Rican unit saw action in Europe. The first offensive attack came the following day in response to enemy fire, with Col. Cordero allowing Capt. Efraín Sánchez and Company L to return fire. The first casualty lost by the Regiment were Sgt. Ángel Martínez and Sergio Sánchez. In total, in the border between France and Italy, the battalion lost 47 men, including its commander, Col. George Ford.
In November 1944, Company C provided security to the headquarters of the Seventh United States Army. The rest of the First Battalion was assigned other tasks, such as defending the Command Center of the Sixth United States Army Group. The Second and Third Battalions were assigned to defend communications. In 1948, seven members received the Bronze Star for their service in World War II. On 13 December 1944, the 65th Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Juan César Cordero Dávila, relieved the 2nd Battalion of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a regiment which was made up of Japanese Americans under the command of Col. Virgil R. Miller, a native of San Germán, Puerto Rico and former member of the 65th Infantry Regiment.
In December 1944, the 3rd Battalion faced the German 34th Infantry Division's 107th Grenadier Regiment.:10 They suffered a total of forty seven battle casualties. The first two Puerto Ricans to be killed in action from the 65th Infantry were Pvt. Sergio Sánchez-Sánchez and Sgt. Ángel Martínez, from the town of Sabana Grande. Upon arriving in the freezing and isolated outposts in the Maritime Alps, the unit's morale dropped severely. In an apparent effort to boost the unit's morale, its new commander, West Pointer Colonel George A. Ford, personally led a patrol towards the German lines on January 4, 1945. Upon reaching the forward German outposts, Colonel Ford was immediately shot and killed. In the firefight that followed, one of the enlisted man already mentioned was killed and several other were wounded, forcing the patrol to abandon the colonel's body.
On 18 March 1945, the regiment was sent to the District of Mannheim, Germany and assigned to Military Government activities, anti-sabotage and security missions. In all, the 65th Infantry participated in the campaigns of Rome-Arno, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. On 27 October 1945, the regiment sailed from France arriving at Puerto Rico on 9 November 1945.
|Newsreel footage of Operation Portrex|
The 65th Infantry Regiment distinguished itself when the United States conducted a military exercise on the island of Vieques, on the eve of the Korean War. This exercise was code named "Operation PORTREX," an acronym for "Puerto Rico Exercise." The objective was to see how the combined forces of the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force would do as "liberators" of an enemy captured territory (Vieques) against the "aggressors." The core of the aggressor ground forces were made up of Puerto Rican soldiers, most of whom belonged to the 65th Infantry Regiment.
The liberators consisted of 32,600 combat troops from the 82nd Airborne Division's 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment and the Marine Corps, who received support from the Navy and Air Force. Despite the large number of troops deployed, the 65th Infantry (the aggressor) was able to halt the offensive forces on the beaches of the island. Colonel William W. Harris, the commanding officer of the 65th, stated: "Stopping the assault forces at the water's edge proved that the Puerto Ricans could hold their own against the best-trained soldiers that the United States Army could put into the field." 
The successful military maneuvers during PORTREX prompted the Army's leadership to deploy the 65th Infantry to Korea.
On 27 August 1950, the 65th Infantry, with 3,920 officers and men organized into three infantry battalions, one artillery battalion and a tank company departed from Puerto Rico and arrived in Pusan, Korea on 23 September 1950. It was during the long sea voyage that the men nicknamed the 65th Infantry as the "Borinqueneers." "That was the name of the more peaceful of the two original Indian tribes that inhabited the island of Puerto Rico "Borinquen", and many of the men were direct descendants of that industrious race of people." 
The men of the 65th, now attached to the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, were among the first infantrymen to meet the enemy on the battlefields of Korea. After November 1950, they fought daily against units of the Chinese People's Liberation Army after the Chinese entered the war on the North Korean side. The 296th Regiment took its place at Puerto Rico. In Korea, the Regiment covered the retreat of the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
One of the hardships suffered by the Puerto Ricans was the lack of warm clothing during the cold, harsh winters. "Born in a semitropical climate- most of them had never seen snow- they had lived and fought through it all without complaint"
|Newsreel of the 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea.|
The enemy made many attempts to encircle the regiment, but each time they failed because of the many casualties inflicted by the 65th. Because the 65th held their positions, that enabled the U.S. Marines to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir on December 1950. When the Marines were surrounded by theChinese Communist troops close to the Manchurian border, they were ordered to retreat and work their way back to Hungnam. The men of the 65th rushed to their defense and were ordered to stay behind and fight the enemy. As a result, the Marines were able to withdraw to their ships with the 65th holding the rear guard. The 65th, attached to the 1st Marine Division, was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for their defense and were among the last units to embark from Hungnam. Among the battles and operations in which the 65th participated was Operation Killer in January 1951, becoming the first regiment to cross the Han River in South Korea during the operation.
