Jorge Otero Barreto
|Born||7 April 1937|
Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1959–1970|
|Rank||Sergeant First Class|
173rd Airborne Brigade
|Awards||Silver Star Medal (2)|
Bronze Star Medal (5) w/ "V" Device
Air Medal (5)
Army Commendation Medal (4)
Purple Heart Medal (5)
Jorge A. Otero Barreto (born 7 April 1937) is a former United States Army soldier. He earned 38 military decorations during his career. He has received recognition from numerous organizations and has had buildings named after him.
Otero Barreto was born in the town of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, the son of Eloy Otero-Bruno and Crispina Barreto-Torres. His father named him "Jorge", Spanish for George, after George Washington whom Otero-Bruno admired. Otero Barreto received his primary and secondary education in Vega Baja. He attended college at the University of Puerto Rico, studying biology for three years and spending another two years in training at the same school until September 1959 when he joined the U.S. Army, which he chose over medical school in Spain.
U.S. Army service
Barreto claims that on 5 August 1964 he participated in a mission to drop the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 7th Regiment near Hanoi, North Vietnam and multiple other missions into North Vietnam. He also claims that General William Westmoreland came to his unit and asked that he serve in Westmoreland's helicopter crew which he claims he did for 6-7 missions before he asked to return to combat operations. Barreto claims that on one mission his helicopter was engaged by a North Vietnamese Vietnam People's Air Force MiG-21 which pursued them along the Mekong River until crashing.
After returning to the US and training at Fort Campbell Barreto says that he was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment which then joined the 173rd Airborne Brigade in South Vietnam in 1966. Barreto says he received three Purple Hearts with the unit. Barreto claims that his first Purple Heart was for an injury in an airborne assault in Cambodia. He says that his second Purple Heart was for wounds in an operation in the Michelin Rubber Plantation. Barreto claims that: Alexander Haig wanted to join his reconnaissance platoon; his platoon were issued suicide pills in case they were facing capture; and that he mutilated the bodies of enemy soldiers and killed civilians.
Barreto says that returned to Puerto Rico in June 1967 and in August reported to Fort Campbell where he was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. After assaulting a sergeant and a Captain, Barreto says he volunteered to return to Vietnam to avoid court-martial. In December 1967 he returned to South Vietnam. Barreto claims that he was one of the soldiers landed on the roof of the US embassy during the Tet offensive attack on US Embassy.
Barreto participated in 200 combat missions and was wounded five times.
Barreto was awarded 38 military decorations. Among his decorations are 2 Silver Stars, 5 Bronze Stars with Valor, 4 Army Commendation Medals, 5 Purple Hearts and 5 Air Medals. Otero Barreto has been called "the most decorated Puerto Rican veteran."
Otero Barreto earned both his Silver Stars in the first months of 1968 as a member of Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 502nd Infantry Regiment.
On 17 February, Otero Barreto's unit was operating near Quảng Trị as part of Operation Jeb Stuart, when they encountered concealed enemy positions and came under heavy fire. Then a staff sergeant, Otero Barreto took control of a machine gun (according to the Silver Star citation the gunner had been wounded and the assistant gunner killed) and covered the withdrawal of his platoon until he expended all the gun's ammunition. Wounded during the fight, he also organized the unit's orderly withdrawal from the area.
His second Silver Star was awarded less than three months later (1 May), and came during Operation Carentan II north of Huế. Still with Company A, although promoted to Platoon Sergeant, Otero Barreto's unit was occupying defensive positions near a village when they came under attack. According to the award citation, the attackers were part of the North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 8th Battalion, 90th Regiment and were trying to break through the cordon established around the village. The attacks began at 04:15 and after three assaults failed the PAVN fell back into the village. According to the award citation, Otero Barreto led his squad into the village, neutralizing several defensive positions in the process, and positioned his squad to provide covering fire so the rest of the company could advance.
On 22 June 2012, Otero Barreto was the keynote speaker at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dinner in Lorain, Ohio. On 1 September 2006, the Coalición Nacional Puertorriqueña (National Puerto Rican Coalition) honored Otero Barreto with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in a Conference held at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago. The keynote speaker was U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
A transitional home for veterans in Springfield, Massachusetts, the SFC Jorge Otero-Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Home, was also named after Otero Barreto. The home is managed by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #866 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The home is part of a program named the "Jorge Otero Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Program" which houses twelve (12) veterans. The program offers counseling, DVA services from the Western Massachusetts Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center, assistance in obtaining Chapter 115 financial assistance, AA/NA meetings, and Christian Rehabilitation Substance Abuse meetings.
