Puerto Ricans in the Vietnam War

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Commencing with World War I, Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent have participated as members of the United States Armed Forces in every conflict in which the United States has been involved. Accordingly, thousands of Puerto Ricans served in the Armed Forces of the United States during the Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War. Hundreds of them died, either killed in action (KIA) or while prisoners of war (POW). The Vietnam War started as a Cold War, and escalated into a military conflict that spread to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1959 to April 30, 1975.[1]

Puerto Ricans served in different positions throughout the military as commanders, fighter pilots and common foot soldiers. Many of them distinguished themselves in combat and were awarded the highest honors conferred by the military. Five were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest United States military decoration; Six were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the second-highest military decoration of the United States Army; and three received the Navy Cross, the second-highest medal that can be awarded by the U.S. Navy. The Navy Cross is awarded to members of the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps for heroism or distinguished service.

Brief summary of Puerto Rican military service in the United States Military[edit]

Commencing with World War I, Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent have participated as members of the United States Armed Forces in every conflict in which the United States has been involved.

One of the consequences of the Spanish–American War was that Puerto Rico was annexed by the United States in accordance to the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, ratified on December 10, 1898. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens as a result of the 1917 Jones–Shafroth Act. The timing of the Jones Act was intentional—it enabled the United States to forcibly conscript Puerto Ricans into the U.S. military, and rapidly deploy them to the trenches of the European front.

Puerto Ricans who resided in the island were immediately assigned to the "Porto Rico Provisional Regiment of Infantry," organized on June 30, 1901, and served in World War I. Those who resided in the mainland United States served in regular units of one of the United States military: the United States Marine Corps, Army or the Navy.[2] The Porto Rico Regiment was renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment under the Reorganization Act of June 4, 1920[3] and went on to serve in World War II and the Korean War, as the only segregated Army unit, where its members distinguished themselves in combat. On July 25, 1952, the Constitution of Puerto Rico was proclaimed by Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín and the island, which continues to be an unincorporated territory of the United States, adopted the name of Estado Libre Asociado ("Free Associated State"). Despite this "free association," the Puerto Rican government and military remained under complete U.S. jurisdiction.[4] The 65th Infantry was deactivated in 1956, however the Department of the Army was persuaded to transfer the 65th Infantry from the regular Army to the Puerto Rico National Guard. Since then Puerto Ricans have served in regular integrated units of the military.

The Vietnam War[edit]

The Vietnam War was fought between communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other nations.[5] The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive.

During the Vietnam War, an estimated 48,000 Puerto Ricans served in the four branches of the armed forces.[6] Amongst the highest-ranking Puerto Ricans who served in the United States Navy and had distinguished military careers were Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr. and Vice Admiral Diego E. Hernández.

Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr.

Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr., the first Puerto Rican four-star Admiral in the United States Navy, oversaw the day-to-day work of the Navy as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He was a stern supporter of a "brown-water navy," or riverine force, on the rivers of South Vietnam.[7]

Lieutenant Diego E. Hernández, who retired from the Navy with the rank of Vice Admiral, flew two combat tours in Vietnam during the war. He also served as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander, Carrier Division 14. At sea, he was the commander of a fighter squadron, a carrier air wing, and a fleet oiler (the USS Truckee). Hernández later became the first Hispanic to be named Vice Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command(NORAD). [8]

Among the Puerto Ricans who served in the United States Air Force and had distinguished military careers were Major General Salvador E. Felices, Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado, Brigadier General Antonio J. Ramos, Brigadier General José M. Portela, Brigadier General Ruben A. Cubero and Colonel Héctor Andrés Negroni.

