The 65th Infantry Regiment at  
Jackson Heights, Korea

Part 2
by Lieutenant Colonel
Baltazar (Bart) Soto

 Jackson Heights Korea (Photo by Jim Jarboe)

Fox and Able Company Attack - Captain Willis "Bud" Cronkhite - Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Betances Ramierez - First Lieutenant John D. Porterfield - The Aftermath - Current Events - Why? - Note about this story : - Note about the author :

Fox and Able Company Attack

        October 28, 1952 is a day that the soldiers of the 65th Infantry of the time will never forget.  Even today, every year on that unforgettable day, retired Colonel Gerald Wilcomb calls retired Colonel Willis “Bud” Cronkhite and proposes a toast.  Gerald Wilcomb is convinced that they are living on borrowed time and should never have survived that day.  Two old soldiers drinking to an incredible day they cannot forget!
        Sometime after midnight October 28, 1952, Ben Farnan of the 3rd Recon Company heard moaning from the mine field in front of his position.  His position was in front of “
Iron Horse Mountain” which was later to be called Jackson Heights.  From what he was hearing, he knew that someone had wondered into the minefield in front of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR).   Together with his Company Commander and two other soldiers, he went forward in the safe lane and marked the spot and direction where the moaning was coming from with a small sapling.  Once the sun came up, Farnan and a buddy went forward with a stretcher to find the wounded soldier.  Farnan walked through the minefield first and his buddy followed in his footsteps.  They found the wounded soldier, who had both his legs shattered by a mine, and evacuated him on a stretcher.  Ben Farnan still wonders if the soldier survived his wounds.  To this day Ben wonders who that soldier was.  
        As the sun rose on
October 28, 1952, Captain Willis “Bud” Cronkhite was exhausted.  Both he and his men had not slept.  They were up all night preparing to launch a counter attack at first light.  His command, F (Fox) Company, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry had to first, hand over their portion of the MLR to the 3rd Recon Company, then form up for attack that morning.
        The night before Captain George Jackson’s, G (George) Company had fought a desperate battle to hang onto the high ground around Hill 391.  After receiving orders to withdraw, CPT Jackson led the remnants of his battered company in a fighting retreat.  Since they were completely surrounded and the Chinese had penetrated their position, they had to fight their way back to the MLR in the dark. 
Jackson is retired now and is convinced his company would have been completely wiped out that night if they had not been ordered to retreat.  During the heroic battle between 25 and 28 October 1952, the Outpost on Hill 391 of Iron Horse Mountain was renamed “Jackson Heights” in his honor, (see Watch on the Rhine Article of October 2001).
        Colonel Chester De Gavre appeared upset that G Company had been withdrawn from
Jackson Heights.  He fully expected the outpost to be held, no matter what the cost. Later, Captain Jackson, would be personally interviewed by the Regimental Commander himself.  When reading the interview in the historical records, I thought it read more like an interrogation.  There were many detailed questions about CPT Jackson’s defense of the isolated outpost.  As a result of the battle, policy changes were made.  The standing orders, which allowed local commanders to make decisions on when to withdraw an outpost, were eventually changed.  The new policy would only allow the Division Commander himself to authorize a retreat, a big example of micromanagement of tactical operations by higher headquarters that plagued leaders in the Korean War.

Captain Willis "Bud" Cronkhite

CPT Bud Cronkhite crossed the line of departure (LD) and launched his attack at 0645 hours,
28 October 1952.  Observing the attack from his Command Post was LTC Carlos Betances-Ramirez, Commander 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry.  The Regimental Commander, COL De Gavre arrived at the Command Post and also observed the attack.  Able Company was attached to 2nd Battalion under their operational control.  LTC Betances briefed the Regimental Commander about his plan of attack.  Betances stated "we had made counter attack plans days before...the plan consisted of Fox attacking...and Able to be prepared to pass through, reinforce, relief etc." MAJ Harry M. Elam, the new Operations Officer for 2nd Battalion, explained the Operations Order he issued as follows:
         “Fox (Company) in the lead, Able (Company) following Fox moving in columns of companies…the axis of attack up the “choggie path” toward Jackson Heights…Fox Company was assigned the mission objective “Able”, which geographically was a southern slope of Jackson Heights…Able Company , upon seizure of objective Able by Fox(Company) was to pass through Fox Company, seize objective Baker, which was the crest of the hill known as Jackson Heights or 391.  On order, Fox Company was to be withdrawn and Able Company was to continue to defend…”



Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Betances Ramirez

COL De Gavre immediately expressed his dislike of the plan. The Regimental Commander stated "since he (LTC Betances) had lost the hill the night before, he would occupy it with his own company (Fox Company) and release Company A as soon as the position was secure… Company A was to be under Operational Control only for the attack and then to revert to commanding officer 1st Battalion."  1st Battalion was then in regimental reserve.  LTC Betances was frustrated and surprised.  It was Army doctrine that the outpost was to be occupied by the Reserve Battalion.  He now had no command authority to control units under his operational control and the Regimental Commander was determining how Companies would be employed.  As a loyal soldier, LTC Betances followed his new changed orders, made them his own, and immediately tried to contact the Company Commanders and inform them of the new orders.  As sometimes happens in combat operations, once the units had moved out for their attacks, communications broke down between the attacking companies and their higher headquarters.   The Company Commanders could not be reached for some time.  
        CPT Bud Cronkhite personally led his company, waving his golf stick in the air and inspiring his men by setting the example and leading them.  He was followed closely by his artillery forward observer, 1LT Gerald Wilcomb, who had also spent a sleepless night preparing his Forward Observer team to accompany the unit.  CPT Cronkhite directed the positioning of his machine guns and sent his weapons platoon to provide fire support from his right flank.  The weapons platoon not only had machine guns, but had managed to borrow a Quad 50 machine gun.  The four 50 caliber machine guns raked the heights covering the advance.   At one point during the assault, LT Wilcomb observed CPT Cronkhite running forward and being fired at by a Chinese machine gun.  Fortunately, Bud was able to see the tracers approaching him and dive for cover.  The Chinese were firing their machine guns and throwing sticks of dynamite and satchel charges down on the attacking Fox Company soldiers.  A 57mm recoilless rifle team was able to score a direct hit on the enemy machine gun, knocking it out.  
        Finally, Fox Company seized their objective, the “first knoll” of
Jackson Heights.  The men deployed into position to defend their objective. Casualties were light.  Only one of Cronkhite’s Platoon Sergeants was killed and three soldiers were wounded.  It was 0955.  The Chinese began to shell the position.
        Things were not as simple for Able Company, which followed.  1LT John Porterfield, was the Company Commander.  The Chinese were surprised by Fox Company rapid attack, but as Able Company moved forward behind Fox the enemy was already alerted.  Able Company attracted plenty of attention.  The last platoon in the company column, the Weapons Platoon lead by the Company Executive Officer, 1LT Juan Guzman, was pinned down in the valley short of
Jackson Heights.  1LT Porterfield managed to continue his attack with his remaining rifle platoons and joined CPT Cronkhite’s Fox Company at about 1010 hours.
        The Chinese were shelling
Jackson Heights with artillery, 120mm mortar, and direct fire 76mm cannon.  The soldiers of the two companies were now pinned down on the position under complete observation by the enemy.  Since Jackson Heights was solid granite rock, the troops had to take cover and find fighting positions the best they could behind a rock or in a shallow depression.  The few bunkers that had existed before had all been destroyed by the previous night’s battle.  Once the Chinese had seized the position the night before, they finished off whatever bunkers they encountered with satchel charges.   There were bodies and parts of bodies everywhere from the previous battles for the disputed outpost.  Dead Chinese, South Koreans, Puerto Ricans, and Continentals littered the area.  The smell was nauseating.  1LT Wilcomb jumped into a position, which CPT Cronkhite pointed out to him.  He remembered finding a dead Puerto Rican Sergeant.  He quickly gave up the position and looked for another.