On April 1951, the regiment participated in the Uijonbu Corridor drives and on June 1951, the 65th was the third regiment to cross the Han Ton River. The 65th took and held Chorwon and they were also instrumental in breaking the Iron Triangle of Hill 717 on July 1951. In November 1951, the regiment fought off an attack by two regimental size enemy units. Colonel Juan César Cordero Dávila of the 296th Regiment requested a transfer to active service in Korea. In December 1951, Chief of Staff J. Lawton Collins visited Puerto Rico and granted the request, reassigning him to the 65th, replacing him with Lt. Col. Sepúlveda. Col. Cordero was formally named commander of the 65th Infantry on 8 February 1952, thus becoming one of the highest ranking ethnic officers in the Army. In 1980 Brigadier William Warner Harris (USMA 1930) captured the distinguished history of the 65th during his command in "Puerto Rico's Fighting 65th - From San Juan to Chorwan" (Presidio Press, Inc. ISBN 0-89141-753-2). When asked if the Puerto Rican's would fight when the time came, then Colonel William Warner Harris' answer was just as direct: "My Puerto Rican's will fight anyone, anywhere." They did not disappoint their command, becoming the most decorated Battalion of the Korean War.
On 3 July 1952, the regiment defended the main line of resistance (MLR) for 47 days and saw action at Cognac, King, and Queen with successful attacks on Chinese positions. On September 1952, the 65th Infantry defended a hill known as "Outpost Kelly." Chinese Communist forces overran the hill in what became known as the Battle for Outpost Kelly. On two occasions, the 65th Regiment was overwhelmed by Chinese artillery and driven off.
In October 1952, the regiment also saw action in the Chorwon Sector and on Iron Horse, Hill 391, whose lower part was called "Jackson Heights" in honor of Capt. George Jackson (see: Col. Carlos Betances Ramírez). Company G of the 65th fought a desperate battle to hold on to Hill 391. After enduring days of artillery bombardment with limited artillery support of their own, Company G withdrew to avoid being overrun by a numerically superior foe.
In June 1953, the 2nd Battalion conducted a series of successful raids about two and a half miles southeast of Jackson Heights and in November the regiment successfully counter-attacked enemy units in the Numsong Valley and held their positions until the armistice was reached.
Many non-Puerto Rican Hispanics served in the 65th Infantry during the war. Among those who distinguished themselves in combat and who served in the conflict as a member of the 65th Infantry was a young first lieutenant of Mexican American descent whose name is Richard Edward Cavazos. Cavazos entered the military in Texas and served as Company Commander of Company E of the 2d Battalion. Cavazos, who in 1982, became the first Hispanic to become a four-star general in the United States Army, was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star Medal,and the Bronze Star Medal.
Col. Cordero Dávila was relieved of his command by Col. Chester B. DeGavre, a West Point graduate and a "Continental," an officer from the mainland United States, and the officer staff of the 65th was replaced with non-Hispanic officers. DeGavre, upset over the fact that "G" company did not hold on to Hill 391, ordered that the unit stop calling itself the "Borinqueneers," cut their special rations of rice and beans, ordered the men to shave off their mustaches, and had one of them wear a sign that read: "I am a coward." The language barrier, an NCO shortage, and poor leadership were factors that influenced some of the men of Company L in their refusal to continue to fight.
One hundred and sixty-two Puerto Ricans of the 65th Infantry were arrested. Between 23 November and 26 December 1952, ninety-five soldiers were court martialed and tried by General Court-Martial in fifteen separate trials. 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. According to cultural historian Silvia Álvarez Curbelo, the government of Puerto Rico, caught in the middle of a potentially damaging affair that could jeopardize its political agenda, kept silent for nearly two months. Finally, the incidents were made known by a local newspaper alerted by several letters written by the imprisoned soldiers to their families. Secret negotiations between the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments took place and the Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens moved quickly to remit the sentences and granted clemency and pardons to all those involved.
The breakdown of the 65th resulted from a number of factors: a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers, a rotation policy that removed combat-experienced leaders and soldiers, tactical doctrine that led to high casualties, a shortage of artillery ammunition, 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, a campaign for a formal exoneration was launched.