Major General Salvador E. Felices held various positions within the military. On June 1968, he was named commander of the 306th Bombardment Wing. He flew 39 combat bombing missions over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War in a B-52 aircraft. In 1969, he became the commander of the 823rd Air Division which covered the regions of Florida, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and Georgia. On May 1970, Felices was named Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff at the Headquarters of Strategic Air Command (SAC). He was responsible for SAC's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operational testing programs."[9]

Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado, who in 1967 became the youngest pilot and Aircraft Commander of a B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bomber, was assigned in January 1971 to the 432nd Tactical Fighter Reconnaissance Wing, Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. His active participation in the war included 183 air combat missions over North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, logging more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-4C Phantom.[10]

Brigadier General Antonio J. Ramos, the first Hispanic to serve as commander, Air Force Security Assistance Center, Air Force Materiel Command, and dual-hatted as Assistant to the Commander for International Affairs, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, also served in Vietnam. In November 1971, Ramos, who was then a lieutenant, was assigned to the 310th Tactical Airlift Squadron, Phan Rang Air Base and Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam. In August 1972, was transferred to U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield in Thailand where he was the Base Operations Officer until November 1972.[11]

Colonel Negroni poses in front of his F-86H

Brigadier General José M. Portela, as a first lieutenant, was sent to the Republic of Vietnam during the war and participated in numerous combat missions. On June 8, 1972, he was promoted to captain and on September 1972, was reassigned to the 3rd Military Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina as a C-5 pilot. During his stint there he was assigned to the C-141s and in 1972 became the youngest C-141 Starlifter aircraft commander and captain at the age of 22.[12] He served at CAF until July 1973, when he joined the Air Force Reserve as a C-5A Initial Cadre at the 312th Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California.[12]

Brigadier General Ruben A. Cubero was a captain when sent to the Republic of Vietnam on May 1969. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Tay Ninh West, where he flew an OV-10 and served as a forward air controller. On November 1969, he was reassigned to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron, at Bien Hoa Air Base. Cubero later became the first Hispanic graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, to be named Dean of the Faculty of the academy.[13]

Colonel Héctor Andrés Negroni, the first Puerto Rican graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was a captain when he participated in combat missions during the war and accumulated over 600 combat hours. During his tour he served in the 553rd Reconnaissance Squadron stationed in Korat, Thailand and as Chief of Combat Operation in the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron in Udon, Thailand.[14]

The Medal of Honor[edit]

Five Puerto Ricans were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest United States military decoration for heroism. They were Captain Humbert Roque Versace, Captain Eurípides Rubio, PFC Carlos James Lozada, Specialist Four Hector Santiago-Colon and Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon. All five were members of the United States Army and their awards were posthumous.

Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace

Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace was a United States Army officer of Puerto RicanItalian descent began his first tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an intelligence advisor. Versace was captured during his second tour and taken to a prison deep in the jungle along with two other Americans, Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer.[15] He tried to escape four times, but failed in his attempts. The Viet Cong separated Versace from the other prisoners. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing "God Bless America". On September 26, 1965, North Vietnam's "Liberation Radio" announced the execution of Captain Humbert Roque Versace. Versace's remains have never been recovered. On July 8, 2002, in a ceremony in the White House East Room, Versace was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his heroism, the first time an Army POW had been awarded the nation's highest honor for actions in captivity.[16]

Captain Eurípides Rubio was a member of H&H Co., 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, RVN. On November 8, 1966, Rubio's company came under attack from the North Vietnamese Army; leaving the safety of his post, Rubio received two serious wounds as he braved the intense enemy fire to distribute ammunition, re-establish positions and render aid to the wounded. Despite his pain, he assumed command when a rifle company commander was medically evacuated. He was then wounded a third time as he tried to move amongst his men to encourage them to fight with renewed effort.

While aiding the evacuation of wounded personnel, he noted that a U.S. smoke grenade, which was intended to mark the Viet Cong's position for an air strike, had fallen dangerously close to friendly lines — he ran to move the grenade, but was immediately struck to his knees by enemy fire. Despite his wounds, Rubio managed to collect the grenade and run through enemy fire to within 20 meters of the enemy position and throw the by-then already smoking grenade into the enemy before he fell for the final time. Using the now-repositioned grenade as a marker, friendly air strikes were directed to destroy the hostile positions.[17]

PFC Carlos James Lozada

PFC Carlos James Lozada was assigned to Co. A, 2nd Battalion, 503 Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. On November 20, 1967, at Dak To, Lozada spotted a North Vietnamese Army company rapidly approaching his outpost. He alerted his comrades and opened fire with a machine gun, killing at least twenty enemy soldiers and disrupting their initial attack. He realized that if he abandoned his position there would be nothing to hold back the surging North Vietnamese soldiers and that his entire company withdrawal would be jeopardized - as a result he told his comrades to move to the back and that he would supply cover for them. He continued to deliver a heavy and accurate volume of suppressive fire against the enemy until he was mortally wounded and had to be carried during the withdrawal.[18]