First Lieutenant John D. Porterfield

1LT Porterfield moved forward to make his leaders reconnaissance and personally take a look at his objective, the second knoll and crest of Jackson Heights, objective “Baker”. The Chinese had machine guns firing at anyone who exposed themselves over the crest. Objective Baker was heavily defended.  The only avenue of approach, the foot path up the heights, was well covered by enemy machine gun fire. There was no cover or concealment.  1LT Porterfield had to figure out how to continue his attack across the open terrain the enemy was sweeping with fire.  The only course of action left to him was a direct frontal attack.  Porterfield moved to Cronkhite’s position and asked if Bud could help him evacuate all his wounded and the many additional wounded he anticipated he would suffer in his continued attack.  Cronkhite agreed.  Since Fox Company was to return to the MLR anyway, he had no problem helping Able Company with his wounded.  This he knew would conserve Porterfield’s manpower for the main assault on his objective.
        While the two Company Commanders were together a wire telephone land line was finally hooked up and CPT Cronkhite received his first phone call directly from Battalion Headquarters.  It was early in the afternoon.  The Battalion Commander, LTC Betances was on the telephone.  Orders were changed.  Able Company was to return and Fox Company was to stay and defend Jackson Heights.   Bud was totally surprised!  
        About that time 1LT Wilcomb walked over to the Able Company Forward Observer, LT Glasgow, and gave him his cigarettes and telephone, which he thought, would be useful while Able Company was staying to defend Jackson Heights.  Then he received word of the changed orders.  Fox Company would be staying. 1LT Wilcomb took back the items he had just given Glasgow.  He thought about what a screwed up situation he was in.  Another SNAFU.
        Able Company Officers were grouped close together.  Wilcomb walked away from the group of officers to make a communications check with his Battalion on his radio, since he now had to remain on Jackson Heights.
        There was a loud, ear piercing blast, which pushed Wilcomb down on the radio.  When he regained his senses and turned around to see what had happened he saw that a shell had made a direct hit on the group of officers he had just been with.  They were all dead, 1LT Porterfield, LT Glasgow, LT White from Able Company and LT Gibbs from Fox.   All the Able Company officers on Jackson Heights were killed.  
        Corporal Nick Santiago was serving as 1LT Porterfield’s Radio Operator at the time and was in a covered position nearby.  He witnessed the shell hit 1LT Porterfield.  He still cannot get the image of what he saw out of his mind.  Till this day Corporal Santiago cannot understand why he survived and his beloved Company Commander did not.  
        Word spread quickly among the men, “the Company Commander and all the officers were dead!”
        A medic assigned to Fox Company, 3rd Platoon still remembers clearly what happened on Jackson Heights.  He was up most of the night before treating the wounded from G Company, who had retreated from Jackson Heights that night.  He remembered that they had been told, as they were preparing for the attack, that Fox Company would not be staying on Jackson Heights, another company was coming up to relieve them.  As his platoon made it up to the outpost with Fox Company, he saw Able Company come up and join them.  He saw LT Gibbs killed.  His platoon then began to withdraw.  He thought it was perfectly OK.  After all, Able Company was supposed to relieve them anyway.
        1LT Wilcomb eventually began to notice that in small groups or singly, wounded soldiers and soldiers “helping them” were leaving the position.   One of the soldiers offered him the magazine from his carbine as he left.  As Wilcomb looked into the valley he saw soldiers “stung out in the valley below heading south”.  They were headed back to the MLR.
        It was difficult if not impossible to see all of the defensive positions from one spot on Jackson Heights.  From what CPT Cronkhite could see, some of his soldiers were helping evacuate the A Company wounded along with his own wounded.  This was according to the orders he had issued to assist the wounded.  He shouted to a Lieutenant he saw down in the valley to come on up with his platoon.  The unknown Lieutenant refused and yelled back to him that Cronkhite should, “Come down, there is no one left, come down.”   Perhaps that Lieutenant was 1LT Juan Guzman, the only surviving officer of Able Company?  Cronkhite could not tell because he was too far away.
