Military Wiki
Notable Puerto Rican military personnel
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Miguel Enríquez Antonio Valero de Bernabé Manuel Rojas Augusto Rodríguez
Juan Luis Rius Rivera Ángel Rivero Méndez Luis R. Esteves Teófilo Marxuach
Félix Rigau Carrera Fernando E. Rodríguez Vargas Frederick Lois RiefkohlCarmen Dumler
Pedro de ValleAgustín Ramos CaleroMarion Frederic Ramírez de Arellano Carmen Conteras-Bozak
José Antonio MuñizModesto Cartagena Fernando Luis GarcíaHoracio Rivero Jr.
Salvador Felices Jorge Otero Barreto Lizbeth RoblesMaría V. Martínez

Location of the island of Puerto Rico (green)

Throughout history Puerto Ricans, including people of Puerto Rican descent, have gained notability as members of the military. They have served and have fought for many countries, such as Canada, Cuba, England, Mexico, Spain, the United States and Venezuela.

Puerto Ricans have fought and defended their homeland against attacks from the Caribs and pirates. They fought against the invasions of foreign countries and defeated the British, French, and Dutch in doing so.[1] They fought alongside General Bernardo de Gálvez during the American Revolutionary War in the battles of Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola and St. Louis.[2][3] and in Europe against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Siege of Saragossa.[4]

Puerto Ricans such as Augusto Rodríguez, who resided in the United States in the mid-19th century, fought in the American Civil War. They also fought against the Spanish Empire. They fought for Mexico's independence and in the Latin American wars of independence alongside Simón Bolívar.[4] In Puerto Rico they revolted against Spanish rule and fought for Puerto Rico's independence in the Grito de Lares and in the Intentona de Yauco.[5] They also fought for Cuba's independence in the Ten Years' War alongside General Máximo Gómez[6] and as members of the Cuban Liberation Army alongside José Martí.[7] At the end of the 19th century, Puerto Ricans fought alongside their Spanish counterparts in the Spanish–American War against the United States in the Battle of San Juan Hill; in Cuba as members of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Puerto Rican Provisional Battalions;[8] and in Puerto Rico when the American military forces invaded the island, in what is known as the Puerto Rican Campaign.[9] They also fought against the "Tagalos" during the Philippine Revolution.[10]

Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. Upon the outbreak of World War I, the U.S. Congress approved the Jones–Shafroth Act, which gave Puerto Ricans a limited citizenship. As a result many Puerto Ricans, with the exception of women, became eligible for the military draft. However they were, and still are, not permitted to vote for the President of the United States, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.[11]

World War I[]

In World War I Puerto Ricans opened fire, in what is considered to be the first shot of that war on behalf of the United States, on an armed German supply ship trying to force its way out of San Juan Bay.[12][13] As members of the "Porto Rico Regiment" they were sent to Panama to guard and defend the Panama Canal Zone. In New York, many Puerto Ricans of African descent joined the 396th Infantry Regiment which was mostly composed of African Americans. As members of the 396th Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters," they were not allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts; however, they were permitted to fight as members of a French unit in French uniforms and were awarded the French Croix de guerre.[14] Before the United States entered World War II, Puerto Ricans were already fighting on European soil, not only in the Rif War,[15] but also on both sides of the Spanish Civil War.[16][17]

World War II[]

During World War II, Puerto Ricans served in every military branch of the United States. Puerto Ricans from the island served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, which participated in combat in the European Theater—in Germany and Central Europe. Those who resided in the mainland of the United States were assigned to regular units of the military and served either in the European or Pacific theaters of the war.

Puerto Rican officers trained the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. These men formed the famed 99th Fighter Squadron.[18]

World War II was the first conflict in which Puerto Rican women were allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.[19] Over 1,000 applications were received and 200 women served in the Puerto Rican WAC unit, Company 6, 2nd Battalion, 21st Regiment of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, a segregated Hispanic unit. Some were assigned to nursing, dental or clerical duties, however some women were assigned to units which were stationed in the European Theater of operations.[20] Puerto Ricans played important roles as commanders in the Armed Forces of the United States for the first time. Some Puerto Rican aviators served and fought for three different countries as members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces.[21]

Korean War and other conflicts[]

During the Korean War Puerto Ricans distinguished themselves as part of the 65th Infantry Regiment receiving many awards and recognitions, including ten Distinguished Service Crosses, however some men were unjustly accused and involved in the largest court martial of said war.[22] Puerto Ricans have continued to fight in every conflict in which the United States has been involved, among which are the Vietnam War in which four Puerto Ricans were awarded the Medal of Honor, Operation El Dorado Canyon, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Desert Storm and in the military campaigns of Afghanistan and Iraq, in what the United States and its allies refer to as the War on Terror.