Specialist Four Héctor Santiago-Colón, on June 28, 1968, members of Santiago-Colon's Company B of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division were engaged in combat at Quảng Trị Province. An enemy (North Vietnamese) soldier lobbed a hand grenade into Santiago-Colon's foxhole. Realizing that there was no time to throw out the grenade, he tucked it in to his stomach and turning away from his comrades, absorbed the full impact of the blast, sacrificing his life to save his fellow soldiers from certain death.[19]

Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in a special ceremony held in the White House on March 18, 2014, for his courageous actions while serving as an acting Platoon Leader in Company D, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Ap Tan Hoa, Republic of Vietnam on April 4, 1969.[20]

The Navy Cross[edit]

Three Puerto Ricans were awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest medal that can be awarded by the U.S. Navy and are awarded to members of the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps for heroism or distinguished service. They were Sergeant Angel Mendez and Corporal Miguel Rivera-Sotomayor. Both men were members of the United States Marine Corps.

Sgt. Angel Mendez

Corporal Angel Mendez (1946–1967) was among the many men who volunteered to join the Marine Corps right after graduating from high school. He was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division on March 16, 1967, and conducting a search and destroy mission with his company when his company came under attack from a Viet Cong battalion. Half of a platoon was pinned down under enemy fire and Mendez, volunteered to lead a squad to assist the pinned-down Marines in returning to friendly lines with their two dead and two seriously wounded. Mendez exposed himself and opened fire on the enemy. His platoon commander, Lieutenant Ronald D. Castille was seriously wounded and he fell, unable to move. Mendez shielded him with his body as he applied a dressing to the wound; he picked up the Lieutenant and started to carry him to friendly lines, which were more than seventy-five meters away. Mendez was hit in the shoulder, yet he chose to act as rear man, and he continued to shield his lieutenant with his own body until he was mortally wounded. Mendez was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and promoted to sergeant.[21] For saving the life of his platoon commander, Lieutenant Castille, (now one of the seven justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania) U.S. Senator Charles Schumer recommended in 2003 that Mendez' award be upgraded to Medal of Honor.

Lance Corporal José L. Rivera, born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, was a member of the United States Marine Corps. He belonged to Company L, Third Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force. His parents moved from Puerto Rico to the United States and settled in Waukegan, Illinois. When the enemy forces threw a granade at his podition, he covered it with his helmet and smothered the explosion with his own body, thereby saving the lives of his comrades.

Corporal Miguel Rivera-Sotomayor, born in Philadelphia, Pa. to Puerto Rican parents, belonged to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Rivera-Sotomayor silenced enemy machine guns and allowed his platoon to move from its pinned down position to establish an effective base of fire against the enemy.[22]

The Distinguished Service Cross[edit]

Seven Puerto Ricans were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the second highest military decoration of the United States Army. Actions which merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree to be above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations but not meeting the criteria for the Medal of Honor. They were Sergeant Eddie Edwin Chervony, Staff Sergeant Efraín Figueroa-Meléndez, Spc4 Fruto James Oquendo, Sergeant First Class Wilfredo Pagan-Lozada, First Sergeant Ramiro Ramirez and Private First Class Reinaldo Rodriguez. Five of the awards were posthumous.

Sergeant Eddie E Chervony (died May 5, 1968) was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico. He was a member of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. On separate trips, he evacuated five seriously wounded across one hundred meters of open terrain to a place of safety. When carrying a sixth man to the friendly lines he was cut off by enemy force and was attacked with grenades and satchel charges. While protecting his wounded companion from the satchel charge by covering him with his own body, he received a mortal wound.[23]

Staff Sergeant Efraín Figueroa-Meléndez (died March 5, 1969) was born in Cataño, Puerto Rico. He was a member of Company D, 3d Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. On three occasions Staff Sergeant Figueroa-Meléndez purposely drew communist volleys on himself to permit his men to draw back to protected positions.[24]

Spc4 Fruto James Oquendo (died May 6, 1969) of Puerto Rican descent, was born in New York City. Oquendo was a member of the US Army and in Vietnam served with Company C, 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. He was mortally wounded while defending his area during a hand-to-hand struggle.[25]

