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Admiral Horacio Rivero: Puerto Rico’s First Navy Admiral

Horacio Rivero was born in 1910 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, just six years before the people of Puerto Rico accepted U.S. citizenship. He graduated third in his class from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and served in a number of positions, including that of Gunner on the U.S.S San Juan, which was named after the Puerto Rican city. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for his service during World War II, receiving enthusiastic citation for his actions during a lone raid on the Gilbert Islands and the Battle of Santa Cruz.

Rivero also received the Legion of Merit. This was in part in response to actions Rivero took that saved lives and ships. This was characteristic of Rivero throughout his career; his concern for the safety of those under his command was noteworthy. Rivero advanced through the ranks, attaining the position of Four Star Admiral in 1964.

Rivero was the first Puerto Rican four star Admiral, and only the second Hispanic American to become an Admiral. Some historians consider David G. Farragut, best known for saying, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” the first Latino four star Admiral, but others point out that the ranks changed in the century between the two. Rivero, becoming a four star admiral in the 1960s, had gone through more ranks than Farragut had in the 1860s. The details may be of more importance to military historians than to those appreciating the contributions of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. military.

Rivero, known by the nickname “Rivets,” was a specialist in nuclear arms.

Rivero continued to attain new accomplishments after becoming an Admiral. He was the Vice Chief of Naval Operations during the war in Vietnam. This is the second highest rank in the U.S. Navy. He went on to serve as Commander of NATO’s Allied Forces in Southern Europe and Ambassador to Spain.

Following his retirement, he served as the President of the San Diego World Affairs Council. Rivero was one of the many Puerto Ricans who chose to live on the mainland; by now, the majority of Puerto Ricans live in the states.

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