(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the renowned 65th Infantry Regiment – a segregated military unit composed almost entirely of soldiers from Puerto Rico who played a prominent role in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Members of this unit are known as the “Borinqueneers.” They were the last segregated unit to be deactivated.
“This legislation will ensure the Borinqueneers’ bravery in battle gets the recognition it deserves,” Blumenthal said. “Not only did the Borinqueneers valiantly serve and sacrifice for this country, they did so while enduring injustice on and off the battlefield.”
Although President Truman had issued an executive order in 1948 abolishing racial segregation in the armed forces, the 65th Infantry Regiment served as a segregated unit for most of the Korean War. The regiment participated in some of the fiercest battles of the war, including the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
By the end of the Korean War in 1953, the 65th Infantry Regiment had earned 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, and nearly 3,000 Purple Hearts. The regiment also won numerous awards – including two Presidential Unit Citations, the nation’s highest unit-level recognition, for extraordinary heroism.
“The Borinqueneers are part of a proud tradition of military service that includes the Tuskegee Airmen, the Montford Point Marines, the Navajo Code Talkers, and the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team,” Blumenthal said. “All of these units have rightly earned the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and sacrifice in the face of injustice, and the Borinqueneers should be awarded this high honor as well.”
Blumenthal’s legislation adds momentum to a bill (H.R.1726) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (D-P.R.). As of today the House bill has already gained the bi-partisan support of 43 cosponsors. Blumenthal’s legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Robert Casey (D-Penn.).