View Full Version : Facts About Hispanics in US Military History

03-07-2005, 10:34 AM
Did You Know?

People of Hispanic origin have played important roles in the defense of the United States since the 13 original colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776. From Spanish allies during the American Revolution to Tejanos marching off to war in WWI and the distinguished service in WWII and Korea of "The Borinqueneers," the 65th Regimental Combat Team from Puerto Rico, Latinos have served the U.S. proudly and well.

Spanish colonists donated troops and arms, and, in 1779, gave 1 million pesos to support the Revolutionary War effort. Their ranks included men like Bernardo de Galvez—for whom the city of Galveston, Texas, is named—who as governor of the Louisiana territory skillfully plied his diplomatic, financial and military skills on behalf of the American rebels.

In 1781, French and American forces were about to abandon their siege of Yorktown for lack of funds. Women in Havana, however, took up a collection and were able to raise a substantial sum of money. By delivering their gift to the French Expeditionary force, they were able to insure that the siege would continue.

During the Civil War, three Hispanic Americans earned Congressional Medals of Honor, the first time that decoration, the highest military honor bestowed by the U.S., was awarded. Although the allegiance of many Mexican Americans, who had acquired U.S. citizenship in 1848 through the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, was deeply divided, by the end of the struggle in 1865 nearly 10,000 had served in regular Army or volunteer units. Many Cubans, who habitually traveled back and forth between the mainland and the Caribbean island, also joined the war between the States, serving in both the Union and Confederate armies.

During the 1861-1865 Civil War, almost 10,000 Mexican Americans, mainly from California, Texas, Alabama, Missouri and New Mexico, served in regular army or volunteer units.

The famous directive, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead,” was issued by Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, commander of the Union forces at the Battle of Mobile Bay, in Alabama, on August 5, 1864. According to a note in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, “torpedoes” meant “mines.” Farragut, perhaps the Civil War’s best-known Hispanic, was the son of Jorge Farragut, a Spaniard born in Minorca who came to the U.S. to fight against the British in the American Revolution and later fought in the War of 1812 as part of the U.S. Navy. A hero of the Union Navy, David Farragut's success in blocking Southern ports prompted Congress to create the rank of Rear Admiral to reward him for his valor.

Loreta Janeta Velázquez, born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in New Orleans, disguised herself as "Lieutenant Harry T. Buford" and fought for the Confederacy at Bull Run and other battles. Her true identity was discovered by a doctor treating her for a shrapnel wound in her arm. Velázquez then became a Confederate spy in the North.

Colonel Santos Benavides, originally from Laredo, Texas, became the highest-ranking Mexican American in the Confederate Army. As the commander of the 33rd Cavalry, he drove Union forces back from Brownsville, Texas, in March 1864.

Large numbers of Latinos, primarily Mexican Americans, served in the Spanish-American War and in WWI, although at the time the military was rife with discrimination against Hispanics. In 1917, just before the U.S. entered the war, Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship and became eligible for military service.

Subsequently, 18,000 Puerto Ricans served in WWI.
During WWII, the ranks of Latinos in the U.S. Armed Forces swelled to more than 400,000, a higher percentage than any other minority. Of these, at least 65,000 were Puerto Rican, including 200 puertoriqueñas who served in the Women's Army Corps.

In the mainland, for many Mexican Americans the war was an opportunity to enter the American mainstream. Many described their experiences in corridos, a popular genre in which a story is told through song. One corrido was written by Lorenzo Ybarra Banegas, a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines. Another describes the exploits of Cleto Rodríguez of San Antonio, Texas, one of 12 Hispanics to earn the Medal of Honor during WWII.

While many Latinos fought valiantly, one particular company deserves special mention: Company E of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Texas Infantry Division was made up entirely of Spanish-speaking Americans. After 361 days of combat in Italy and France, the 141st Infantry Regiment sustained 1,126 killed, 5,000 wounded and more than 500 missing in action. In recognition of their extended service and valor, the members of the 141st were awarded 31 Distinguished Service Crosses, 12 Legion of Merits, 492 Silver Stars, 11 Soldier's Medals, 1,685 Bronze Stars and numerous other commendations and decorations.

Through Korea and Vietnam, Latinos continued their strong military tradition. The 65th Regimental Combat Team from Puerto Rico, known as "The Borinqueneers," distinguished itself in Korea in nine major campaigns and earned high praise from their commander, General William Harris, in his account of the unit, Puerto Rico's Fighting 65th U.S. Infantry: From San Juan to Chorwau.

"No ethnic group has greater pride in itself and its heritage than the Puerto Rican people," he wrote. "Nor have I encountered any that can be more dedicated and zealous in its support of the democratic principles for which the United States stands. Many Puerto Ricans have fought to the death to uphold them."

Marine PFC Guy Gabaldón, from East Los Angeles, single-handedly captured over 1,000 enemy soldiers in the summer of 1944—more than anyone in the history of military conflicts.

Approximately 200 Puerto Rican women served in the Women’s Army Corps. Carmen Contreras-Bozak became the first Hispanic woman to serve in the WAC as an interpreter and in numerous administrative capacities.

The 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron—the 201ro Escuadrón de Caza—was a unit from Mexico attached to the U.S. 58th Fighter Group (P-47) in the Philippines, where they began combat operation in June 1945. Carlos Foustinos, a former member of the squadron, flew approximately 25 missions, recording six Japanese zero kills. For this feat he was awarded La Cruz de Honor (the Cross of Honor), equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor, by the Mexican government.

From 1963-1975, during the Vietnam conflict, approximately 80,000 Hispanic Americans served in the American military. Although Latinos made up about 4.5 percent of the U.S. population at the time, they incurred more than 19 percent of the casualties.

Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez was the first American POW taken in Vietnam. He remained confined for more than eight years, making him the longest confirmed prisoner of war in American history.

20,000 Latino men and women participated in operations Desert Shield andDesert Storm during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War.

Latinos have received more Congressional Medals of Honor than any other ethnic group, in proportion to the number who served. In total, 39 Hispanic Americans have received this decoration, the nation’s highest award for valor.

A neighborhood street in Silvis, Illinois, is named after a very special Latino community. It is called Hero Street in honor of the 22 Latino families who live on this one-and-a-half block long street. Together, they have sent over 100 men to three different wars.

This legacy of valor continues right up to today in Afghanistan, Iraq, and anywhere else our military is called to serve. There on those distant battlefields the sons of Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Dominican, Cuban, and other immigrants along with Puerto Ricans (who are US citizens by birth) are serving proudly, and bravely, and yes, sometimes they are dying for our nation, and for the freedom we cherish.

03-07-2005, 10:56 AM

Source US Dept of Defense.

Chris Cass
03-07-2005, 04:51 PM
I shoot leagues in Silvil, Il. and I've been to Hero Street before too. Didn't know about this and I find it very interesting. Thanks,

C.C.~~they're a proud people and that's one reason why. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

03-10-2005, 07:41 AM
Fats I saw an article that blacks made up 25% of the Army since the Iraq war their numbers have dropped to 14% and the Army is having a hard time recruiting them. It seems that they are against the war and that is the reason they aren't enlisting.####

03-10-2005, 07:41 AM
Fats I saw an article that blacks made up 25% of the Army since the Iraq war their numbers have dropped to 14% and the Army is having a hard time recruiting them. It seems that they are against the war and that is the reason they aren't enlisting.####