Sergeant First Class Wilfredo Pagan-Lozada (died February 9, 1967) born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Pagan-Lozada was a member of the US Army and served in Vietnam with Company D, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. At the cost of his life, Sgt. Pagan-Lozada, charged into a through a hail of bullets to save an officers life.[26]

First Sergeant Ramiro Ramirez was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. First Sergeant Ramirez despite being wounded pulled one of his man to the safety of a bomb crater and refused aid until all others had been treated. Receiving word that another man had been severely wounded, Sergeant Ramirez volunteered to rescue him and was hit in the arm and chest as he left the crater.[27]

Private First Class Reinaldo Rodríguez (died January 15, 1971) was born in Guanica, Puerto Rico. He belonged to Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Private Rodriguez provided cover fire for his comrades maintaining suppressive fire upon the adversary until he was wounded a third time. Although evacuated immediately to the rear medical facilities, Private Rodriguez succumbed to his wounds.[28]

Corporal Aristides Sosa (died March 2, 1968) was born in Puerto Rico. His parents moved to New York City in 1947 when he was one year old. In 1967, he received a draft notice while attending Baruch College of Business Administration. He was drafted into the Army via the Selective Service system during the Vietnam War. He served in Company A, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army. On March 2, 1968, Corporal Sosa rolled on top of a grenade to save another soldier from its blast and was mortally wounded by the exploding grenade.[29]

The most decorated soldier[edit]

Sergeant First Class Jorge Otero Barreto

Sergeant First Class Jorge Otero Barreto was born in the town of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, the son of Eloy Otero-Bruno and Crispina Barreto-Torres.[30] His father named him "Jorge", Spanish for George, after George Washington whom Otero-Bruno admired. In Vega Baja, Otero Barreto received his primary and secondary education. He attended college for three years, studying biology until 1959 when he joined the U.S. Army, which he chose over medical school in Spain.[31] After his basic training, he continued to train with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, graduating in 1960.[32]

From 1961 to 1970, Otero Barreto served five tours in Southeast Asia,[33] starting as an advisor who helped train Vietnamese troops.[34][35][36] According to the documentary "Brave Lords", Otero Barreto served in various military units during his military career. He served in the 101st Airborne Division and the 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning". He also served in the 82nd Airborne Division, an active airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in parachute landing operations and in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.[34][35] He participated in 200 combat missions,[34][35] was wounded five times in combat,[37] and was awarded 38 military decorations,[38][39][34][35][40] Among his many decorations are 2 Silver Stars, 5 Bronze Stars with Valor, 4 Army Commendation Medals, 5 Purple Hearts and 5 Air Medals (one each for every 5th mission which involved a helicopter).[40][41][42][43]

Referred to as Puerto Rican Rambo or Sergeant Rock,[31] Otero Barreto has been called "the most decorated Puerto Rican veteran,"[44] and the news media[34][35] and various organizations[45] have called him "the most decorated soldier in the Vietnam War."[34][35] However NBC News said that Robert L. Howard may have been the most highly decorated American soldier of the modern era,[46] while KWTX-TV states that he was "said to be the most decorated service member in the history of the United States".[47] John Plaster in his 1998 book SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam states that Howard "remains to this day the most highly decorated American soldier."[48]

Otero Barreto was highly decorated during Vietnam, and is possibly the most decorated Puerto Rican Vietnam War veteran living today.[49][50][42][43]

Silver Star citations

Silver Star medal.png

Jorge Otero-Barreto
Battalion: 1st Battalion (Airborne)
Division: 101st Airborne Division


Platoon Sergeant Jorge Otero-Barreto (ASN: RA-50156967), United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 502d Infantry Regiment, 101st Air Cavalry Division, in the Republic of Vietnam. His gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.[51]

Silver Star medal.png

Jorge Otero-Barreto
Battalion: 1st Battalion (Airborne)
Division: 101st Airborne Division
Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division, General Orders No. 4587 (August 11, 1968)