        1LT Guzman had been in Korea only eight days and this was his first day of combat.  He had managed to move his platoon as far as the base of Jackson Heights but could not or would not move further forward.  One of the Able Company soldiers retreating from Jackson Heights told 1LT Guzman that the Company Commander and all the Able Company officers were dead. 1LT Guzman claimed that his platoon had been pinned down ever since Able Company had begun its attack.  Upon hearing this news, Guzman chose to withdraw his platoon to a bunker on Hill 270, also known as Outpost Tom, approximately halfway back to the MLR.  After that, 1LT Guzman and his men took no active part in the battle.   Although he was the only officer still alive in Able Company and was the Acting Company Commander, he refused orders to move forward with his remaining platoon.  Able Company had not completed its mission.  Objective Baker had not been taken.  1LT Guzman refused orders to continue the attack to Objective Baker and did nothing to rally the retreating soldiers of Able Company.  For this he would be court-martialed.
        CPT Bud Cronkhite and his men continued to endure the unrelenting shelling while staying behind available cover on Jackson Heights.  Bud had lost communications again with Battalion since his radio was unserviceable and his telephone lines had been cut by the enemy shelling.  At approximately 1700 hours CPT Cronkhite checked the status of his company. It was then that he became aware that all his Enlisted Men were gone.  All that was left were his officers.  Soon it would be dark.  He then gathered together his officers, his Platoon Leaders, LTs Doan, Barker, Atterbery, and his Forward Observer, 1LT Wilcomb.  He gave them a direct order to withdraw back to the MLR.   One of the Lieutenants said, “You don’t have to order me to go back to the line.  I’ve been ready to leave this place for hours!”  CPT Cronkhite already realized his predicament and explained that he was ordering them back because, if there was a court-martial, none of them was abandoning their positions.  They were only following his orders.
         The officers began their retreat.  They slid down the steep slope of Jackson Heights to the valley below.  There they met a South Korean supply party loaded down with the supplies they would need to defend the position.  CPT Cronkhite ordered four of them to carry back a stretcher with the body of his severely wounded Lieutenant.  The rest the South Korean’s he “shooed” away back to the MLR.  
        Along the chogie path during their retreat back to the MLR, Cronkhite and his officers found they were being “escorted” by Chinese fire.  They had to run, then dive for cover along the way to avoid the shells.  1LT Wilcomb was sure a 76mm gun was firing on them.  It was a wild trip back to friendly lines.  Along the way Wilcomb sprained both his ankles, but fear gave him the will power to make it back despite his injuries.
        Back on the main line COL De Gavre was in the 2nd Battalion Command Post along with LTC Carlos Betances-Ramirez.  When the news arrived that a large group of men had returned to the MLR, Betances ran forward to see the situation for himself.  He talked to the Enlisted Men, who had abandoned Jackson Heights and spoke to them first in English.  When that failed he switched and spoke to them in fluent Spanish.  He ordered them to return back to the position, rejoin their officers, and do their duty.   He explained that the glory and pride of Puerto Rico and the Regiment depended on them.  Only a hand full gathered around one of the Sergeants to return.  LTC Betances also warned them of the penalty should they refuse his order.  One of the soldiers told him, “Sir.  If we stay here we may receive the death penalty in a court-martial.  If we go back there we will all die for sure, sooner or later a shell will get you.  I will take my chances back here.”
        LTC Betances was in the process of arresting the insubordinate soldiers and taking down their names, when he saw CPT Cronkhite and his officer’s return.  It was a relief to him that at least his officers had all made it back alive.  Some of the Enlisted Men had claimed that all the officers on Jackson Heights were dead.  COL De Gavre then arrived on the scene asking questions about what was going on.  He then spoke to CPT Cronkhite.  They climbed into his jeep and drove off to Division Headquarters.  
        CPT Bud Cronkhite was dog-tired from lack of sleep and the ordeal he had just been through that day.  On the jeep trip to Division Headquarters COL De Gavre talked to Cronkhite.  The Regimental Commander told him point blank that he had a decision to make, whether to court-martial him or give him a medal.  Someone had to pay for the “screw up” at Jackson Heights.  Apparently COL De Gavre did not think he was responsible in any way despite his own micromanagement of operations.  Two companies from two different battalions in his regiment had failed to accomplish their mission.  He was searching for a scapegoat, someone to blame for the failure.  Cronkhite was numb, and really didn’t know what to think or feel.  Once they arrived at the Division Command Post, a meeting was held between COL De Gavre the 3rd Division Commanding General, and the Deputy Commanding General.
The Aftermath