Master Sergeant Juan E. Negrón was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Company L, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kalma-Eri, Korea on 28 April 1951. His award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor on 18 March 2014.
Negrón's Medal of Honor citation
A total of 61,000 Puerto Ricans served in the military during the Korean War. And around 90% of the Puerto Ricans that saw action in Korea were volunteers. The 65th Infantry was awarded battle participation credits for the following nine campaigns: UN Defense-1950, UN Offense-1950, CCF Intervention-1950, First UN Counterattack Offensive-1951, UN and CCF Spring Offensive-1951, UN Summer-Fall Offensive-1951, 2nd Korean Winter 1951–52, Korean Summer-Fall-1952 and 3rd Korean Winter-1952-53. They are credited with the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in U.S. Army history.
|Medal of Honor|
|Distinguished Service Cross||
Ten Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars and 606 Bronze Stars for valor were awarded to the men of the 65th Infantry. Of the ten Distinguished Service Crosses that were awarded to the members of the 65th Infantry, five were awarded to Puerto Ricans:
According to El Nuevo Día newspaper, 30 May 2004, a total of 756 Puerto Ricans were killed in Korea, from all four branches of the U.S. armed forces. However, according to "All POW-MIA Korean War Casualties", the total amount of Puerto Rican casualties in the Korean War was 732. However this total may vary slightly since some non-Puerto Ricans such as Captain James W. Conner were mistakenly included. Out of the 700 plus casualties suffered in the war a total of 121 men were listed as missing in action. The Battle of Outpost Kelly accounted for 73 of the men missing in action from the total of 121. Out of the 73 MIAs suffered by the regiment in the month of September 1952, 50 of them occurred on the same day, 18 September. For a list of names of those who were declared MIA, see: List of Puerto Ricans missing in action in the Korean War. According to the TAGOKOR Korean War Casualty File and the American Battle Commission site the members of the 65th who fought in Korea were awarded a total of 2,771 Purple Heart Medals. On 12 February 1951, General Douglas MacArthur, wrote in Tokyo:
The 65th Infantry was relieved from assignment to the 3d Infantry Division on 3 November 1954, and, returning to Puerto Rico, it was assigned on 2 December 1954, to the 23rd Infantry Division, which encompassed geographically-separated units in the Caribbean region. On 10 April 1956, it was inactivated at Camp Losey, Puerto Rico, and relieved from assignment to the 23d, which itself was inactivated.
On 6 February 1959, the regiment was deactivated from the Regular Army but the Puerto Rican Army National Guard soon adopted "65" as the identifying number for their existing 296th Regimental Combat Team at Camp Losey, mainly composed of reserve component personnel.
On 15 February 1959, it was organized to consist of the 1st Battle Group, 65th Infantry, an element of the 92nd Infantry Brigade. On February 21, 1960, commemorated as National Guard Day, the 65th Infantry Regiment was formally transferred from the Regular Army to the PRNG, in an activity where Gen. Cesár Cordero handed the units colors to Col. Rafael Rodríguez. That same year, Company B of the 65th Regiment created Employer's Day (Día del Patrono in Spanish) where the employer's of the volunteers that serve in the PRNG are instructed about the job that their employees do with the entity and participate in training of their own. The idea behind the initiative was facilitating the processing of the request of leave-of-absence to train for two weeks during the summer. On 1 May 1964, it was reorganized to consist of the 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry, and remained assigned to the 92nd. It was reorganized again on 1 April 1971, to consist of the 1st Battalion and the separate Company E. This was followed by another reorganization on 1 September 1978, to consist of the 1st and 2nd Battalions within the 92nd, as well as the separate Company E. Less than two years later another reorganization on 29 February 1980, eliminated the separate Company E while retaining the 1st and 2nd Battalions.
On 27 October 1987, the regiment was withdrawn from CARS and reorganized under the United States Army Regimental System with headquarters at Cayey. It was reorganized on 1 September 1992, to consist of the 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry, and remained assigned to the 92nd Infantry Brigade.
On 14 February 2003, it was ordered into active federal service at home stations and released on 12 February 2005, reverting to territorial control. On 1 October, of that year it was reorganized as the 65th Infantry Regiment in which only the 1st Battalion was active.
