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Puerto Rico’s Military Support of the United States

In the 1770s, while still under Spanish rule, Puerto Rican soldiers joined General Bernardo de Gálvez, Governor of Louisiana, in support of the American Revolutionary War. Having sent funds and supplies to the rebels in 1776, de Galvez mustered a multicultural force and led them into battles in Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mobile, and Pensacola. Puerto Rico was also the site of the Battle of San Juan, in which British and German forces were defeated by Puerto Rican and Spanish troops.

There is no official count of these soldiers. Puerto Rican soldiers fought in the Civil War, too. They were usually identified as Spanish, not as Puerto Rican, since Puerto Rico was still a Spanish colony at the time.

In 1899, following the Spanish-American War and Puerto Rico’s cession from Spain to the United States, the “Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry, United States Army” was created. This all-volunteer group was approved by the U.S. Congress on May 27, 1908, and eventually evolved into the Borinqueneers.

When Puerto Ricans became citizens of the United States in 1917, a battalion was sent to defend the Panama Canal. Lieutenant Teofilo Marxuach fired the first shot of World War I in the United States. Puerto Rican volunteers even fought under French command. Again, the specific numbers in these early efforts were not collected, but the Department of Defense reports that 18,000 Puerto Ricans fought in World War I.

65,000 fought in World War II. 61,000 fought in the Korean War. 48,000 fought in Vietnam, 10,000 in the Gulf War, and 38,000 in Iraq.

Now a new report from the Congressional Research Service has calculated the full number of casualties as accurately as possible.

Among soldiers from Puerto Rico, these are the official casualties:

  • Total wounded = 392
  • Total fatalities = 1,559
  • Total casualties = 1,951

As the Hurricane Maria death toll has shown, it is difficult to get accurate numbers. These official numbers, however, show that Puerto Rico has made sacrifices for her nation, the United States, for more than a century.

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  4. *US* Hispanic/ Puerto Rican Heritage–Macro History Excerpts**
    US Hispanic-Puerto Rican contributions dates to the initial settlement of our now USA by their Ancestors that came from Puerto Rico to Florida (1513)-107 years before the Pilgrims!
    *Puerto Ricans have loyally; bravely sacrifice; shed sweat, blood and tears for our noble US Flag until today!
    Puerto Rico Native Tainos: Named Puerto Rico- Boriken—“Land of the Valiant Lord”…; Hundreds of years ago, left traces in the now US before Christopher Columbus first Trip to Western Hemisphere…
    Christopher Columbus found the Western Hemisphere on 12 October 1492 (first found San Salvador…); during his 2d Trip (19 November 1493), he found Puerto Rico (Native Boriken); named it “San Juan Bautista”… (Later it became Puerto Rico with San Juan the Capital). But, in his four Trips he never touched the continental land mass of the now USA…
    Juan Ponce de León (1st Governor Puerto Rico-Boriken) – organized an expedition (March 1513) from the now US Territory of Puerto Rico—set sail with Crew (included Blacks and Women) from Puerto Rico-Boriken to find what the Natives called Bimini (now Florida, USA)…
    *In the spring of 1513 (April 2) they arrived at a beautiful verdant land which he named “La Florida”… (This dangerous voyage into the unknown– put Florida on the Map for others to follow and develop…)
    • Puerto Rico was the historic 1st Gateway to the European settlement of Florida-which opened the doors to the advanced civilized settlement of our now USA–107 years before the Pilgrims landed…
    • These Spanish US Hispanic Ancestors (part of Hispanic lineage, roots, & heritage)—Made many positive contributions…overtime brought Christianity, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Oranges…; the Spanish language (the US is the 2d largest Spanish Speaking Country); first Thanksgiving; and other good things to “America” (name set by Hispanic/ European Ancestors)…
    • The Hispanic-Puerto Rican Legacy– complemented the worthy contributions of Natives and Immigrants in the forming and development of our now beloved USA…
    1508 Ponce de Leon founded “Caparra” the first settlement in Puerto Rico, but, in 1509 it was moved… to what today is San Juan (formally founded-1521) where he is buried—the oldest City under the US Flag…
    1565: St. Augustine (2d Oldest City under US Flag) – was founded by: Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez… (Note: My Grand-Mother is Menendez—who knows if we are blood kin…?)
    1607: The English stopped in Puerto Rico on their way to Jamestown, which was later abandoned…
    1620: The Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth Harbor/Rock (Massachusetts) on the Mayflower…
    1776: Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans-US Hispanic Ancestors-supported the US Continental Army, and fought (for our USA) in the Revolutionary War! General Galvez (Governor of Louisiana-now 13 US States), and General Castro (later Governor of Puerto Rico) bravely fought, against the British, in the important Battles of Pensacola (Florida), Louisiana, Missouri, and others…helping General Washington; the “US Minutemen Citizen Soldiers” win the War…
    *NOTE: Spain strongly supported; lent the rebelling Colonists/ US Continental Army, under General George Washington, the use of its ports in Puerto Rico, through which flowed financial aid, food, and arms for the US cause…; protection for American Ships…; send Hispanic Ancestors to fight…
    *US Hispanic Ancestors, before the Pilgrims came, settled and help develop what is today California, Texas, Florida, Louisiana (includes now 14 US States)…
    *Many Flags have flown over Florida: Spanish, British, French, Florida … & now our great USA Flag!
    LOYAL US Puerto Ricans are the 2d largest US Hispanic Ethnic segment of our great USA Population (9.5 million strong=3.3 M in PR+6.2 in the States)—Puerto Ricans have shed blood; fought in the War of Independence …; since 1898 (about 120+ years), have sacrificed to help bravely defend our USA (includes WW-I, WW-II, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, War on Terrorism …).
    • The US 65th Infantry Regiment-The Borinqueneers set the EXAMPLE; are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal-highest honor US Congress, with US President, can bestow…
    SUMMARY: After, 500+ years since Florida was found (from Puerto Rico)–let’s not forget the courageous US Hispanic Ancestors/ Explorers’ legacy that brought advance civilization (of the times); good things to our now USA. Also, let’s acknowledge the hard work of Natives & Immigrants, before & after this milestone; work together for the good of all: Family, Community, Florida, USA, and Humanity!