    For his heroism on
October 28, 1952, CPT Cronkhite was awarded the Silver Star.  1LT Porterfield posthumously received the Bronze Star with V devise and was promoted to Captain.
        Despite the fact that he had done his duty and taken all possible actions a Battalion Commander could do under the circumstances he faced that day, on
30 October 1952,  LTC Carlos Betances-Ramirez was formally relieved of his command.  MAJ Elam, the 2nd Battalion Operations Officer who had issued the order of attack, was given command of 2nd Battalion.  A few days later the Continental Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, which commanded Able Company, was promoted.  
         During the period following the battle of Jackson Heights, Ninety-two Puerto Rican soldiers of the 65th Infantry were court-martialed including the only officer court-martialed, 1LT Juan Guzman.  These were the largest mass court-martials of the entire Korean War.  
        By March 1953 the 65th Infantry Regiment was fully integrated and ceased being “the Puerto Rican Regiment”.  By then the 65th was an infantry regiment just like all the other infantry regiments in
KoreaIt’s Puerto Rican soldiers were integrated into all the units in 8th Army and the percentage of Puerto Rican personnel remaining in the 65th dropped to only about 5%.


        The word “transformation” is used today to explain the changes in the
U.S. Army to prepare for the future.  In 1952 the United States and the Army were still in the process of an important transformation.  It was a transformation in the way we thought about and treated our fellow man.  Unfortunately this transformation was extremely difficult, many mistakes were made, careers destroyed, and lives lost.  
        The world in the 1950’s was very different than it is today in race relations area.  As a child I have strong memories of what personally happened to me and my family.  The only way to write is to tell the truth the way I see it.  It seems ironic that it took so long in our country for people to recognize that we are all created equal.  We proudly announced in its own Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”  
        The proud soldiers of the 65th Infantry from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, upon leaving their Islands to join the Army in Korea, were already young adults.  They were in for a rude awakening on their ocean voyage to
Korea.  Most had never left their tropical islands.  The troops of the 65th immediately learned that they were considered “inferior” by many Continental soldiers and officers.  For the first time in their lives these men experienced the cruel unforgiving hatred of racism.  They were stressed by the change in climate, different food, and different culture.  The Puerto Rican soldiers had the additional problem of having to learn a foreign language.  They were all Americans when it came to fighting and possibly dying for their country, but were not treated with respect and dignity by their fellow US citizens.
        The Pentagon brass had considered the 65th Infantry a “Rum and Coca-Cola outfit”.  Some Officers, including Generals in the Army chain of command, thought that the regiment was “colored”, therefore; unreliable.  This was despite the fact that many of the Puerto Rican troops were White.  The Puerto Ricans did not discriminate against their countrymen who were different colors.  One enlightened Continental Officer told me that he had never seen such abuse of troops in his entire military career as what he saw while serving in the regiment in 1952.
          There is no doubt that bigotry and discrimination played a part in what eventually happened to the 65th Infantry.  In a staff study prepared by a 3rd Division staff officer, shortly after the battle of Jackson Heights, great care was taken to explain that all Continental Officers in the 65th were outstanding, (and absolve them of any blame in the performance of the regiment).  This statement was clearly intended to protect the Continental Officers and blame the Puerto Rican soldiers themselves for the results of the battle.
        The new Commander of the 3rd Division, Major General George W. Smythe, stated to his Operations Officer that he wanted all the Puerto Ricans out of his Division so it would look like any other Division in
Korea.  Rather than correcting the severe Non Commissioned Officer shortages and leadership problems of the 65th the 3rd Division Commander seized on the combat failures of the regiment at Outpost Kelly and Jackson Heights to effectively remove the Puerto Ricans out of his Division.  The regiment was completely integrated after the mass court-martial of over 92 of its soldiers.  The Division Commander accomplished his objective.
        The attempts by the Continental leadership in the 65th Infantry Regiment to instill a punishing discipline of the soldiers after the battle for Outpost Kelly (September 1952) was poorly conceived and executed.  It backfired.  The order issued by the new Regimental Commander,
COL De Gavre, for all soldiers to shave their mustaches until they could prove they were “real men”, was considered an insult by the Puerto Rican soldiers.  The deliberate change in rations from the accustomed Puerto Rican “rice and beans” to Continental “hot dogs and potatoes” was interpreted as another demeaning slap in the face by these Hispanic soldiers.  Troops were heard to say the new Regimental Commander did not understand Puerto Ricans.  The order to remove the regimental motto, “Borinqueneers” from their vehicles was yet another demeaning insult.  Troop morale plummeted and there was a severe loss of confidence and respect for their leaders.  