The separate Company E was a Ranger unit given federal recognition effective 1 April 1971, and had a total authorized strength of 198 personnel. It was added to the PR ARNG on that date while the 755th Transportation Company (Medium Truck, Cargo) was deleted. Co E (Ranger), 65th Infantry relocated from Vega Baja to San Juan on 2 February 1976, and was inactivated as federal recognition was withdrawn effective 29 February 1980. This resulted in the allocation of an ARNG ranger company being transferred from the PR ARNG to the Texas ARNG, in which Company G (Ranger), 143rd Infantry was activated in Houston from elements of the 2d Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry, 36th Airborne Brigade, which was being inactivated effective 1 April 1980.
The 65th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, along with its sister battalion, the 1–296th Infantry, was transferred to the 92nd Infantry Brigade, PRARNG (now the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade). Both battalions have served in what the United States and its allies call the War against Terrorism andOperation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom.
In 2009, Company C, 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment was deployed to the Horn of Africa and stationed at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, after completing a 14-month deployment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Company C carried the crew-served weapons to protect the camp. It also operated the entry control checkpoints, protected U.S. and allied ships at the massive Djibouti Port, and guarded the U.S. Embassy there. By mid-2009, the rest of the battalion deployed there in case a larger combat maneuver element was needed to operate from the base. The area is considered to be the most unstable part of Africa, and the Somalian border is less than 10 miles from Camp Lemonnier.
During the Korean War, the Borinqueneers were awarded 10 Distinguished Service Crosses (Juan Negrons was upgraded to the Medal of Honor), 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,771 Purple Hearts.
Puerto Rico honored the unit by naming one of its principal avenues "Avenida 65 de Infantería" in San Juan. The names of those killed in combat are inscribed in "El Monumento de la Recordación" (Monument of Remembrance), which was unveiled on 19 May 1996 and is situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In November 1999, Governor Pedro Rosselló, along with the Senate of Puerto Rico, chartered the 65th Infantry Honor Task Force and appointed Anthony Mele as chairman to work with Major General Nels Running, Director, Committee of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War to commemorate the 65th Infantry Regiment. The 65th Infantry Honor Task Force is a coalition of individuals, veterans organizations, and groups dedicated to advocate and preserve the legacy of the 65th Infantry Regiment. The group organized tree planting and plaque commemoration ceremonies around the USA, to includeArlington National Cemetery in Virginia; Fort San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.
On 20 May 2001, the government of Puerto Rico unveiled a monument honoring the 65th Infantry Regiment. The monument was made by artist Sonny Rodríguez, and is called "Mission Accomplished". It contains a statue of a soldier wearing a poncho with his rifle in one hand and the regiment's flag in the other hand.
On 7 June 2007, PBS aired The Borinqueneers, a documentary about the 65th Infantry written and directed by Noemí Figueroa Soulet with Raquel Ortiz as co-director. The narrators were Héctor Elizondo (English) and David Ortiz-Anglero (Spanish).
On 1 October 2013: The 65th Infantry Honor Task Force organized veterans from the 65th and their families to attend a salute to the regiment by the 3d US Infantry [The Old Guard] at Fort Myer, Virginia, a tour of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and wreath laying ceremony at the Korean War Combat Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Video credits to Jose R. Guerra:
22–23 March 2014: The 65th Infantry Honor Task Force organized the salute of the first Medal of Honor awarded to a Borinqueneer; MSG Juan E. Negron in New York with Iris Negron, daughter of MSG Negron, and BG Jose Burgos. In attendance were New York State Senators William E. Larkin, a Korean War combat veteran, and David Carlucci who presented a proclamation from the New York State Senate.
A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress and is, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. It is awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." Congressional Gold Medals have also been awarded to: Native American code talkers; the Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Infantry Regiment; the Tuskegee Airmen; the Montford Point Marines;the 1st Special Service Force (Devil's Brigade) and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
|Radio interview about the Borinqueneer CGM movement|
S. 1726, the bill that would confer the Congressional Gold Medal on the 65th Infantry Regiment, was introduced in Congress. It was signed by President Barack Obama at a ceremony on June 10, 2014, becoming Public Law 113-120. A decision on designs for a congressional gold medal being awarded in 2015 to the Borinqueneers of the 65th Infantry Regiment was selected by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee on June 16, 2015. For the 65th Infantry Borinqueneers congressional gold medal, the CCAC recommended for the obverse a design depicting a close-up portrait of a unit staff sergeant, with three soldiers traversing rocky ground in the background. The recommended reverse features an historic sentry box in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, an olive branch, the 65th Infantry insignia patch and unit's motto, HONOR ET FIDELITAS (Honor and Fidelity). On April 13, 2016, leaders of the United States House and Senate awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment.