Some Puerto Ricans became notable commanders. Some have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States; or the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando (Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand), the highest military decoration awarded by the Spanish government.[15] In World War II,[23] the Korean War[24] and the Vietnam War[25] Puerto Ricans were the most decorated Hispanic soldiers[23][25][26] and in some cases, such as Operation Restore Hope and Operation Desert Shield, they were the first to die in combat. The following list has been divided by the century in which the person became notable and the surnames are placed in alphabetical order.

16th century[]

  • Agüeybaná II, Cacique of "Borikén" (Puerto Rico)
    Agüeybaná II led the Taínos in the fight against Juan Ponce de León and the conquistadores in what is known as the "Taíno Rebellion of 1511."

17th century[]

File:Combate de San Juan 1625, Eugenio Caxés.jpg

Battle of San Juan, 1625

  • Juan de Amezquita, Captain, Puerto Rican Militia
    Defeated Captain Balduino Enrico (Boudewijn Hendricksz), who in 1625 was ordered by the Dutch] to capture Puerto Rico.[27]

18th century[]

  • Rafael Conti, Colonel, Spanish Army
    In 1790, Conti captured 11 enemy ships involved in smuggling stolen goods. In 1797, he helped defeat Sir Ralph Abercromby and defend Puerto Rico from a British invasion in his hometown, Aguadilla. In 1809, he organized a military expedition fight with the aim of returning Hispaniola, which now comprises the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, back to Spanish rule.[28]
  • Antonio de los Reyes Correa, Captain, Spanish Army
    Puerto Rican hero who defended the town Arecibo in 1702 from an invasion by defeating the British. He was awarded "La Medalla de Oro de la Real Efigie" (The Gold Medal of the Royal Image), by King Philip V of Spain and given the title of "Captain of Infantry." [29]
  • José and Francisco Díaz, Sergeants, Puerto Rican militia
    They were two cousins in the Toa Baja Militia who helped defeat Sir Ralph Abercromby and defended Puerto Rico from a British invasion in 1797.[30]
  • Miguel Henríquez, Captain, Spanish Navy
    In 1713, Henríquez defeated the British in Vieques and was awarded the La Medalla de Oro de la Real Efigie (The Gold Medal of the Royal Effigy).[31]

19th century[]

File:Spanish defenders of Guayama.jpg

Puerto Rican troops in the Spanish-American War

  • Ramón Acha Caamaño, Brigadier General, Spanish Army
    Caamaño defended the city of San Juan against the U.S. attack of Puerto Rico during the Spanish–American War. He was awarded the "Cruz de la Orden de Merito Naval 1ra clase" (The Cross of the Order of the Naval Merit 1st class) by the Spanish government for his role in the rescue of the cargo of the SS Antonio López a Spanish transoceanic steamer..[32]
  • Juan Alonso Zayas, 2nd Lieutenant, Spanish Army
    Alonso Zayas was the commander of the 2nd Expeditionary Battalion of the Spanish Army stationed in Baler which fought in the Siege of Baler in the Philippines.[33]
  • Francisco Gonzalo Marín, Lieutenant, Cuban Liberation Army
    Gonzalo Marin, considered by many as the designer of the Puerto Rican Flag, was a poet and journalist who fought alongside José Martí for Cuba's independence.[34]
  • Demetrio O'Daly, Field Marshal, Spanish Army
    O'Daly was the first Puerto Rican to reach the rank of Field Marshal in the Spanish Army. He was also the first Puerto Rican to be awarded the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando (Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand - Spain's version of the Medal of Honor). O'Daly was also elected as delegate to the Spanish Courts in representation of Puerto Rico.[35]
  • Luis Padial, Brigadier General, Spanish Army
    In 1863, Padial's battalion was deployed with the intention of "squashing" a pro-independence rebellion in the Dominican Republic in which he was wounded. Padial played an instrumental role in the abolishment of slavery in Puerto Rico.[36]
  • Ramón Power y Giralt, Captain, Spanish Navy
    Power y Giralt was a distinguished naval officer who during the years of 1808–1809 led the defense of the Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) against an invasion from Napoleon's French forces by enforcing a blockade in support of the Spanish ground troops.[37]
  • Ángel Rivero Méndez Captain, Spanish Army
    Rivero Méndez fired the first shot against the United States in the Spanish–American War in Puerto Rico. Rivero Mendez later invented the "Kola Champagne", a soft drink.
  • Juan Ríus Rivera, Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Liberation Army.
    Ríus Rivera fought in "El Grito de Lares" under the command of Mathias Brugman. He also fought in Cuba's Ten Years' War (1868–1878) against Spain under the command of General Máximo Gómez and became the General of the Cuban Liberation Army of the West upon the death of General Antonio Maceo Grajales.[38]
  • Augusto Rodríguez, Lieutenant, United States Union Army.
    Rodríguez was a member of the 15th Connecticut Regiment (a.k.a. Lyon Regiment) and served in the defenses of Washington, D.C. He led his men in the Battles of Fredericksburg and Wyse Fork in the American Civil War.[39]
  • Manuel Rojas, Commander in Chief of the Puerto Rican Liberation Army
    On September 28, 1868, Manuel Rojas led 800 men and women in a revolt against Spanish rule and took the town of Lares in what is known as the Grito de Lares.[40]
  • José Semidei Rodríguez, Brigadier General in the Cuban Liberation Army.
    Semidei Rodríguez fought in Cuba's War of Independence (1895–1898) and after Cuba gained its independence he continued to serve in that country as a diplomat.[41]
  • Antonio Valero de Bernabé, Brigadier General Latin American wars of independence
    Valero de Bernabé fought against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Siege of Saragossa. He joined the Mexican Revolutionary Army headed by Agustín de Iturbide and was named Chief of Staff. He successfully fought for Mexico's independence from Spain. Later he fought alongside Simón Bolívar and helped liberate South America from Spanish Colonial rule. Bernabé is known as the "Puerto Rican Liberator"[42]