        Additional evidence of discrimination is that despite the failures the regiment experienced on
Jackson Heights in 1952 not one Continental officer was punished in the 65th.  Everyone who was relieved or court-martialed was Puerto Rican, in spite of the fact that most of the officers and commanders of the units of the 65th were Continental Americans.
        The Puerto Rican draftees of 1952 were severely punished by an uncaring Continental chain of command intent on making an example out of them to cover for their own leadership mistakes and failures.  This is the same chain of command that ignored similar incidents during several other “Bug Out” incidents by Continental units during the same time period of the war.  There was a double standard in which the soldiers of the 65th were punished but soldiers from other Continental Regiments were forgiven.  
        First line leadership was very scarce in the 65th Infantry.  The soldiers of the 65th Infantry at the time of the battle of
Jackson Heights had very few Sergeants, Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) to provide first line supervision.  Most of the squad leaders were fellow draftee soldiers who had just arrived in Korea.  So Privates were being lead into combat by fellow Privates who had been recently promoted to Private First Class and given the responsibility of Squad leader.  In many cases Platoons only had a Corporal as the Platoon Sergeant.  Leadership was in short supply and if the officers became casualties the soldiers would quickly become confused and not know what to do.  This is exactly what happened at Jackson Heights with A Company.
        The NCO leadership problem could have been resolved by the assignment of bilingual Puerto Rican NCO’s who were being shipped to Korea specifically to serve in the 65th, however; the Army in Korea chose to divert these critical leaders to other units in Korea, depriving the 65th of the sergeants it so desperately needed.  So in 1952 the Army in
Korea was warehousing its Spanish speaking Enlisted Men in one unit and diverting Puerto Rican Sergeants off to other units.  The 65th was being set up for eventual disaster.  How can a unit be expected to perform its mission without Sergeants?  The results of this policy, is what eventually happened at Jackson Heights.
        Some have blamed all the Regiments problems on the “language barrier”.  The language barrier had always been present in the 65th ever since the unit was created in 1899.   It had been overcome by well trained and experienced Sergeants in the Regiment.  This was proven from the day the 65th arrived in Korea in September 1950 through 1951, when the 65th distinguished itself in numerous battles from the Pusan perimeter, fighting in North Korea with XX Corps and constant combat with its sister regiments in the 3rd Division fighting its way back north from the Han River to the Iron Triangle.  
        Training was another factor that has to be looked at when determining what happened.   By September 1952 the 65th Infantry was operating with at least 1/3 of its soldiers being brand new green replacements.  Most of those soldiers only had basic training and what little unit training their commanders could give them during breaks in combat.  Due to the unique language problems of the Puerto Rican soldier, additional training was needed.
        Recently an Army historian stated that the Company Commanders were confused on
Jackson Heights.  My investigation has revealed that the Company Commander knew exactly what was expected of them.  One of them died trying to follow the orders he had received.  The last minute change issued by the Regimental Commander caused a change in orders once the units reached Objective Able, but the Company Commanders understood their new orders and did their best to accomplish their mission.  
         In summary, the racial attitudes of the 1950’s, Army policies in Korea, senior leadership failures from the Regimental Commander and higher, shortage of NCO’s, a self inflicted language barrier, and insufficient training destroyed the morale and fighting ability of a once proud and distinguished regiment which had gallantly served and proven itself for two years in the war.  
        Perhaps Brigadier General Thomas E. Phillips said it best when he wrote a letter to the
St. Louis Post Dispatch on 27 January 1953 and stated, “The Army has failed to recognize the peculiar problems of organizing and commanding men who are basically as foreign as the Spanish or the French.” BG Phillips came close to describing the problem, but too late to save a unique regiment of American Soldiers.
        American society and the
U.S. Army have both made enormous improvements and overcome most of the despicable behavior of 50 years ago.  Treating your soldiers with respect is a part of leadership that is stressed in the leadership training of today.  As one of the Continental Officers of the 65th told me, “It is a poor carpenter who blames his tools”.  
        Today the 65th Infantry continues to serve as an element of the
Puerto Rico National Guard.  Yes, the 65th Infantry has endured and is again, the Puerto Rican Regiment!  Some of its soldiers have been mobilized in the war against terror and cherish the regimental motto, “Honor and Fidelity”.  