The 65th Infantry Regiment at Kelly Hill, September 1952by Lieutenant Colonel Baltazar (Bart) Soto
F and C Defend
Battling Baker Takes its Turn
Easy Company Attacks
First Battlion Gives It A Try
3rd Battlion Ordered In
The 65th Infantry achieved an outstanding combat record in Korea during the first two years of the war. This is well documented in the official history.
Things began to change drastically in late 1952. Due to the Army's points and rotation system, the well-trained and experienced veterans began to leave the unit and return home. By the autumn of 1952, the Army's rotation policy, the poor training program for new Puerto Rican recruits, language difficulties, poor leadership, bad tactics, and racial attitudes, all combined together to do serious damage to the regiment.
Most of the soldiers of the wave of replacements arriving in the regiment in 1952 were "green" draftees with only basic training and no unit training. They were sent straight to the front. It was left to the leadership of the Regiment to complete the training of these soldiers even in the midst of combat.
According to then Captain George Jackson, Company Commander of G (George) Company, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry, in 1952 the Regiment received new troops "by the boatload" to replace the many soldiers rotating back home. Prior to the battle of Outpost Kelly, Cpt. Jackson had received 115 replacement soldiers in his company alone. That is over half of the total manpower available to his rifle company.
Unfortunately, few of the new replacements arriving were NCOs. The majority of English speaking Puerto Rican NCOs shipped to Korea in 1952 to the 65th Infantry were being sent to fill the vacancies in other U.S. units, because of NCO shortages throughout 8th Army. Ironically, the 65th had done so well at the beginning of the war, the policy was changed allowing English speaking Puerto Rican NCOs to be assigned to other units in the 8th Army. Despite the fact that NCO's were being shipped to Korea specifically for the 65th Infantry to fill its NCO vacancies, if these NCO's knew any English there orders were changed and they were assigned to other units. Unfortunately, this very policy deprived the 65th of critical NCO leadership and lead to the warehousing of Spanish speaking soldiers in one unit.
There was such a severe shortage of experienced NCO's in the Regiment that in many cases Squads were led by one of the newly arrived soldiers who had just arrived from Basic Training with his buddies. These individuals were selected because they happened to speak more English than their comrades or had a little more education. This did not inspire confidence in the men - being led by a fellow Private from Basic Training ! The Platoon Sergeant, who is usually the senior Sergeant in the platoon, was oftentimes just a Corporal. As LTC (Ret) Bob Lott explained in his article published in the Oct 2000 issue of "Watch on the Rhine", his Platoon Sergeant was a Private First Class !
The leadership at the Rifle Company level was very superficial and inexperienced. Once key leaders were killed or became casualties, anything could happen.
The troops arriving into the regiment in 1952 were thrown into the hell of combat without the benefit of experienced leadership at the first line supervisory level, the backbone of the Army, the Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs). The experienced NCOs served as the critical link between the soldiers who did not speak English and their Continental Officers, who could not speak Spanish. The language problem was only one small element of a much larger more difficult problem, which effects all solders in combat - leadership.
What happens when you have very few NCOs or none at all ? How does a soldier react in a combat situation being led by one of his peers who barely knows more than he does? What happens to soldiers in combat that speak another "foreign" language? What happens when your leader is killed and you do not even understand what your mission is ? Eventually the results of this situation, being unknowingly created by the U.S. Army itself, would manifest itself on the battlefield.
Much has been said about the language situation in the 65th Infantry Regiment. It is true that most of the drafted Enlisted Men did not speak English well. In 1952, the average Puerto Rican soldier was much like any other citizen of a Latin American country. Despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and its citizens are U.S. citizens by law. (The Jones Act of 1917), the Puerto Rican native was more Latin American than U.S. Continental American. Therefore, the training of Puerto Rican troops would have to be more intensive to make up for the problem with training "foreign" citizens lacking basic language skills. Unfortunately, the training being conducted in Puerto Rico by the U.S. Army to prepare these native troops was not sufficient to compensate for this weakness.