20th century[]

First Company of native Puerto Ricans enlisted in the American Colonial Army, 1899.

Officers of the "Porto Rico Regiment" during World War I.

Members of the 65th Infantry Regiment training during World War II.

Puerto Rican Army nurses in World War II.

The 65th Infantry Regiments' bayonet charge against a Chinese division in the Korean War.

File:Puerto Rican National Guard, 60th Infantry Regiment..jpg

Puerto Rican National Guard Engineers in Korea, 60th Infantry Regiment.

  • Humberto Acosta-Rosario, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army
    Acosta-Rosario was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry (Mechanized); 25th Infantry Division, United States Army. He is currently the only Puerto Rican MIA whose body has never been recovered.[43]
  • Ricardo Aponte, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    Aponte is the former Director of the Innovation and Experimentation Directorate, United States Southern Command. He is the first Puerto Rican to hold said position.[44]
  • Félix Arenas Gaspar, Captain, Spanish Army
    Arenas Gapar was posthumously awarded the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando (Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand - Spain's version of the Medal of Honor) for his actions in the Rif War.[15]
  • Domingo Arroyo, Jr., Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
    Arroyo, who was Puerto Rican, was the first American serviceman to be killed in Operation Restore Hope during the Somalian Civil War.[45]
  • Joseph (José) B. Aviles, Sr., Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Coast Guard
    On September 28, 1925, Aviles became the first Hispanic Chief Petty Officer in the United States Coast Guard. During World War II he received a war-time promotion to Chief Warrant Officer, becoming the first Hispanic to reach that level as well.[46]
  • Rafael Celestino Benítez, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    Benítez was a highly decorated submarine commander who led the rescue effort of the crew members of the USS Cochino which was involved in the first American undersea spy mission of the Cold War.[47]
  • Carlos Betances Ramírez, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Betances Ramírez was the first Puerto Rican to command a battalion in the Korean War. In 1952, he assumed command of the 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment.[48]
  • José M. Cabanillas, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    In World War II Cabanillas was Executive Officer of the USS Texas (BB-35) and participated in the invasions of Africa and Normandy (D-Day).[49]
  • Richard Carmona M.D., Vice Admiral, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
    Carmona served as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States under President George W. Bush.[50]
  • Modesto Cartagena, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army
    Cartagena, the most decorated Hispanic soldier in history, distinguished himself in combat during the Korean War as a member of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry, and is being considered for the Medal of Honor.[24]
  • Carlos Fernando Chardón, Major General, Puerto Rico National Guard
    Chardón was the Secretary of State of Puerto Rico from 1969 to 1973 and the Puerto Rico Adjutant General from 1973 to 1975.
  • Carmen Contreras-Bozak, Tech4, U.S. Women's Army Corps
    Contreras-Bozak was the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. Women's Army Corps. She served as an interpreter and in numerous administrative positions during World War II.[51]
  • Virgilio N. Cordero, Jr., Brigadier General, U.S. Army - Cordero was a Battalion Commander of the 31st Infatry Regiment who documented his experiences as a prisoner of war and his participation in the infamous Bataan Death March of World War II.[52]
  • Juan César Cordero Dávila, Major General, U.S. Army
    Cordero Dávila was the commanding officer of the 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War, thus one of the highest ranking ethnic officers in the Army.[53]
  • Encarnacion Correa, Sergeant, U.S. Army
    Correa fired the first warning shots in World War I on behalf of the United States, against a ship flying the colors of the Central Powers. This occurred on March 21, 1915 when Correa manned a machine gun and, under the orders of then-Lieutenant Teófilo Marxuach, opened fire on the "Odenwald," an armed German supply ship trying to force its way out of San Juan Bay.[54]
  • Ruben A. Cubero, Brigadier General U.S. Air Force
    Cubero is a highly decorated member of the United States Air Force of Puerto Rican descent who, in 1991, became the first Hispanic graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, to be named Dean of the Faculty of said academy.[55]
  • Pedro del Valle, Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps
    Del Valle was the first Hispanic three-star Marine general. His military career included service in World War I, in Haiti and Nicaragua during the so-called Banana Wars of the 1920s, and in the seizure of Guadalcanal. He later served as Commanding General of the U.S. 1st Marine Division. During World War ll, Del Valle played an instrumental role in the defeat of the Japanese forces in Okinawa.[56]
  • Carmelo Delgado Delgado, Lieutenant, Abraham Lincoln International Brigade
    Delgado was the first Puerto Rican, and one of the first U. S. citizens, to fight and die in the Spanish Civil War against General Francisco Franco and the Spanish Nationalists.[17]
  • Alberto Díaz, Jr. Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    Díaz is the first Hispanic to become the Director of the San Diego Naval Medical District.[57]
  • Luis R. Esteves, Major General, U.S. Army
    In 1915, Esteves was the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the United States Military Academy. Esteves also organized the Puerto Rican National Guard.[58]
  • Salvador E. Felices, Major General, U.S. Air Force
    Felices was the first Puerto Rican general in the U.S. Air Force. During the Korean War in 1953, Felices flew in 19 combat missions over North Korea. In 1957, he participated in a historic project that was given to the Fifteenth Air Force by the Strategic Air Command headquarters. It was known as "Operation Power Flite," the first around the world non-stop flight by all-jet aircraft.[59]
  • Charles Roy Fonseca, Corporal, Special Air Service, British Army
    Fonseca fought in the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982, and was the only Puerto Rican POW in that conflict.[60]
  • Rose Franco, Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Marine Corps
    Franco was the first Hispanic woman Chief Warrant Officer in the Marine Corps. In 1965, Franco was named Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, Paul Henry Nitze by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.[61]
  • Edmund Ernest García, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    During World War II García was commander of the Destroyer USS Sloat (DE-245) and saw action in the invasions of Africa, Sicily, and France.[62]
  • Fernando Luis García, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
    García was the first Puerto Rican awarded the Medal of Honor. He was posthumously awarded the medal for his actions against enemy aggressor forces in the Korea War on September 5, 1952.[63]
  • Linda Garcia Cubero, Captain, U.S. Air Force
    In 1980, Garcia Cubero, who is of Mexican-American and Puerto Rican descent became the first Hispanic woman graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the first to graduate from an American Military Academy.[64]
  • Carmen García Rosado, Private First Class, U.S. Women's Army Corps
    García Rosado was among the first 200 Puerto Rican women to be recruited into the WAC's during World War II and the author of "LAS WACS-Participacion de la Mujer Boricua en la Segunda Guerra Mundial" (The WACs-The participation of the Puerto Rican women in the Second World War), which is the first book which documents the experiences of the first 200 Puerto Rican women to participate in said conflict as members of the armed forces of the United States.[65]
  • Mihiel "Mike" Gilormini, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    World War II hero, recipient of 5 Distinguished Flying Cross's. Gilormini, together with then Colonel Alberto A. Nido and Lieutenant Colonel Jose Antonio Muñiz founded the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. Gilormini had previously flown for the Royal Canadian Air Force(1941) and the Royal Air Force (1941–1942).[21]
  • Manuel Goded Llopis, General, Spanish Army
    Goded Llopis was a Puerto Rican in the Spanish Army who was one of the first generales to join General Francisco Franco, in the revolt against the Spanish Republican government (also known as Spanish loyalists) in what is known as the Spanish Civil War. Previously, Goded Llopis had distinguished himself in the Battle of Alhucemas of the Rif War.[16]
  • César Luis González, First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Force
    Gonzalez was the first Puerto Rican pilot in the United States Army Air Forces and the first Puerto Rican pilot to die in World War II.
  • Diego E. Hernández, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy
    Hernández was the first Hispanic to be named Vice Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command. He flew two combat tours in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and in 1980, took command of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVA/CV-67). The Kennedy is one of two non-nuclear aircraft carriers still on active duty with the United States Navy.[66]
  • Zak Hernández, Sergeant, U.S. Army
    Hernández was killed in Panama on the eve of President George H. W. Bush's visit. His accused murderer, Pedro Miguel González Pinzón, was acquitted and later elected President of Panamá's National Congress, an event which has generated protests from the governments of the United States and Puerto Rico.[67]