Current Events

        In September 2000, then Secretary of the Army, Louis Caldera made a speech at
Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the Veterans of the 65th Infantry.  I was there.  In part of his speech he stated:
        “But even as the 65th struggled against deadly enemies in the field, they were fighting a rearguard action against a more insidious adversary - the cumulative effects of ill-conceived military policies, leadership shortcomings, and especially racial and organizational prejudices, all exacerbated by America's unpreparedness for war and the growing pains of an Army forced by law and circumstances to carry out racial integration. Together these factors would take their inevitable toll on the 65th, leaving scars that have yet to heal for so many of the regiment's proud and courageous soldiers.”
        I observed veterans in the crowd crying when they heard this confession from the Secretary of the Army!  While other nations battle for centuries with tribal and racial hate and prejudice, only in
America can such a change occur in the hearts of our citizens so quickly.
        In 2001 the
Center of Military History published a historical review which exonerated LTC Carlos Betances-Ramirez, the 2nd Battalion Commander of the 65th Infantry who was relieved shortly after the battle of Jackson Heights.  Shortly afterward in October 2001, while seriously ill in the hospital, LTC Betances-Ramirez was presented the Bronze Star he had earned  49 years previously, thanks to the untiring efforts of the son of his  Fox Company Commander, Willis Cronkhite, Jr.  LTC Betances died a few days later on 28 October 2001.  Ironically it was 49 years after that fateful day in 1952.  
        In January 2002 the Board for Correction of Military Records formally published its finding that LTC Carlos Betances-Ramirez had been treated in an “inequitable” manner.  After 49 years, the Army officially admitted that they had treated him unfairly.  His files and the official history of the regiment were officially modified to reflect this fact in March 2002.
        Presently two fellow researchers and I have written to the President of the
United States and requested that the 92 Puerto Rican soldiers, who had been court-martialed, be officially exonerated.  We also requested that the 65th Infantry Historical Review, prepared by the Center of Military History, be formally released to the public.  We are still waiting for a response.


        The above story was prepared based on copies of historical reports at the National Archives, court-martial documents, personal accounts, letters from the period given to the author, books on the Korean War, by both Continental and Puerto Rican authors, and personal interviews with the Korean War veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment. I have deliberately removed the names of some of the Veterans to protect their privacy. I am solely responsible for the content of this story.


author, Lieutenant Colonel Baltazar (Bart) Soto, is a 1976 graduate of the ROTC and the
Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. He is a U.S. Army Reserve Officer and graduate of the Command and General Staff College.

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