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Platoon Sergeant Jorge Otero-Barreto (ASN: RA-50156967), United States Army, for gallantry in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 1 May 1968. Platoon Sergeant Otero distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader on a combat operation in the Republic of Vietnam. Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 502d Infantry Regiment, 101st Air Cavalry Division, was occupying defensive positions around a village north of Hue, Republic of Vietnam. The village was occupied by elements of the 8th Battalion, 90th North Vietnamese Army Regiment and had defied all offensive attempts for two days. Because of clear weather, the enemy had been subject to constant air strikes and artillery. At 0415 hours, the enemy began a series of human wave attacks against Company A in a desperate attempt to break out of the village. After the human wave assaults had twice been driven back and fifty-eight enemy lay dead, the enemy forces withdrew into the village for their final stand. The first platoon led Company A into the village to destroy the remainder of the North Vietnamese Army forces and Sergeant Otero was the leader of the point element of the first platoon. Suddenly the point came under fire from rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, and small arms firing from enemy bunkers and spider holes. With complete disregard for his own safety, Platoon Sergeant Otero immediately assaulted the nearest machine gun emplacement and killed all three of its crew members. He then led his squad through enemy fire in assaulting three more enemy positions, overrunning them and killing or incapacitating all of the enemy. Platoon Sergeant Otero swiftly moved his squad to occupy vacated enemy positions and place effective fire on the remaining enemy so that other Company A platoons could maneuver. Platoon Sergeant Otero's extraordinary heroism in close combat against a numerically superior force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.[52]

On 22 June 2012, Otero Barreto was the keynote speaker at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dinner in Lorain, Ohio.[53] 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 Hotel Hilton of Chicago. The keynote speaker was U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez.[54][55]

A transitional home for veterans in Springfield, Massachusetts, the SFC Jorge Otero-Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Home, was also named after Otero Barreto.[56] 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.[44][57]

The town of Vega Baja dedicated its military museum to Otero Barreto and named it the "Jorge Otero Barreto Museum."[58] On 2 October 2011, Otero Barreto was named Vegabajeño del Año en Civismo (Civic Citizen of Year of Vega Baja).[59] Otero Barreto was featured in the documentary film Brave Lords, a perspective on the war in Vietnam, as experienced by Puerto Rican soldiers.[60]

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 Kentucky.[61]

Missing in Action[edit]

A total of 18 Puerto Ricans were listed as Missing in Action (MIA). This number does not include those who resided in the United States mainland, only those who resided in Puerto Rico. They were all members of the Army with the exceptions of First Lieutenant Jose Hector Ortiz who was a member of the United States Air Force and PFC. Jose Ramon Sanchez a U.S. Marine. PFC. Humberto Acosta-Rosario is the only one whose body has never been recovered and is currently still listed as MIA.[62]

PFC Humberto Acosta-Rosario

PFC Humberto Acosta-Rosario was born and raised in the city of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, which is located in the western coast of Puerto Rico. He joined the Army after graduating from high school. He was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry (Mechanized); 25th Infantry Division, United States Army. On August 22, 1968, Acosta-Rosario accompanied some members of his unit during a reconnaissance mission. His unit was attacked by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars in the vicinity of Bến Củi Rubber Plantation, east of Tay Ninh City, Tay Ninh Province. His unit, Company B, was forced to withdraw from the battlefield under heavy enemy attack. The unit regrouped and discovered that PFC Acosta-Rosario and another machine gunner, PFC Philip T. DeLorenzo, Jr., were missing. Acosta-Rosario's platoon sergeant stated that he believed PFC Acosta-Rosario had been hit by enemy fire prior to the unit's withdrawal.[63]

The NVA forces were driven back after artillery fire and helicopter gunships were called in and Company B returned to its original position. An extensive ground search was conducted by members of Company B for the two missing soldiers. The only body recovered was that of PFC DeLorenzo's, along with the two M60 machine guns. A search by two battalions who were brought in to sweep the area of only enemy activity did not produce Acosta-Rosario's body and he was officially listed as Missing in Action.[64]

Friendly forces captured documents from the NVA 7th Infantry Division dated August 23, 1968. The documents were analyzed by U.S. intelligence agencies. The reports documented that Humberto Acosta-Rosario was in fact captured by NVA forces during the battle near the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation. However, the U.S. military chose not to upgrade his status to Prisoner of War.

