The U.S. government didn’t begin
tracking separate statistics on Hispanic servicemembers until the 1970s.
However, history indicates that — even as far back as when the colonies were
fighting for independence from Great Britain — Hispanic servicemembers have
played an integral part in U.S. military efforts.
Jordi Farragut Mesquida (aka George Farragut), a
Minorcan-born American naval officer, fights the British in the Siege of
Civil War (1861-65)
David Glasgow Farragut, son of George Farragut,
famously exclaims, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” at the Battle of
Mobile Bay, Ala. He went on to become the first rear admiral, vice admiral,
and admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Several thousand Hispanic volunteers
fight with the U.S. Army; Capt. Maximiliano Luna serves in the first
U.S. volunteer cavalry, also known as the Rough Riders, with Col.
World War I
Then-Navy Lt. Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican
to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, engages with an enemy submarine and is
awarded the Navy Cross.
World War II
Lt. j.g. Maria Rodriguez Denton becomes the first female
officer of Puerto Rican descent in the U.S. Navy as a member of the WAVES.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph
Tezanos, USCG, helps rescue nearly 42 people during
a fire at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in May; he is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps
USS Noble, under Puerto Rican-born Navy
Adm. Horacio Rivero Jr.’s command, steams to Korea in August to participate
in the September Inchon amphibious assault.
The 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Hispanic U.S. Army
unit nicknamed “The Borinqueneers,” fights as a segregated unit in some
of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Lt. Cmdr. Everett Alvarez Jr., USN, endures one of the
longest periods as a POW when his plane is shot down over North Vietnam Aug. 5.
He was held for eight years and seven months.
On Jan. 22, Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr.,
a Marine Corps aviator, becomes the first Hispanic servicemember to be killed
in Operation Desert Shield.
Against Terrorism/Overseas Contingency Operations (2001-present)
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brig.
Gen. Joseph V. Medina, USMC, becomes the first Marine Corps general ever to
be assigned as a commander of naval ships.