8/20 San Juan, Puerto Rico National Cemetery (5)
– My name is Javier Angel Morales. I am the past president of the 65th Infantry Veterans Association. I served for about 5 years. Our organization [inaudible]. And they were the ones who organized this whole association in 1936. At one time we had numbers of about 500 members. Now they only have about 150. They had to open up the association to allow veterans from other conflicts or wars to become members, because we want to continue the legacy that the 65th infantry gave to Puerto Rico. As to the Borinqueneers, there was a voluntary army, first [—] in 1917. They were all voluntary. They didn’t have to be drafted. The draft came in World War II. After World War II then came Korea. During the Korean War there were a lot of draftees. I could relate to some of the stories given to me by the different veterans, who were in smaller towns, but when they heard that there was a truck coming picking up those that would like to join the service, they jumped on the truck and were taken to [—-]. Some of them… one person told me that it was the fourth time he was trying to get in the truck, but they turned him down because his age was not the legal age to be drafted. [inaudible]. The regiment was composed of veterans that were from World War I and II. They had been volunteers and they were ready to retire, but they were asked to stay so they could train the new recruits, so most of them did that. That’s why I think the regiment was so…
– So experienced during the first years of the war, that they were labeled [—-].
– How many served and how many suffered [—-]?
– The count that I have from Puerto Rico was about 63,000. Out of those 63,000, there were 2,700 that were wounded in action. There were about 740 that were killed in action, and out of those 740, there were 122 that were missing. Currently I think there’s about 110 or 112 that are still missing in action. And as they find their bodies or they’re able to identify them, they are added to the Wall of Remembrance in San Juan.
– So, if there’s… I know the 65th earned the congressional gold medal.
– Of course I’m partial, I know they deserved it, but not everybody knows. So, why?
– Okay. The regiment was very successful. They had a maneuver in Vieques called Portrex. They went against the best unit from the United States [——], and they were able to repel that invasion. So that stayed in the mind of Colonel Harris, and when Colonel Harris was in Korea, they asked him that they needed an infantry unit to be able to go to Korea because they were running short. So he said, “Well, I had a regiment I’d like to bring here.” and he mentioned the 65th infantry regiment. But they were… the high brass was very reluctant, because one of the things they said is, “But they never fought during World War I.” Only one battalion fought, which was the 3rd battalion. There were two casualties. And during World War II, they were mainly to secure… or security, of the different bases, of the different places in the Caribbean and in Europe. During the Korean War they were an infantry regiment, and they were well prepared because, like I mentioned before, a lot of them were veterans from World War II. They had experience, they had training necessary to be in battle. And so, that training went on to the new recruits that came in. When they got to Korea, they were instrumental in helping the 1st [—] division exit from the surrounding by the Chinese. Although the Chinese were pushing us back into the sea, the 65th regiment was the last unit to disembark, or to get on the boats, because they were the last ones that were safeguarding the back of all the other soldiers.
– Two last very simple questions. One is, you’re not even a Korean War veteran, why do you care about them so much? Okay? So that’s one. Two, tell the Korean people why they shouldn’t forget.
– When I was in the service, I was serving in Germany, and one of my fellow compatriots mentioned the 65th infantry. I never knew anything about the 65th. I wasn’t interested because I just wanted to serve my two years and leave. When I retired at 60, there was another instance, where I was in Connecticut and I overheard somebody say, “The 65th? They didn’t do anything right.” And that kind of stayed on my mind. I said, “I have to find out about that.” So, when I retired at 60, I said, “I need to go to Puerto Rico, because I want to see Puerto Rico.” [——–], and I did that. But before that, I told my wife and she started crying, and I said, “What’s the problem?” She says, “Well, you’re going to get old on me, and you’re going to die.” And I said… that scared me, and I said, “No, no, no. I have to do something.” So I came to Puerto Rico. Six months I went around the island. This time my brother was calling me. He says, “Look, I need you to help me.” And I said, “Help you what?” He said, “I need you to help me find veterans that were wounded, because I want to start an organization in Puerto Rico called The Purple Heart Organization, to be able to recruit and have a chapter, a register in the national Purple Heart Hall of Honor.” And I said, “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” Meantime, the president of the 65th infantry association was after me telling me the same thing, “Look, I need your help. You’re the youngest, and I need to make sure people don’t forget this organization.”
– So, to the Korean people, why should they not forget the Borinqueneers?
– To the Korean people, first of all I want to thank them very much, because I had the opportunity to go to Korea, and the 65th infantry was very instrumental in safeguarding the country. They were very instrumental in making sure that democracy was installed in Korea. They were very happy to be able to defend your country. A lot of them gave their rights [?], they shed the blood, and they shed the tears. But they did it for a purpose. They wanted you to be happy, your generations in the future to be happy, to be able to live in democracy. And so, the sacrifice that was made by the 65th infantry regiment was not done in vain, your country has progressed quite a bit, your people are very nice, and we really appreciate the way you think about us, the Puerto Ricans and the 65th infantry regiment.