The town of Vega Baja dedicated its military museum to Otero Barreto and named it the "Jorge Otero Barreto Museum." On 2 October 2011, Otero Barreto was named Vegabajeño del Año en Civismo (Civic Citizen of Year of Vega Baja).
In June 2016, Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson presented the "Distinguished Member of the 502nd Infantry Regiment" award to Otero Barreto, honoring him for his valor in the Vietnam War. Otero Barreto's name is one of those displayed on a wall of honor at Fort Campbell.
In 2019 Jorge Otero Barreto was inducted to the Puerto Rico Veterans Hall of Fame.
Among SFC Otero Barreto's military decorations:
|Badge||Combat Infantryman Badge|
|1st Row||Silver Star Medal
with one bronze oak leaf cluster
|Bronze Star Medal|
with "V" device and one silver oak leaf cluster
|2nd Row||Army Commendation Medal
with "V" device and three oak leaf clusters
with four oak leaf clusters
with one silver oak leaf cluster
|3rd Row||Army Good Conduct Medal
with three Good conduct loops
|National Defense Service Medal||Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal|
|4th Row||Vietnam Service Medal
with four bronze Service stars
|Vietnam Campaign Medal||Vietnam Gallantry Cross|
|1st Row||Presidential Unit Citation||Valorous Unit Award||Meritorious Unit Commendation|
|2nd Row||Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation||Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation||Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation|
- U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of the Census. 1940 United States Census Records. "Censo Décimosexto de los Estados Unidos: 1940 – Población: Puerto Rico. (Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 – Population Schedule: Puerto Rico)." Municipality: Vega Baja. Barrio: Pueblo. Township: Aldea Sánchez López. Census Taker: Isabel Oliveras de Pérez. Date: 5 April 1940. Sheet: 6-B. Rows 71, 72, and 75. The National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NorthWest, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "Res17_02_Barreto_MOH" (PDF). LULAC. National Assembly of the 2017 LULAC National Convention. 8 July 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- Membership Notes. Archived 5 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine December 2000/January 2001. Vietnam Veterans of America. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "Compassionate Rambo". The American Legion. 8 January 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- Sargento Jorge Otero Barreto: Es el soldado boricua más condecorado. Hispanidad: Nuestros Paises. Univision. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "Jorge Otero-Barreto (1056) - Voces Oral History Center". Voces Oral History Center. 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
- Scott Allyn (21 June 2007). "Puerto Rican veteran shares tales of Vietnam". The Morning Journal.
- Mike Swift (28 March 1996). "Acceptance In U.S. Role A Long March For Veterans". Hartford Courant.
- Remarks of Major General Orlando Llenza, USAF (Ret.), Delivered to the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Florida, 6th Annual Gala, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Archived 4 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Major General Orlando Llenza. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- http://2ndbde.org/halls_of_valor/SSM/1968/a_1-502_in/sfc_jorge_otero_barreto_ssm_citation_02_17_1968.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- http://2ndbde.org/halls_of_valor/SSM/1968/a_1-502_in/sfc_jorge_otero_barreto_ssm_2olc_citation_05_01_1968.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- http://2ndbde.org/halls_of_valor/BSM_V/1968/e_1-502_in/sfc_jorge_b_otero_bsm_v_go922_12_03_1968.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dinner. Archived 4 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Lorain County Vietnam War Fallen Heroes Recognition Dinner. Calendar. City of Lorain, Ohio. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- [Realizan encuentro boricua en Chicago.; El Diario-La Prensa. New York, NY 09/01/2006.]
- [NPRC Reception, Dinner and Dance: "Un Encuentro Entre Familia".; Fiesta Boricua. La Voz del Paseo Boricua. July–August 2006. Vol 3. Number 4. Page 11. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Outreach/Vet Centers & Transition Houses.;]The Bay State Veteran. August 2012 Newsletter. Page 4. The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Jorge Otero Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Home. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts, Inc. Springfield, Mass. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Municipalities / Vega Baja: Places of Interest. Archived 5 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Puerto Rico Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- [Vegabajeño del Año en Civismo. Diario Vegabajeño. Vega Baja News, Inc. 11 October 2009.] Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Howard, Henry (24 June 2016). "Reconocimiento al vegabajeño Jorge Otero". Archivo del Diario Vegabajeño de Puerto Rico Segunda Etapa de Diciembre 2012 a Octubre 2016 (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "An overdue recognition for valor".