Table of Contents
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- Formation of the Infantry Regiment
- The 65th Infantry Regiment in World War I
- Participation in World War II on the American Continent
- The 65th Infantry Regiment in World War II in Europe and North Africa
- The Role of the Regiment at the Beginning of the Korean War
- Failures of the 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War
- Court-Martial and Reconstitution of the Regiment
- Related History essays
After Puerto Rico became the part of the US, the fist Regiment of Infantry was created. However, the 65th Infantry Regiment, or Borinqueeners, was the most prominent Puerto Rican military unit engaged in two World Wars and the Korean War. Although Puerto Ricans were not eligible for the military service during the World War I, they participated in guarding the Panama Canal Zone, while in the aftermath of the war, the regiment was designated. During World War II, the forces of the 65th Infantry Regiment were used for protecting the Canal and fighting in Europe and North Africa where they demonstrated a high level of military efficiency. Although the regiment greatly contributed to the activities of the US army during the Korean War, the participation of the regiment in the war became also tragic as many of its men were court-martialed and convicted for the military crimes. However, due to the role of the regiment during the US rule in Puerto Rico, the two world wars, and the Korean War, it has a multi-level contribution into the American strategic military aspirations and history, thus, deserves a high level of recognition.
Formation of the Infantry Regiment
After Puerto Rico became the part of the US, the first Regiment of Infantry was formed from the local volunteers and started to participate in the major state’s ceremonies. The 65th Infantry Regiment initially consisted of the Puerto Rican troops and was designated by the Congress as a voluntary regiment (Jackson, 2009). Each battalion of the Regiment comprised of four companies of 100 men with all officers being continent Americans. Some units of the Regiment took part in the inaugurations of the presidents of the US in the beginning of the 20th century. It follows that the US used the 65th Regiment of Infantry for the ceremonial functions.
The 65th Infantry Regiment in World War I
The 65th Infantry Regiment initially was formed as a party of the US army and proved to be useful during World War I, primarily in protecting the essential American communications, namely the Canal Zone, with its role being modified with time. According to the Department of Army’s Center of Military History (DACMH) (2013), in 1916, before the US entered into World War I, the War Department authorized the creation of the infantry companies of 100 men each in peace times and 150 men during the war. Also, the American Army gave the 3rd Battalion a status of the regiment and supply company. At the same time, during World War I, the US military used the territory of Puerto Rico for conducting the training activities. Later, there were organized two Puerto Rican National Guard regiments, and in May 1917, the Puerto Rico Regiment undertook its war power after the ratification of the Jones-Shafroth Act by the US President Woodrow Wilson as the Act made the inhabitants of Puerto Rico citizens of the US, and therefore, eligible for the military service (Bielakowski, 2013). However, after the end of World War I, all units of the Regiment were deactivated. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans registered for the military service, only tenth of those registered were called to participate in the war (DACMH, 2013). Battle casualties of Puerto Ricans consisted in 1 killed and 4 wounded in action enabling to make a conclusion that Puerto Ricans had a non-combatant status in World War I, while been important in the protection of the essential American communications.
Participation in World War II on the American Continent
The contribution of the 65th Infantry Regiment to the military activities of the US during World War II was notable and consisted in its participating in both protection of the Canal Zone and operations in Europe and North Africa. After World War II began, Puerto Ricans as citizens of the US were called to the military service in the US Armed Forces. According to the data of the Department of Defense, during the war more than 65,000 Puerto Ricans were engaged in the military service in all types of the armed forces of the US (as cited in Bielakowski, 2013). Many volunteers became the members of the 65th Infantry Regiment as a segregated unit because of the language barrier since nearly all recruits from Puerto Rico could speak Spanish only. However, those Puerto Ricans who could speak English fluently were assigned to other units of the army and even served in the navy and marine corps. After the US entered into World War II, the third battalion of the 65th Infantry Regiment was newly activated and took intensive military trainings. At the same time, it accomplished security missions near the Puerto Rican coast protecting the important areas. In 1943, the Regiment was deployed to Panama with the mission to protect vital communications and installations of the Canal together with the observation posts on both sides of Panama (Vazquez-Rodriguez, 2011). Also, in that period, battalions of the regiment were engaged in visiting student officers from the Latin America countries, which contributed to gaining experience by the members of the 65th Infantry Regiment. Because of its great efficiency, the 65th Infantry Regiment was praised for its performance. Thus, the regiment was effective in protecting the Panama Canal serving the US military goals and aspirations.
The 65th Infantry Regiment in World War II in Europe and North Africa
The actions of the 65th Infantry Regiment in Europe and North Africa also were highly impactful. In 1944, the forces of the 65th Infantry Regiment were deployed to North Africa, particularly to Morocco and Algeria (Villahermosa, 2009). Besides, the third battalion was sent to Italy in order to provide the airfield security. The same battalion also participated in the operations connected with the village fighting. In 1945, the Regiment took part in the military actions in Germany where in remained as part of the Occupation Forces (Villahermosa, 2009). During World War II, soldiers of the Regiment were praised for the high level of efficiency and won the distinguishing state decorations for the operations conducted by them primarily in Europe. For example, three soldiers were given the US second highest award for valor, namely, the Distinguished Service Cross (Bielakowski, 2013). Thus, the 65th Infantry Regiment proved to be very effective during World War II, particularly through its actions in Europe and North Africa.
