The 65th Infantry Regiment to Receive the Congressional Gold Medal

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Almost 63 years after their last war, the members of the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment is finally receiving the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for bravery and heroism against overwhelming odds. After enduring racism and prejudice for most of its existence, the 65th Infantry Regiment is FINALLY being honored for the battles and contributions they have made in three wars. During the First World War, the 65th, also nicknamed the “Boriqueneers,” was sent to defend the Panama Canal against the Germans possibly seizing it. In the Second World War, the 65th fought against the Germans in Italy with distinction. The last war the 65th fought in was the Korean War. The Borinqueneers were among the first to fight the North Koreans, and when the Chinese entered the war the 65th held an important rear-guard action that saved the U.S. Marines from annihilation by the Chinese.

It nearly proved to be a great tragedy when almost the entire 65th was nearly court-martialed by the U.S. Army because they “dis-obeyed” their non-Latino officers. Facts proved that the 65th did not disobey their superior officers more than the fact that the non-Latino officers did not understand Spanish and that they held serious prejudice against the Borinqueneers. If a local Puerto Rican newspaper had not published details of the case, then those 162 Puerto Ricans who had been arrested would probably have been court-martialed and sentenced to long prison terms. Instead, they were pardoned and a successful civilian campaign had begun to have them fully exonerated. The Boriqueneers had not only fought and suffered serious battle wounds for the United States, but they suffered serious prejudice in their efforts to rise above racism permeating America at the time.

There are only 70 men left of the 65th, so the fact they will receive the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal is truly sweet. Like the African American Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers, the 65th had truly helped change the tide of the wars they participated in despite the racism, prejudice and abuse hurled at them. They are as much a part of America’s history and glory as all those veterans who fought, bled and died in all of the wars this nation had found itself in.

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