Honor and Fidelity. That is the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army.
Since the regiment’s creation in 1899, the men of the 65th have proudly served the US through multiple wars, despite facing racial discrimination. Their courage, loyalty, and patriotism earned them hundreds of accolades, including the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.
But the honor and fidelity of the men of the 65th came into question in 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, when ninety-one Borinqueneers were arrested and tried for desertion and disobeying orders. How could this happen in one of the most distinguished and decorated units of the Army?
In this telling of one of the forgotten stories of the Korean War, author Talia Aikens-Nuñez guides us through the history of the Borinqueneers and the challenges they faced leading up to what was the largest court martial in the entire war. Rediscover the bravery of the men of the 65th through Aikens-Nuñez’s thorough writing and the soldiers’ firsthand accounts of the Korean War.
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“The Borinqueneers successfully defended the 1st Marine Division’s retreat, but they soon realized this was only part of a much larger withdrawal of UNC [United Nations Command] troops. As the retreat continued into mid-December, news came that the enemy buildup had accelerated. Chinese and North Korean forces were gathering and converging on Hungnam. The UNC’s worst fears were coming true: they were losing ground in the war.
They had to accelerate their plans in response to protect their troops and evacuate the Korean refugees that had fled to Hungnam. They ordered troops to board ships, division by division, and sail south to Pusan… Meanwhile, the 65th and the 3rd Infantry Divisions would hold the main line of resistance, providing enough cover for everyone to make it safely out of Hungnam…With each withdrawal, the enemy continued to push the Borinqueneers and the 3rd Infantry Division.
…They were exhausted from several days of fighting…The soldiers of the 65th were some of the last to leave Hungnam. They were hurried and squeezed tightly onto the final boats. Finally, they could rest and relax. Once they left, the military would destroy the port so the enemy could not use the equipment and facilities against them.
…After they loaded onto the final ship and set sail, the dynamite detonated. The soldiers looked back and watched the port explode…everything – erupted in smoke and flame.
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Ten interesting facts about the 65th Infantry Regiment as detailed in Men of the 65th:
The unit’s, 65th Infantry Regiment, history dates back to 1899.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens because of the Jones-Shafroth Act signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917. This law also allows for Puerto Ricans to be drafted.
The United States military used the small island off of Puerto Rico called Vieques for military exercises.
The battle name of the Men of the 65th was the ‘Borinqueneers’. It is a combination of the original name of the island (named by the Taino people), Boriquen and Spanish pirates of the 1600’s, Buccaneers.
When the men set sail in the summer of 1950 they did not know where they were going.
Soldiers that fought in the Korean War for the United Nations Forces, had to endure below freezing temperatures and summer heat as they moved up and down the Korean peninsula.
The 65th Infantry Regiment was an integral part of what is considered one of the greatest military evacuation movements by sea from Hungnam, Korea during the Korean War in December 1950.
The unit was involved in the largest court-martial of the Korean War.
By 1954, all of the accused soldiers received clemency or full pardons.
The unit received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest awards given, in 2016.
Talia Aikens-Nuñez is passionate about sharing with young readers the little known stories, accomplishments, and contributions of people of color from all throughout history. Aikens-Nuñez is the author of Small Nap, Little Dream, a bilingual Spanish/English picture book. She and her husband live in Connecticut with their two children.