About the all Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment

The Borinqueneers is a documentary about the never-before-told story of the 65th Infantry Regiment- the only all-Hispanic unit in the history of the U.S. Army. All Puerto Ricans.  The documentary was name named after “Borinquen,” the word meaning “land of the brave lord” given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians. Boricua= Puerto Rican.

THE BORINQUENEERS uncovers the circumstances surrounding the dramatic events of 1952 and explores the rich history of the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment. “I want the American people to know that we did our share,” concludes 65th veteran Wendell Vega.

Recently, a new documentary on US soldiers and war stirred controversy because Latinos were significatively left out of it. That is why I am so glad and proud that a Puerto Rican producer Lourdes Figueroa Soulet and her company, El Pozo Productions have produced such a historical documentary. Boricua, Hector Elizondo narrates the story. PBS preview it last August. I don’t feel that my position re no war conflicts with me supporting someone telling a real story about Latinos, in this case, Puerto Rican soldiers.

Puerto Ricans know very well the story of the 65th Infantry Regimen. As a matter of fact, one of the main and largest highways in the island was named after the 65th and as soon as you can talk and ask why the highway was named with such an unusual name, parents, friends, uncles will tell you the story of the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment.

Here I’ve copied brief summary about the documentary:

 The experience of Latinos in the U.S. Army has rarely been portrayed in film. THE BORINQUENEERS, airing as part of the August 2007 pledge drive (check local listings) on PBS, recounts the never-before-told story of the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment, the only all-Hispanic unit in the history of the U.S. Army. Narrated by Hector Elizondo (“Chicago Hope,” Pretty Woman, Cane), this compelling documentary relies on interviews with the regiment’s veterans and rare archival footage to trace the unique experience of the 65th, culminating in the Korean War and the dramatic events that would threaten the unit’s very existence.

Named after “borinquen,” the word meaning “land of the brave lord” given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, the Borinqueneers formed a tight-knit unit bound by a common language and a strong cultural identity. First-time director and producer Noemi Figueroa Soulet spent eight years researching the story and locating veterans of the regiment, some of whom have since passed away. In emotional interviews, they describe in vivid detail the experience of fighting together.

Through their voices, THE BORINQUENEERS explores the unique history of the 65th Regiment, a history that illustrates many of the issues surrounding the U.S. relationship with Puerto Rico and the broader Latino experience.

“Puerto Ricans occupy a very special place in the history of the U.S. Army,” says Figueroa Soulet. “As a former colony and now a commonwealth, we don’t have the right to vote in U.S. elections, and yet we serve in the military and we can be drafted. It’s a paradox, but for many of the veterans of the 65th, it became an incentive to be even more patriotic, to prove themselves in battle 200 percent.”

In 1950, more than 50 years after the regiment was created, the men of the 65th finally had the opportunity to prove their mettle in the Korean War, the first military conflict in which they were full participants. In spite of the prejudice that was still the norm in the Army, they performed impressively during the first years of the war, even earning kudos from General MacArthur. “I was glad that the Puerto Ricans were on my side,” says Colonel Willis “Bud” Cronkhite, who was in charge of one of the regiment’s companies. “I would not want them to come after me with a bayonet!”

But as the Korean War bogged down into a stalemate, the regiment felt the full weight of the new “hold at all costs” strategy, losing many of its men in impossible missions. “The hill looked as if there had never been any vegetation there,” recalls veteran Eugenio Martinez Matos. “There were pieces of legs with shoes. Sometimes you would slip on them. It was a very traumatic experience.”

In October 1952, the regiment faced one of its toughest missions when several companies were sent to defend a barren outpost against overwhelming enemy fire. Following a massive mortar barrage, several dozen men abandoned their positions. Wrapped in mystery and controversy to this day, the real story of what happened that day and the days that followed has never been told until now.

The dramatic events are recounted by men like Colonel Carlos Betances, whose life and career were forever changed that day. “I tried to convince the men to go back,” he recalls. “When I mentioned to them that a court-martial can sentence you to death and be shot, one of them told me, ‘Colonel, I’d rather take a chance and be shot down here than stay up there and for sure I’ll die.'”

More than 90 Puerto Rican soldiers were tried in one of the largest courts-martial of the Korean War. The trials touched off a groundswell of protests in Puerto Rico and drew the attention of the U.S. press. “It was the first case in this war in which men from a unit that won international recognition for bravery unexplainedly seemed to have changed their character under fire,” wrote The New York Times.

THE BORINQUENEERS uncovers the circumstances surrounding the dramatic events of 1952 and explores the rich history of the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment. “I want the American people to know that we did our share,” concludes 65th veteran Wendell Vega.

Underwriters: Oxford Advisors, Inc., Citizens Educational Foundation and others.

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13 thoughts on “About the all Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment”

  1. I first saw the title “The Boriqueneers” at the Bronx V.A. hospital on June 26,08. And felt proud that finally the truth is coming out about our participation in the United States Armed Forces. Personally I’m a New Yorican first generation born in the Bronx and yet 100% Puerto Rican .
    I severed America in the 1st Infantry division during 1968 in Vietnam and I know the discrimination of white America. currently I live in clearwater Florida and even down here I’m considered a Mexican because white folks down here believe that mexicans represent all of the latin community. The closed minded will always depend on their limited knowledge of a great people taken illegally. Be it as it may afew years ago the Vietnam traveling Wall came to florida flying all the state flags except the Puerto Rican flag, this was totlly unacceptable and I provided the argument of “Why NotThe P.R. flag. Their response “They didn’t know Puerto Rican served in country, However in the end the Puerto Rican Flag flew high and proud. Thank you for bringing to the knowledge to the American people and our own 2sd and 3rd generation Ricans.

  2. I just saw the documentary. On my recent vacation to my beautiful island I saw the video at a local store in San Juan and bought a copy.

    After watching, with tears in my eyes, I can only say, “I’m proud of my people and their service to PR and the US.

    I’m a veteran of the US Navy, 1971-1975.

  3. I’d also like to add, my cousin, SSgt. Jason A. Vazquez was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 18th, 2008 while serving as a member of the IL National Guard.

  4. i would like to give my heart to all the soldiers.all my heart and soul to them the 65th has been part of me since i was a kid.i remember my dad mr.angel pino telling me the horror stories.you see my father was there.and being his son makes me proud of being puerto rican.and to all those that dare say that the 65th where a bunch of wimps for retreating and not going up that hill.don.t really know what they are talking about.i give alot of respect for those men(real men)that fought in that battle no one knows but the men that where thier…so i sulute you may god bless you..son of a orean war vet pvt.angel pino

  5. “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 an indeed proud to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them.”
    General Douglas MacArthur – February 12,1951

    PUERTO RICO IS AMERICA! STATEHOOD FOR PUERTO RICO! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

  6. Hi,Army trained Fort Benning home of the Infantry class of 79 born and raised in Spanish Harlem El Barrio.Also member 107th Rainbow Division 69th-Regiment many years ago. Grandfather service in WW1,Cousins service Vietnam Green Berets, 101 Air-paratroopers,Father service Mercant Seamen during WW2 all proud puerto ricans and too hear about the 65-regiment always knew we kick ass no-one had too tell this Puerto Rican about our history,Residing now in Flushing Queens thanks for reading..

  7. I AM A KOREAN WAR VETERAN THAT SERVED WITH THE 65TH INFANTRY REGIMENT. HOW CAN I RECEIVE AN INVITATION TO VISIT THE 65TH? I NEVER HAVE BEEN TO PUERTO RICO. I WOULD LIKE TO GO BEFORE I DIE.

    THANKS,

    IVAN MARAS

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