Frederick Lois Riefkohl was born in Maunabo, Puerto Rico on February 27th, 1889. He was educated in Puerto Rico and on the mainland, and had a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy. Riefkohl, known as “Rief” and “Fritz” by his shipmates, was the first Puerto Rican recipient of the Navy Cross.
Riefkohl attended Andover before training at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he was the first Puerto Rican appointee. He graduated in 1911, served on a number of different ships, held a variety of positions within the general area of communications before received the Navy Cross, and attained the rank of captain.
Riefkohl commanded several destroyers and continued to work in the area of communications. His career took him throughout the United States and the Carbbean, and in the 1920s became Aide and Chief of Staff to the governor of the Virgin Islands. He later served in Mexico and was engaged in strategic planning for regional military operations.
His final posting was as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Commandant, Tenth Naval District, and Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier, Headquarters at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he retired in 1947. Riefkohl’s honors included the Purple Heart, the Mexican Campaign Medal, the Victory Medals from both World War I and World War II, the American Defense Service Medal with bronze “A”, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. He was honored further with the rank of Rear Admiral.
Riefkohl died in 1969. At the time, he was living in Florida, having chosen like so many other Puerto Ricans to make his home on the mainland. Like so many other Puerto Ricans, he served the U.S. valiantly as part of the military — in Riefkohl’s case, this service began before he was a citizen of the United States.