    **US President Reagan: “Through the years, Hispanic American Citizens have risen to the call of duty in defense of liberty and freedom. Their bravery is well known and has been demonstrated time and again, dating back to the aid rendered by General Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution”.
    *NOTE: Don’t leave out of History—Puerto Hispanic-Puerto Rican contributions to our noble USA–

    (Conmemorando el primer desarrollo Europeo de los hoy EEUU-2 de abril 1513)
    Por: Dennis O. Freytes
    Toca la Historia una magna canción,
    como en el 1513 se exploró una gran Nación.
    De Puerto Rico con valentía partió,
    El valeroso Ponce de León y su diestra Tripulación.

    Contra viento y marea llegan a la realización,
    que a la Florida y Estados Unidos se encontro.
    Con civilización, cristiandad, caballos y el español,
    se concibo un País al compás de vasto sacrificio y visión.

    Que conste de Puerto Rico fue donde se organizó,
    la expedición que trajo al mundo la más grande Nación.
    Celebremos con guitarra, cuatro, güiro, y canción,
    que los Hispanos y Puerto Rico tienen historia, arte, y tradición.

    De sus buenos ancestros, linaje, raíces, y herencia,
    contribuyen Nativos, Emigrantes e Hispanos con persistencia.
    Dotados de valor, razón, empuje y experiencia,
    se desarrolló los Estados Unidos y se ganó su Independencia.

    Todos laborando con sudor, bondad, y amor,
    se continua la lucha legada con sacrificio y firme corazón.
    Promoviendo la paz, democracia, amistad y sinceridad;
    entablando confianza, compasión, y humildad.

    Por la familia, comunidad, patria y humanidad,
    trabajemos y luchemos aplomando la justicia y la igualdad.
    Por el bien de todos–con fe, verdad, y cordialidad:
    Forjemos juntos un mejor Mundo-lleno de salud, IGUALDAD, y prosperidad!
    *Dedicado a conmemorar más de 500 años (1513-2013) del desarrollo avanzado de Florida (el 2 de abril de 1513) por 1er Gobernador de Puerto Rico Ponce de León y su Tripulación (200 Hombres, Mujeres, y Negros) que abrió las puertas a lo que hoy son los EEUU–107 años antes que los Pelegrinos o Jamestown. **Puerto Rico (Borikén) fue el punto de organización y partida! EEUU nos pertenece como a cualquier otro Grupo Estadounidense. (Todos con propia Identidad y Soberanía Estatal.)

    Nuestros Antepasados– trajeron la civilización avanzada de aquellos tiempos: la Cristiandad, el Español, caballos, vacas, cerdos, naranjas…a lo que hoy es EEUU. Esto es parte de la identidad; las raíces (Linaje y Herencia) de los Puertorriqueños y Otros Hispanos!

    Que la Historia no nos dé codo, pero, que se le de crédito meritorio a las contribuciones de todos (Nativos e Inmigrantes) en el desarrollo de lo que hoy es la noble Unión de Estados–EEUU!

    Dennis O. Freytes, US Army Retired; Community Servant Leader; Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; former Professor (PMS)/ Officer School Director-University of Puerto Rico; Trustee Valencia College; Florida Governor Policy Advisor Transition Team; US President W. Bush Transition Advisory Team… Serves on Congressmen Advisory Boards…; E:

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