The average Puerto Rican soldier would learn the language by being immersed and completely surrounded by it while serving in the Army. This would take time and the basic training period provided for these troops was not enough. At this point in the war, because of the tremendous need for replacement, basic training had been reduced to 6 weeks for some, almost non-existent for those in Reserve duty who had already obtained basic during previous service in W.W.II. If these troops had been given more time to serve in the Army before deployment to front line combat units, they would have been able to master the basics of English. As anyone knows who has experienced it, learning a foreign language in a classroom is one thing, but actually using it and functioning in it 100 % in a foreign country is something completely different. This was the language situation confronted by the average Puerto Rican soldier at that time.
F and C Defend
Beginning 9 September of 1952, the 65th Infantry was occupying the "Line Jamestown" a six kilometer sector in which the Imjin River cut across the sector from Northeast to Southwest. The Regiment was ordered to occupy several Outpost positions ( Kelly, Tessie, Nick, Betty, Big and Little Nori and Bubble) in front of the main line of resistance (MLR).
Army defensive doctrine at the time required outpost positions in front of the main line of resistance (the main front line). These outposts would provide warning of an enemy attack on the main line, disrupt the enemy's attack, call in artillery fires, etc. By the book, the outpost was supposed to withdraw back to the main line if they were to be severely pressured and receive a major attack. The outpost was not considered a major defensive position. In Korea, the doctrine was changed. The outpost was ordered to be held at all costs !
The 65th rotated companies through Outpost Kelly. The outpost was isolated from the MLR, about 500 meters from the main line.
According to then Captain (CPT) Willis "Bud" Cronkhite, Commander of F Company, 2ndBattalion, 65th Infantry, Outpost Kelly was a company- sized outpost. It could only hold three of the four platoons in a rifle company, so one rifle platoon was left behind under Battalion control. CPT Cronkhite held the position for six days and his company took a beating from the Chinese Communists who wanted the position. The Chinese pounded the hill with artillery, mortar, and ground attacks.
The hill was very steep on the side facing our MLR and a rope was needed to climb it. CPT Cronkhite was very conscious of security. He would not allow his men to bring sleeping bags and authorized only one blanket for every two troops, therefore ; ensuring 50% security at all times. He would establish a night ambush patrol at the base of the hill to guard the rope entrance to the position. CPT Cronkhite demanded that anyone approaching Kelly call him first to say they were coming or he would shoot them. This tactic worked and F Company was never surprised. Bud lost approximately half of his Company during his six days defending the outpost before he was relieved.
During the night a new company came to replace F Company, CPT Cronkhite personally checked all the positions to ensure none of his men were left behind. He ordered each platoon to return to the MLR after they had been relieved. Bud was the last man in F Company to leave Kelly. When he slid down the rope he was surprised to find all of F Company waiting for him at the base of the hill ! Bud was furious but his officers told him his men refused to leave without their Commander. There was only one choice left to do, the sun was coming up. CPT Cronkhite ordered "follow me" and ran like hell down the rice paddy dike heading for the MLR. Fox Company followed their leader. For some strange reason the Chinese did not open fire on this juicy target and what remained of F Company made it back to the MLR.
On 17 September, Outpost Kelly was being defended by C Company, 65th Infantry, when it was attacked by a Chinese Battalion. C Company stopped the Chinese cold. That morning, they counted 150 Chinese dead. C Company had suffered 17 dead. By then they had been on the position a week and desperately needed to be relieved due to the casualties they had already suffered from the constant artillery, mortar barrages, and the latest ground attack.
Battling Baker Takes its Turn
Since it was time for rotation, the Regimental Commander sent B Company onto Kelly on 18 September 1952. The change of companies had taken longer than anticipated and was not completed until after dark.
After several weeks of failed attacks, the Chinese had apparently learned from their mistakes. When it was dark, the Chinese tried a different tactic. They approached the rear of the position in single file at night giving the appearance of a Korean resupply column. The B Company soldiers were expecting a resupply column that night and were caught unawares. It is also believed that the Chinese may have possibly known the password.
When it was dark the Company Commander decided to hold a meeting with his officers in the command bunker. No one apparently was supervising the consolidation of the position. The entire company was surprised and the overwhelmed before they knew what was happening. The surprise was so complete some soldiers were killed in their sleeping bags. The enemy was able to kick in the door of the Company Command bunker, throw a grenade in, and kill most of the officers. One Lieutenant was able to throw himself out the door, roll down the hill while being shot at by Chinese soldiers. Although wounded, the Lieutenant managed to escape.
At 65th Regimental Headquarters, there was confusion as to what was happening on Outpost Kelly. It was apparent there was a battle going on but no one was answering the radio. The Regimental Commander, Colonel (COL) Juan Cordero Davila decided to wait until morning and daylight to determine what to do. Later, the Lieutenant who had survived the attack made his way to Regimental Headquarters and told his story.
