Carlos Betances Ramírez

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Carlos Betances Ramírez
Carlos Betances.JPG
Colonel Carlos Betances Ramírez
Only Puerto Rican to command a battalion in the Korean War
Born (1910-07-08)July 8, 1910
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Died October 28, 2001(2001-10-28) (aged 91)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Buried Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Allegiance United States United States of America

Seal of the United States Army National Guard.svg Army National Guard

Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1928–1935, 1938–1942 Puerto Rico National Guard
1942–1962 US Army
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg
Commands held 65 Inf Rgt DUI.png 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
*Battle of Jackson Heights
Awards Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svgPurple Heart

Colonel Carlos Betances Ramírez[note 1] (July 8, 1910 – October 28, 2001), was the only Puerto Rican to command a battalion in the Korean War.

Early years[edit]

Betances was born in the "Barrio" Las Delicias, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. His father died when he was young and as a result, he and his six other siblings were raised by his mother, grandfather and uncles. His mother worked as a seamstress to support the family. Betances always stated that he was proud of being a Jibaro (a poor Puerto Rican farmer), but Puerto Rico was going through a difficult economic crisis and Betances, like so many other farmers, had to seek employment elsewhere.[1]

Military career[edit]

In 1928, at the age of 18, Betances joined the Puerto Rican National Guard. He served from 1928–1935 and returned again in 1938. He had served in the National Guard for a total of 8 years before joining the regular United States Army on November 11, 1942. Betances served as an enlisted man until July 13, 1943 when he was promoted to the rank of platoon sergeant.

Betances attended the Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and on July 14, 1943, was commissioned a second lieutenant. During World War II, he served as platoon leader in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 295 Infantry Regiment, which was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1945, he was promoted to captain.[1]

Korean War[edit]

Until the Korean War, the Army was racially segregated. The 295th, 296th, and 65th Infantry Regiments were all formations consisting mostly of Puerto Rican enlisted men with continental American officers. In 1946, Betances was assigned as company commander, Training Company, 65th Infantry Regiment. He took the Infantry Officers Advanced Course at Fort Benning and also in the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.[2]

In June 1952, Betances arrived in Korea as a lieutenant colonel. In July 1952, he volunteered to take command of the 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, whose previous commander had recently had his leg blown off in action. Taking command of a unit while it is in combat is considered an extremely difficult thing to do.[2] In the letters that he wrote to his family, Betances indicated how he went for long periods of time without sleep or rest while commanding his soldiers and trying to prevent the Chinese from destroying his men and breaking through his lines. This was an extremely stressful time requiring intelligence and leadership of the approximately 850 men in his battalion.[1]

At one point, Betances and his regimental commander, Colonel Juan César Cordero Dávila, visited his men in the front lines, despite the dangers involved; this act was very important to his men as it helped to lift their moral and spirits. On October 28, 1952, Betances led his men in the victorious "Battle of Jackson Heights".[3]

Colonel Betances served as battalion commander from July to October 1952. He was the only Puerto Rican officer to command an infantry battalion in the Korean War.[2]

From November 1952 to September 1953, Betances served as the operations and training officer and military advisor to General Min Ki Sik, who commanded the 21st Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Korea, and was instrumental in organizing and training four infantry divisions for the Republic of Korea.[1]

Later years[edit]

Betances retired in 1962. He never lost his love for the Army and his favorite regiment, the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Borinqueneers". He had a large military library at his home and loved to keep in touch with his friends. On October 24, 2001, while in the hospital, Betances received the Bronze Star he had earned 49 years before.[2]

Colonel Carlos Betances Ramírez died of heart and liver failure on October 28, 2001, exactly forty-nine years to the day after the Battle of Jackson Heights in which he fought.[4] He was buried with full military honors at section K, site 3030, Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.[5]

Bronze Star citation[edit]

Bronze Star medal.jpg

The United States of America
To All Who Shall See These Presents, Greeting: This Is To Certify That The President Of The United States Of America Authoritized By Exececutive Order, 24 August 1962 Has Awarded
The Bronze Star Medal To
Carlos Betances Ramirez
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

For exceptionally meritorious achievement while assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry, 3rd. Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea in September 1952 during military operations against an armed enemy of the United States. When enemy mortar fire hit a large grader being driven by a soldier. Colonel Betances ordered his jeep stopped and under intense enemy fire, without regard to his safety, personally removed the driver and helped him to safety. Colonel Betance's actions reflect distinct credit upon himself, the 65th Infantry, and the United States Army. Permanent order 206-1 25 July 2001[6]

Military awards and decorations[edit]

Among Betances Ramírez's decorations were the following:

Bronze star
Bronze Star
Purple Heart Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Commendation
American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star
Korean Service Medal Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Service Medal

Badges, taps and patches:

Foreign decoration

The Bravery Gold Medal of Greece was given by the Government of Greece to the 65th Infantry Regiment and to the members of the regiment who fought in the Korean War.

Congressional Gold Medal

External video
You can see a video of President Barack Obama awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers on YouTube

On June 10, 2014, President Barack Obama, signed the legislation known as "The Borinqueneers CGM Bill" at an official ceremony. The Bill honors the 65th Infantry Regiment with the Congressional Gold Medal.[7][8][9][10]


  1. ^ This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Betances and the second or maternal family name is Ramírez.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Puertorriquenos Who Served With Guts, Glory, and Honor. Fighting to Defend a Nation Not Completely Their Own; by : Greg Boudonck; ISBN 978-1497421837

External links[edit]