Acosta-Rosario's name was listed in the United States Government's "Last Known Alive" list. This list, which was released by the U.S. Government in April 1991, includes missing Americans whom the U.S. believed might have survived their initial loss incident.[65] In March 1978, Acosta-Rosario was declared dead/body not recovered based on a presumptive finding of death.

Acosta-Rosario was posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. His name is on panel 47W, line 030 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. and he is also list in El Monumento de la Recordación located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There is a headstone with his name inscribed Plot: MB 0 6 of the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.[66][65]

PFC Jose Ramon Sanchez

PFC. Jose Ramon Sanchez born in Brooklyn, NY was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. On June 6, 1968, he was among a group of fellow Marines who comprised a patrol operating in the rugged jungle covered mountains southwest of Khe Sanh, Quảng Trị Province, South Vietnam. Their mission was to block NVA troops and supplies from infiltrating toward Khe Sanh. The Marines engaged a communist force of unknown size in heavy combat. As the fierce firefight raged around them, the Marines, who were out numbered and rapidly running low on ammunition, requested an emergency extraction. A CH46A Sea Knight helicopter was sent for Sanchez and the rest of the patrol who were on Hill 672. As the helicopter gained altitude, it was immediately struck by intense and accurate enemy ground fire causing it to enter into a nose-low attitude and crash onto an east/west mountain ridgeline, roll down to the bottom of the hill and burst into flames. Within an hour and a half, a search and recovery (SAR) team was inserted into the crash site. The team members pulled the charred bodies of the aircrew and passengers from what was left of the burned out helicopter and placed them in body bags. Of the 12 of the 23 Marines aboard who were killed, 4 were reported as MIA/KIA, besides Sanchez the other three were L/Cpl. LaPlant, L/Cpl. Palacios and L/Cpl. Harper. Various attempts to recover the bodies of the four were made to no avail.

In 2006, a team began excavating the site and recovered human remains and non-biological material evidence including La Plant's identification tag. While at the site, a Vietnamese citizen turned over to the team human remains that he claimed to have found amid the wreckage. In 2007, another team completed the excavation and recovered additional human remains, life support material and aircraft wreckage. On November 5, 2008, The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced that the remains of four U.S. servicemen, including Sanchez, were identified. The remains of the four men share a single casket along with a box engraved with their names which was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[67]

Table: List of Puerto Ricans missing in action
Name Place of birth
Acosta-Rosario, Humberto Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
Aubain, Joseph Augustin San Juan, Puerto Rico
Burgos Torres, Benjamín Cayey, Puerto Rico
Guzman-Ríos, Antonio Corozal, Puerto Rico
Irizarry-Hernández, Ángel Hato Rey, Puerto Rico
Kuilan, Wenceslao Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Maldonado-Torres, Lionel Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico
Márquez-López, Luis Manuel Guayama, Puerto Rico
Martínez-Zayas, Rubén Salinas, Puerto Rico
Medina-Torres, Vincente San Juan, Puerto Rico
Miranda-Ortiz, José Luis Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
Ortiz, José Héctor Carolina, Puerto Rico
Ortiz-Rodríguez, Ángel Puerto Rico
Quiñones-Borrás, Nicholas Santurce, Puerto Rico
Ramos, Armando Santurce, Puerto Rico
Rosado-Rodríguez, Eugenio Ponce, Puerto Rico
Sanchez, Jose Ramon Brooklyn, N.Y.
Vadi Rodríguez, Alberto San Juan, Puerto Rico

Racial tensions of the 1960s[edit]

"On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam"
(L to R) PFC Herrera, L/Cpl Santiago, PFC Garza

The Vietnam War coincided with the protests of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s America. Minority groups, such as Hispanics were discriminated at home, but also within the U.S. armed forces.[68] According to a study made in 1990, by the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and New York State Psychiatric Institute; called the National Survey of the Vietnam Generation (NSVG), Hispanics, among them Puerto Ricans, were younger than both Black and White majority veterans when they went to Vietnam. Hispanics experienced more prejudice and discrimination in Vietnam than Blacks.[69] Minority groups would often band together with those of their own racial or ethnic backgrounds. One such group was "Puerto Rican Power in Unity" which eventually became "Latin Power in Unity." The objective of this group was to unite all the Hispanic Marines regardless of their national background, as a brotherhood. Together they shared their cultures and demanded to be treated equally as their Black and White counterparts in the military.[70]