During the morning of 19 September, officers on the front line could look at Outpost Kelly with their binoculars and see the Chinese had captured the position and were using captured Puerto Rican soldiers to improve the defenses. Captain (CPT) George Jackson, Commander of G Company, 2nd Battalion, manning the positions in front of Kelly, was able to look to the front and witness the horrifying sight of their badly-wounded and bleeding comrades, who had managed to escape, crawling back to the MLR under the guns of the arrogant Chinese. Several men risked their lives and ran forward to rescue the surviving wounded. Captain Jackson witnessed a soldier who had his legs blown off place himself on his helmet and try to propel himself to the MLR. He bled to death before he could make it back.
The Chinese immediately began to use psychological warfare. Loudspeakers were set up and a captured soldier was forced to taunt the leadership of the Regiment. Someone called out to the Battalion and Regimental Commanders, "Come and command the 65th here that we have as prisoners". COL Cordero ordered an immediate counter-attack and artillery barrage, but Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Betances Ramierez, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, reminded him that many B Company soldiers were still on the hill captured by the Chinese. COL Cordero reconsidered his attack. He did not want to kill his own men. After making the necessary improvements to their positions, the Chinese marched their prisoners away later that day.
Easy Company Attacks
Early in morning of 20 September, LTC Carlos Betances Ramirez, 2nd Battalion Commander, received authorization from Regiment to launch a counter-attack. E Company attacked and made steady progress against stiff enemy opposition. As they attacked and reached the hill they had to climb the steep slope while under fire. By late afternoon, one platoon managed to make it to the top. The soldiers discovered some mutilated bodies of their comrades and countrymen. They could not tell if the Chinese had tortured them to death or perhaps mutilated them after they died.
The Chinese launched a counterattack that day supported by plenty of artillery and mortars, forcing E Company to withdraw.
The officers of the 65th were noticing now that the Chinese had improved the amount and accuracy of their artillery. At the same time our own counter-battery fires could not locate and knock out the new Chinese guns. The Chinese had also improved their logistics since they seem to have endless quantities of artillery ammunition and were resupplying well.
First Battalion Gives It a Try
First Battalion, under command of MAJ Albert C. Davies, was ordered to launch an attack this time with two companies, A and C, during the evening of 20 September. The Chinese spotted these companies crossing the MLR and entering the valley. They immediately poured down artillery and mortar barrages. Our own artillery pounded Kelly in support of our attack. The men managed to make it to the base of the hill where the Chinese, manning the entrenchment's on Kelly, met them with small arms and hand grenades. First Battalion soldiers fought on slowly making their way up the steep hill. After the 65th took parts of the position again, the Chinese opened up with air burst artillery shells and mortar fire. Apparently the Chinese did not care they were also shelling their own men in the position. This fire decimated the 65th soldiers attacking. First Battalion was eventually forced to withdraw in the early afternoon of 21 September after suffering heavy casualties.
The 65th had lost B Company, which was virtually annihilated, and E, A, and C companies had taken heavy casualties in their battles for the position ; their remaining men were exhausted. There was a pause in action for a couple of days. An officer of the 65th Regimental staff reported that when the I Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Paul W. Kendal, was briefed on the situation on the 65th sector, he was furious at the loss of the outpost. The General ordered another counter-attack.
In response to his new orders, COL Cordero reluctantly complied. He stated to a nearby reporter, "In our determination to hold and take Kelly is the prestige and glory of the 65th regiment. The Eighth Army is depending on the 65th Infantry Regiment to tell the Reds, we are on Kelly to stay on Kelly."
3rd Battalion Ordered In
Early in the morning of 24 September, the last battalion of the 65th, which had not been engaged in the battle, was given the mission. The 3rd Battalion of the 65th, under a new commander, LTC Lloyd E. Willis, was ordered to attack and seize the position. The 58th Field Artillery shelled the position initially, followed by a platoon from the 64th Tank Battalion moved into position to support the attack by fire. These tanks immediately became stuck in the muddy fields.
At 0600 hours, K and L Company launched their attack. As before the Chinese spotted these formations crossing the valley and called in artillery and mortar barrages on the advancing companies. The Chinese on Kelly opened up with small arms and machine guns. K Company, attacking from the east, was pinned down and taking heavy casualties. The Company Commander lost control and requested authorization to withdraw. COL Cordero denied the request and ordered the attack to continue, All communications were lost with K Company.
