Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Puerto Rican Soldier - video documentary on 65th Infantry Regiment.

The Puerto Rican Soldier - video documentary on 65th Infantry Regiment. A documentary about Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment, the only Hispanic-segregated unit in Army history. Produced by El Pozo Productions, using extensive interviews and archival footage.

From the site:

Although thousands of Puerto Ricans have served courageously in the armed forces since World War I, their presence and sacrifices have gone unnoticed in America. Many Americans are not familiar with the political and socio-economic relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico which makes Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens and requires them to serve in the U.S. armed forces during wartime drafts, even though they are not allowed to vote for President of the United States. Puerto Ricans resisting the draft were sent to U.S. penitentiaries. Thousands of other Puerto Ricans volunteered freely to help further the cause of democracy.

This is the story of the 65th Infantry Regiment, the only Hispanic-segregated unit in U.S. military history. This unique regiment with a long and honored tradition has been the source of pride to many Puerto Ricans for more than 100 years. From its inception as a volunteer regiment in 1899 through its participation in World War I, World War II and the Korean Conflict, the men of 65th Infantry Regiment served with distinction. Mandated by Congress to be a segregated unit comprised primarily of Puerto Ricans with mostly continental officers, the 65th went on to demonstrate their military prowess in Korea and earned the respect and admiration of their fellow soldiers and the military authorities, including General Douglas MacArthur. During the Korean War, the 65th was sent to battle on the front lines and participated in nine major campaigns. In spite of the overwhelming number of Chinese forces and harsh climate conditions, the 65th proved themselves to be fierce warriors. They were nicknamed "The Borinqueneers" from the word Borinquen, the name the native Taino Indians called Puerto Rico. As U.S. soldiers, the Puerto Ricans were thrown into a foreign culture and language that many times responded with prejudice and discrimination. Some barely spoke English. Despite these impediments, many Puerto Ricans met the challenge and persevered. They served with distinction, made valuable contributions to the war effort, and earned well-deserved praise and commendation for their struggles and sacrifices. The 65th received a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations. Although still under research, to date, individual members of the unit have been awarded 9 Distinguished Service Crosses, 163 Silver Stars, 562 Bronze Stars and 1,014 Purple Hearts. For a small island, it also suffered tremendous casualties disproportionate to its population.

As the regiment's stay lengthened in Korea, their military performance was affected by various factors. At a particularly difficult battle at Outpost Kelly, the 65th suffers more than 400 casualties, almost 10% of its total Korean War casualties. In October of 1952, there were numerous casualties again in a battle at Jackson Heights. This time, various troops of the 65th refused to continue attacking what they regarded as a suicide post. As a result, almost 100 men were court-martialed and the Puerto Ricans were incorporated into various American units. The 65th Infantry Regiment ceased to exist as an all-Puerto Rican unit, but continued as an integrated unit even participating at the famous Outpost Harry battle. Eventually, most of the sentences were remitted and many of the soldiers were reinstated. The alarming events that took place at Outpost Kelly and Jackson Heights have not been adequately explained to the public and are shrouded in mystery and controversy. This film will try to explain what really happened there.

This is a story of men wrestling with the conflict between their personal and two distinct national identities, caught between their obligation to fulfill their military duties and trying to survive in the midst of the harshest combat conditions. The story of the forgotten men of the 65th will shed light on their remarkable contributions, accomplishments and struggles.

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