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The Role of the Regiment at the Beginning of the Korean War
The Korean War was the most important part in the history of the 65th Infantry Regiment, with both prominent and tragic implications for its history. In total, the activities of the regiment at the beginning of the war were highly effective, particularly in defending important outposts and attacking the Chinese forces. After World War II ended, the 65th Regiment underwent reorganization. The first prominent mission of the Regiment was connected with conducting the antiguerrilla operations and blocking the escape routes of the isolated North Korean People’s Army. According to the DACMH (2013), other important missions of the 65th Infantry Regiment in North Korea were defending a sector of the Hungnam Beachhead and providing help for TASK FORCE DOG at the time of the escape of forces from the Chosin Reservoir. Additionally, the regiment took part in the operations Thunderbolt and Exploitation advancing to the regions near Seoul (Villahermosa, 2009). At the same time, the militants of the regiment participated in the operations called Killer and Ripper the goal of which was to destruct the forces of the enemy. The union also contributed to defeating the parts of the Chinese Army by conducting an attack within the scope of Operation Dauntless. The 65th Infantry Regiment also proved to be instrumental in helping the forces of the United Nations (UN) to stem the attacks of the Communist forces in the area of Iron Triangle. Thus, in general, the activities of the regiment at the beginning of the Korean War were very useful in protecting the borders of the Allies and attacking the Chinese army.
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Failures of the 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War
The year of 1952 was tragic for the 65th Infantry Regiment as because of its failures, it was blamed for the military offences which ended with court-martials. The beginning of 1952 was characterized by the occupation of the strategic static positions by the forces of the U N and China (Villahermosa, 2009). The activities of the Regiment in that period were connected with the protection of a sector on Line Jamestown. Apart from that, the soldiers were conducting the training and security missions and preparing tactical plans directed at the immediate reacting to any penetration by the Chinese Forces. However, the Chinese army won the Battle for Outpost Kelly and the Battle of Jackson Heights in September-October 1952 (Vazquez-Rodriguez, 2011). After the failure of the Regiment, it was charged with a number of offences, starting from desertion and avoiding military duty and ending with disobeying the lawful orders of the major officers (Villahermosa, 2009). Moreover, the unit was charged with abandoning the battles and refusing to fight, though the situation was primarily connected with the language barrier and poor leadership practices. According to the DACMH (2013), the failure of the Regiment was caused by a number of interconnected factors, among which the most important were shortage of officers, poor rotation policy and tactic which led to high casualties, inappropriate artillery ammunition, declining morale, and ethnic prejudice. Thus, although 65th Infantry Regiment won many battles in the war, its failures led to the court-martials and stereotypes linked to its activities.
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Court-Martial and Reconstitution of the Regiment
Following the failure of the 65th Regiment in the two battles, there were two tracks in dealing with its failures which, however, ended with the overturning of the sentences of the members of the Regiment. Those tracks were pursued by the 3rd Infantry Division Commander and consisted in the largest mass court-martials during the Korean War and an attempt to inactivate and replace the forces of the given Regiment. Nonetheless, no similar punishment was applied to the soldiers with the other background who encountered the similar circumstances. Therefore, prejudiced attitude towards the Regiment members is evident here. By the end of spring 1953, the Regiment was reconstituted in a status of fully integrated formation with white soldiers from the Continent, which led to the regiment’s losing its initial Puerto Rican identity. However, in the following years, the inability of soldiers to speak English was recognized as the official reason and justification for the failure of the Regiment in battles in autumn 1952 which resulted into overturning the sentences and granting pardon for the part of soldiers (DACMH, 2013). Robert Stevens who was the Secretary of the Army greatly contributed to justification of the Regiment and reconsideration of the sentences. Thus, by 1954 all those punished were given clemency or pardons and the majority of them returned to the military service in the Army.
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Therefore, the 65th Infantry Regiment as a Puerto-Rican military formation has played a significant role in pursuing the US strategic military goals and objectives during the 20th century. It was the only Hispanic-segregated unit of the American army that was engaged in two World Wars and the Korean War. During all these conflicts, the members of the Regiment sacrificed their lives in an attempt to stop the fighting forces of North Korea and the Chinese Communist regime. Although during World War I Puerto-Ricans had the non-combatant status, they were members of the first units of the predecessors of the 65th Infantry Regiment that participated in guarding the Panama Canal Zone. However, the Regiment obtained its further designation only in 1920. The 65th Infantry Regiment’s contribution was also in the protection of strategically critical regions in Europe, North Africa and the Canal Zone, where soldiers appeared efficient, with many of Puerto Ricans awarded the United States’ highest military awards. Nonetheless, the most prominent contribution of the 65th Infantry Regiment to the military actions of the Unites States was connected with its activities during the Korean War where its forces were used for protection of the borders of South Korea and fighting with the Chinese forces. Although the role of the 65th Infantry Regime in the Korean War was notable, it also was tragic because of the tactical failure and subsequent court-martials at which members of the Regiment were charged with the military offences. At the same, those offences and sentences were overturned and all the members of the regiment were given clemency. Therefore, the role of the 65th Infantry Regiment in the US strategic military activities and the American history in general should not be underestimated.