In the meantime, Company L attacking from the west managed to get one squad to the crest of Kelly. COL Cordero ordered I Company, 3rd Battalion, which he had held in reserve, to move forward and take over the K Company mission. The Chinese spotted the company and enemy artillery concentrations scored several direct hits. The I Company Commander lost control and the unit fell apart. The men were confused and panicked, with the survivor's running back to the MLR. The Battalion Commander, who had remained behind observing the attack, went to the MLR and tried to reorganize the survivors of I and K Company.
At this time LTC Willis, violating his own chain of command, bypassed his Regimental Commander, COL Cordero, and called directly to the Assistant Division Commander to request that his Battalion be withdrawn. The Division Commander himself decided that the 65th was to cease the battle for Outpost Kelly. By early afternoon, the remaining soldiers of L Company had been withdrawn from Kelly.
The 65th Infantry Regiment had faithfully engaged most of its available rifle companies in order to accomplish its mission to take and hold this one outpost in accordance with the orders they had received. They had taken heavy casualties. All it's Battalions had attempted to take the position while at the same time manning its defensive front which covered other outpost and terrain that extended across their assigned sector of the MLR. Companies F and C successfully defended the position initially. When the 65th lost the outpost, it succeeded in taking Kelly back but could not hold the hill against massive enemy artillery and mortar barrages in combination with strong ground counter attacks. Despite the fact that companies B,A,C,E,I,K and L had attacked, the hill could only hold three platoons of one company. The Chinese defeated these units in detail, one at a time, as they each individually took on the steep hill. The Enemy was able to concentrate and mass their artillery and mortars and inflict maximum casualties and damage to the attacking and exposed troops of the 65th.
The soldiers of the 65th had given their best to accomplish the mission, many paying with their lives. The Chinese had shown great skill in the use of their weapons and large, accurate artillery and mortar barrages. Their soldiers showed an equal if not greater amount of fanaticism to accomplish their assigned mission, despite their casualties. The Chinese were willing to pay any price to take and keep Kelly. In the end, our own chain of command determined Outpost Kelly was not worth the price we were paying for it.
The casualties suffered by the 65th are hard to determine at this time. It appears they took approximately 400 - 500 casualties. The 65th suffered heavy casualties with some of its rifle companies requiring reconstitution. The Division Commander ordered that the entire regiment be withdrawn from the front line. In one estimate it was determined in this one battle the 65th Infantry lost 10% of all its total casualties in the entire war.
A proud, unique, U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, the 65th Infantry, had failed to complete its mission. Shortly after the battle for Outpost Kelly, COL Juan Cordero was quietly relieved of his command. The Division Commander, Major General Robert L. Dulaney, was also relieved and replaced by Major General George W. Smythe.
Unfortunately not even the next infantry regiment that replaced the 65th could take back Kelly. Eventually the Chinese, with their "inching forward" tactics, successfully took back all the remaining outposts in this area. Today Outpost Kelly sits deep inside the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
The battle for Outpost Kelly was only the beginning of the end of the Puerto Rican Regiment. A staff study was made to determine what caused the failure of the 65th. One of the recommendations of this study was that the 65th receive intensive unit training before being sent into combat again. Many officers in the regiment determined the blame for their failure belonged to the soldiers of the 65th, the Puerto Ricans. While this type of thinking and excuse making is hard to believe in our current age, in 1952 it was an easy excuse for the failure.
High officials in the Division and the Army blamed the failure of the 65th at Kelly on the Puerto Rican soldier. It is indeed a tragedy that the men were held accountable for circumstances that were beyond their control.
The Puerto Rican soldier gave all they had at Kelly, but their Continental leaders blamed them for the failure, rather than assuming the responsibility themselves.
Col Chester DeGavre, the new Continental commander of the 65th would face another disaster just weeks later on the high ground near Hill 391, which a Stars and Stripes reporter would call "Jackson Heights".
The author, Lieutenant Colonel Baltazar (Bart) Soto, is a 1976 graduate of the ROTC and the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. He is a U.S. Army Reserve officer and graduate of the Command and General Staff College.
This article is based upon my interviews with several key veterans of the regiment and my personal research of several books in both Spanish and English about the regiment, regimental reports, letters written at the time, and personal interviews with several veterans of the 65th. The story told in the article does not represent the official version of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Army and is solely my opinion. I assume the total responsibility for the contents of the article and of the history it relates.