On September 22, 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary. "On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam" by producer Mylène Moreno of Souvenir Pictures, Inc., aired nationwide on PBS and is part of PBS Stories of Service. Former Marine Lance Corporal Tony Santiago narrated the Puerto Rican experience during both the home-front and the battle grounds during the Vietnam War.[71]

Cultural Representations[edit]

On September 22, 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary. "On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam" by producer Mylène Moreno of Souvenir Pictures, Inc., aired nationwide on PBS and is part of PBS Stories of Service. Former Marine Lance Corporal Tony Santiago narrated the Puerto Rican experience during both the home-front and the battle grounds during the Vietnam War.[71]

Many songs were released by Puerto Ricans about the Vietnam War experience, with the Vietnam War Song Project identifying 30+ titles. This topic has been largely ignored in the cultural scholarship of the Vietnam War.[72]


El Monumento de la Recordación

On April 23, 1975, President Gerald Ford gave a televised speech declaring an end to the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, an estimated 48,000 Puerto Ricans served in the four branches of the armed forces.[73] Some sources state that a total of 345 Puerto Ricans who resided in the island died in combat, however according to a report by the Department of Defense, titled "Number of Puerto Ricans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during National Emergencies" the total number of Puerto Ricans who died was 455 and that were wounded was 3,775.[74] Because of lack of separate documentation, the total number of Puerto Ricans who lived in the mainland United States and perished is unknown. At the time, Puerto Ricans were not tabulated separately, but were generally included in the general white population census count. Separate statistics were kept for African Americans and Asian Americans.[75] The names of those who perished are inscribed in both the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Washington, D.C. and in El Monumento de la Recordación (The Wall of Remembrance) located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[76][77]

