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Puerto Rican Units

Puerto Rican Units. Puerto Rico has a long history with the U.S. military. Some Puerto Ricans participated as auxiliary troops in the U.S. invasion of 1898. After taking the island from Spain, the United States initiated new units with native personnel: the Porto Rico Battalion (1899) of infantry (cavalry was added in 1900) to assist in repressing armed peasants, and the Porto Rico Regiment, U.S. Volunteers Infantry (1900). This force—U.S. officers and native troops comprising 900 men—replaced the 700 regular U.S. troops sent to help suppress the Philippine insurrection. In 1901, it became the Provisional Puerto Rican Infantry Regiment, which was integrated into the regular army (1908) as the Porto Rican Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army.

During World War I, an enlarged regiment was assigned to protect the Panama Canal. In 1916, an ROTC program was established at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1917, soon after the Jones Act extending U.S. citizenship to Puer to Ricans, military conscription was introduced. Some 18,000 Puerto Ricans were drafted or enlisted and a National Guard unit was created in 1919. In 1920, the Puerto Rican regiment was renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment, but this colonial unit, similar to the Philippine Scouts, was never fully integrated into the U.S. Army structure.

At the onset of World War II, the 65th Infantry was sent to guard the Panama Canal. In 1944, it transferred to the Mediterranean and European theaters and saw some combat, suffering 348 casualties. More than 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in the U.S. armed forces during the war, most of them as soldiers garrisoning U.S. bases in the Caribbean.

During the Korean War, the 65th Infantry engaged in intensive combat duty, suffering 743 combat and 186 noncombat casualties in the winter of 1950–51. All told, some 49,200 Puerto Ricans were conscripted or enlisted. Since 1952, when the 65th Infantry was disbanded, Puerto Ricans have served in regular U.S. Army units or the Puerto Rican National Guard. During the Vietnam War, 23,350 Puerto Ricans participated, suffering 1,300 casualties. Numerous Puerto Rican military personnel also served in the Persian Gulf War.
[See also Philippine Scouts and Constabulary; Spanish‐American War; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Jorge Rodríguez Beruff , Politica military dominiación, Puerto Rico en al contexto latinamericano, 1989.
Maria Eugenia Estades , Intereses estratégicos y dominación colonial, 1989.

Jorge Rodríguez Beruff

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