Hispanic-Americans’ Contributions to U.S. Wars

The U.S. government didn’t begin tracking separate statistics on Hispanic servicemembers until the 1970s. However, history indicates that — even as far back as when the colonies were fighting for independence from Great Britain — Hispanic servicemembers have played an integral part in U.S. military efforts.  

Revolutionary War (1775-83)


Jordi Farragut Mesquida (aka George Farragut), a Minorcan-born American naval officer, fights the British in the Siege of Charleston, S.C.  


Photo credit: James Grant Wilson/ Public domain

Civil War (1861-65)


David Glasgow Farragut, son of George Farragut, famously exclaims, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Ala. He went on to become the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the U.S. Navy. 

Farragut on Hartford  
Photo credit: Henry Alexander Ogden/ Public domain

Spanish-American War (1898)


Several thousand Hispanic volunteers fight with the U.S. Army; Capt. Maximiliano Luna serves in the first U.S. volunteer cavalry, also known as the Rough Riders, with Col. Theodore Roosevelt.

Rough Riders  
Photo credit: William Dinwiddie/ Public domain

World War I (1917-18)


Then-Navy Lt. Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, engages with an enemy submarine and is awarded the Navy Cross.  

F Riekholf
Photo credit: USN

World War II (1941-45)


Lt. j.g. Maria Rodriguez Denton becomes the first female officer of Puerto Rican descent in the U.S. Navy as a member of the WAVES.  

Photo credit: USN


Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Tezanos, USCG, helps rescue nearly 42 people during a fire at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in May; he is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal.   

Joseph Tezanos
Photo credit: USCG

Korean War (1950-53)


USS Noble, under Puerto Rican-born Navy Adm. Horacio Rivero Jr.’s command, steams to Korea in August to participate in the September Inchon amphibious assault.   

ADM Horacio
Photo credit: USN


The 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Hispanic U.S. Army unit nicknamed “The Borinqueneers,” fights as a segregated unit in some of the bloodiest battles of the war.  

Photo credit: U.S. Army

Vietnam War (1955-75)


Lt. Cmdr. Everett Alvarez Jr., USN, endures one of the longest periods as a POW when his plane is shot down over North Vietnam Aug. 5. He was held for eight years and seven months.  

LCDR Alvarez
Photo credit: USN

Gulf War (1990-91)


On Jan. 22, Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr., a Marine Corps aviator, becomes the first Hispanic servicemember to be killed in Operation Desert Shield.  

Manuel Rivera
Photo credit: USMC

Global War Against Terrorism/Overseas Contingency Operations (2001-present)


During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, USMC, becomes the first Marine Corps general ever to be assigned as a commander of naval ships.

US Navy Hispanic Heroes
Photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jo A. Wilbourn Sims, USN

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  1. william.campenni@verizon.net william.campenni@verizon.net on 27 Sep 2017 at 3:28 PM

    Enough!!!! When do we see MOAA talk about Italian Americans' contributions to US wars? Or Irish Americans, or Jewish Americans, or Lithuanian Americans, or Polish Americans, or Indian Americans (both kinds), or Japanese, Croatian, Aleut, Korean, Philippine, German, or Portuguese Americans? This nonsense has got to stop! This Balkanization of what used to be the UNITED States is tearing apart the fabric of our nation, our culture, and has no good outcome. The Americans (no hyphens) who fought and died for this nation did so as Americans, diverse in their ancestry, but united in what American meant to them - AS AMERICANS! MOAA needs to get out of the pandering business and represent its AMERICAN members. The name of this organization is the Military Officers Association of AMERICA - there are no hyphens there. Stop the nonsense.

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    • bill.stull@live.com bill.stull@live.com on 08 Nov 2017 at 9:18 PM

      They forgot about the contribution they made to the Confederates during the civil war

      Website: msn.com

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    • gilmorales3@gmail.com gilmorales3@gmail.com on 27 Sep 2017 at 10:45 PM

      I would love to see those accomplishments. I’m absolutely certain there are plenty. Please take the lead and post some of your favorites for your brothers and sisters in arms to read.

      Add Reply