According to a study made by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, Puerto Rican Vietnam veterans, have a higher risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experience more severe PTSD symptoms than non-Hispanic white Vietnam veterans.[78] However, despite the hardships suffered by the experiences of war, many went on to live normal everyday lives. Among the Puerto Ricans who served in Vietnam and held important presidential administrative positions in the Administration of President George W. Bush were Major General William A. Navas Jr., who was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy on June 6, 2001[79] and Dr. Richard Carmona, a former Green Beret who was awarded two Purple Hearts and was appointed Surgeon General in March 2002.[80]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent14.htm
  2. ^ Militias
  3. ^ 369th Regiment US Army color
  4. ^ Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Archived 2011-11-14 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish)
  5. ^ "Vietnam War". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
  6. ^ "House of Representatives-Special Order" (PDF). Speech on the House Floor. March 2, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 3, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  7. ^ Barry Leonard, ed. (1997). Hispanics in America's Defense. Darby, Pennsylvania: Diane Publishing Company. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-0-7881-4722-7.
  8. ^ "Diego E. Hernández"; Center For Minority Veterans; publisher: The United States Department of Defense, Retrieved May 21, 2008 Archived August 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Aviation History Facts". Archived from the original on 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  10. ^ USAF BIO, Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  11. ^ Antonio J. Ramos, Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  12. ^ a b El Hispano News
  13. ^ Brigadier General Ruben A. Cubero, Official biography, United States Air Force. Retrieved 2006-11-01
  14. ^ Negroni Family
  15. ^ "3 Aides Seized in Vietnam Battle". Pacific Stars and Stripes, Five Star Edition, Vol. 19, No. 304. November 1, 1963. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2006-07-17.
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  17. ^ "Euripides Rubio, CPT, Army". The Virtual Wall. Archived from the original on 2006-01-11.
  18. ^ Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients Archived 2006-06-27 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Medal of Honor citation Archived 2011-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Obama to award Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans
  21. ^ ""Mendez, Angel" (Navy Cross citation)". Full Text Citations for Award of the Navy Cross: U.S. Marine Corps Awards - Vietnam. HomeOfHeroes.com. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  22. ^ Rivera-Sotomayor's Navy Cross citation
  23. ^ "SGT Eddie Chervony- Awards". walldads.org. Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  24. ^ Figueroa-Meléndez's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  25. ^ Oquendo's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  26. ^ Pagan-Lozada's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  27. ^ Ramirez's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  28. ^ Rodriguez's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  29. ^ Sosa's Distinguished Service Cross Citation
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ a b "VOCES Oral History Center - Jorge Otero-Barreto". The University of Texas at Austin. 2017-06-07. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  32. ^ Sargento Jorge Otero Barreto: Es el soldado boricua más condecorado. Hispanidad: Nuestros Paises. Univision. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  33. ^ 14th Flying training Wing Public Affairs (2020-11-20). "A legacy of service" (PDF). Silver Wings. Vol. 44, no. 22. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  34. ^ a b c d e f "Sergeant First Class Jorge Otero Barreto". American Greatness. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Brave Lords
  36. ^ Puerto Rican veteran shares tales of Vietnam.; The Morning Journal; January 2014; https://www.morningjournal.com/news/puerto-rican-veteran-shares-tales-of-vietnam/article_4e8a0d23-27dd-5d79-beac-d36c938cf23a.html
  37. ^ "Compassionate Rambo". The American Legion. 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  38. ^ Acceptance In U.S. Role A Long March For Veterans. Mike Swift. Hartford Courant. 28 March 1996. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
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  40. ^ a b 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.
  41. ^ Most Decorated US Soldier in Vietnam War. Archived 17 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine Latino Alliance. Latino Alliance Profiles in Courage! 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  42. ^ a b Affluent Times
  43. ^ a b Affuent Times 2
  44. ^ a b Membership Notes. Archived 5 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine December 2000/January 2001. Vietnam Veterans of America. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  45. ^ Most Decorated US Soldier in Vietnam War. Archived 17 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine Latino Alliance. 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012
  46. ^ "Medal of Honor: Robert Howard 1939–2009". NBC News. 23 December 2009.
  47. ^ Paul J. Gately (7 June 2018). "Two of most decorated soldiers in history had ties to Central Texas". KWTX TV. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  48. ^ Plaster, John (1998). SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam. Berkley. p. 204. ISBN 978-0451195081.
  49. ^ Hometown hero is Spirit honoree: Capt. Joe Hooper most-decorated Vietnam War vet. Archived 31 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine Huntsville Times. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  50. ^ Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard dies at 70. T. Rees Shapiro. Washington Post. 23 January 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  51. ^ Silver Star medal citation
  52. ^ Otero Barreto's 2nd Silver Star medal citation
  53. ^ 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.
  54. ^ [Realizan encuentro boricua en Chicago.; El Diario-La Prensa. New York, NY 09/01/2006.]
  55. ^ [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.
  56. ^ Outreach/Vet Centers & Transition Houses.;]The Bay State Veteran. August 2012 Newsletter. Page 4. The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  57. ^ Jorge Otero Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Home. Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts, Inc. Springfield, Mass. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
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  64. ^ *Bio, Acosta-Rosario, Humberto
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  66. ^ In Memory of SSgt. Humberto Acosta-Rosario
  67. ^ Remains of Brooklyn Marine killed in action New York Daily News
  68. ^ The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement
  69. ^ Dohrenwend, BP; Turner, JB; Turse, NA; Lewis-Fernandez, R; Yager, TJ (2008). "War-related posttraumatic stress disorder in Black, Hispanic, and majority White Vietnam veterans: the roles of exposure and vulnerability". J Trauma Stress. 21 (2): 133–41. doi:10.1002/jts.20327. PMC 2538409. PMID 18404630.
  70. ^ Somos Primos; January 2007, Dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues
  71. ^ a b On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam
  72. ^ Brummer, Justin. "Vietnam War: Puerto Rican Songs". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  73. ^ "House of Representatives-Special Order" (PDF). Speech on the House Floor. March 2, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 3, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  74. ^ Source: Department of Defense; "Number of Puerto Ricans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during National Emergencies"
  75. ^ Vietnam War Statistics Archived 2015-01-18 at the Wayback Machine
  76. ^ "Korean War Veterans Memorial". National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-09-10.
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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
  • "Historia militar de Puerto Rico"; by: Hector Andres Negroni; publisher=Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario (1992); ISBN 84-7844-138-7
  • "Vietnam War: Puerto Rican Songs"; by Justin Brummer; "Vietnam War Song Project", RYM.