"The Borinqueneers" (65th Infantry) Memorial Tree and Plaque
The Borinqueneers Memorial Tree and Plaque honor the Korean War service of the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, which consisted almost entirely of soldiers from Puerto Rico. Approximately 65,000 Puerto Ricans served during the Korean War, most with the 65th. Nicknamed “The Borinqueneers,” after the Taino name for Puerto Rico (“Borinquen”), the unit originated in 1899 as the Battalion of Porto Rican Volunteers, shortly after the United States gained control of Puerto Rico as a result of the Spanish-American War. It officially became part of the U.S. Army in 1908. Due to racist ideologies, the Puerto Rican unit received non-combat assignments during World War I and World War II, as did most segregated African American units. However, the Borinqueneers soon had the opportunity to prove themselves in combat. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which prohibited racial discrimination in the U.S. armed forces and led to the desegregation of military units. In Korea two years later, the United States entered its first war with an integrated military.
In August 1950, the 65th Infantry Regiment arrived in Pusan, South Korea and went into action almost immediately. In years of fierce fighting with North Korean and Chinese forces, the unit was credited with a total of 15,787 enemy killed-in-action and 2,169 enemy prisoners of war; it suffered 1,510 battlefield casualties. According to General Douglas MacArthur, “the Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry give daily proof on the battlefields of Korea of their courage, determination and resolute will to victory.” Members of the 65th Infantry Regiment received four Distinguished Service Crosses and 125 Silver Stars, among many other decorations. In 2016, Congress awarded the unit the Congressional Gold Medal.
The memorial tree in Section 21 of the cemetery is a sugar maple. The plaque, in both English and Spanish, reads: “Dedicated to the men of the 65th Infantry Regiment United States Army for their Valor and Patriotism During the Korean War 1950-1953” / “Dedicado a los Soldados de El Regimiento 65 de Infanteria Ejercito de los Estados Unidos por su Valentia y Patriotismo durante la Guerra de Corea 1950-1953.”