  • Haydee Javier Kimmich, Captain, U.S. Navy
    Kimmich was the highest ranking Hispanic female in the Navy. She was assigned as the Chief of Orthopedics at the Navy Medical Center in Bethesda and she reorganized Reservist Department of the medical center during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.[68]
  • Orlando Llenza, Major General, U.S. Air Force
    Llenza is the second Puerto Rican to reach the rank of Major General (two-star General) in the United States Air Force. He was the Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard.[69]
  • Carlos Lozada, Private First Class, U.S. Army
    Lozada was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 20, 1967, at Dak To in the Republic of Vietnam.[70]
  • Carmen Lozano Dumler, 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Women's Army Corps
    Dumler was one of the first Puerto Rican women Army officers. In 1944, she was sworn in as a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the 161st General Hospital in San Juan.[68]
  • Antonio Maldonado, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    In 1965, Maldonado became the youngest person to pilot a B-52 aircraft. His active participation in the Vietnam War included 183 air combat missions.[71]
  • Joseph (José) R. Martinez, Private First Class, U.S. Army
    Martinez destroyed a German Infantry unit and tank in Tuniz by providing heavy artillery fire, saving his platoon from being attacked in the process. He received the Distinguished Service Cross from General George S. Patton, becoming the first Puerto Rican recipient of said military decoration.[72]
  • Lester Martínez López, MD, MPH, Major General, U.S. Army
    Martínez López was the first Hispanic to head the Army Medical and Research Command.[73]
  • Gilberto José Marxuach, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Marxuach, the son of Teófilo Marxuach, is "The Father of the San Juan Civil Defense"[74]
  • Teófilo Marxuach, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
    Marxuach fired a hostile shot from a cannon located at the Santa Rosa battery of "El Morro" fort, in what is considered to be the first shot of World War I fired by the regular armed forces of the United States against any ship flying the colors of the Central Powers,[75] forcing the Odenwald to stop and to return to port where its supplies were confiscated.[12]
  • George E. Mayer, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    Mayer was the first Hispanic Commander of the Naval Safety Center. He led an international naval exercise known as Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2003 from his flagship, the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72). It was the first time in the 31 year history of BALTOPS that the exercise included combined ground troops from Russia, Poland, Denmark and the United States.[76]
  • Angel Mendez Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
    Mendez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was awarded the Navy Cross in Vietnam and is being considered for the Medal of Honor. He saved the life of his Lieutenant - Ronald D. Castille, who went on to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.[77]
  • Enrique Méndez, Jr., Major General, U.S. Army
    Méndez was the first Puerto Rican to assume the positions of Army Deputy Surgeon General, Commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.[78]
  • Virgil R. Miller, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Miller was the Regimental Commander of the 442d Regimental Combat Team (RCT), a unit which was composed of "Nisei" (second generation Americans of Japanese descent), during World War II. He led the 442nd in its rescue of the Lost Texas Battalion of the 36th Infantry Division, in the forests of the Vosges Mountains in northeastern France.[79]
  • José Antonio Muñiz, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force
    Muñiz together with then-Colonels Alberto A. Nido and Mihiel Gilormini founded the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. In 1963, the Air National Guard Base, at the San Juan International airport in Puerto Rico, was renamed "Muñiz Air National Guard Base" in his honor.[80]
  • William A. Navas, Jr., Major General, U.S. Army
    Navas is the first Puerto Rican named Assistant Secretary of the Navy. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Navas was nominated in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).[81]
  • Héctor Andrés Negroni, Colonel, U.S. Air Force
    Negroni was the first Puerto Rican graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. A Veteran of the Vietnam War, Negroni was awarded the Aeronautical Merit Cross, Spains highest Air Force peacetime award for his contributions to the successful implementation of the United States-Spain Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.[82]
  • Alberto A. Nido, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    Nido was a World War II hero who, together with then Colonel Mihiel Gilormini and Lieutenant Colonel Jose Antonio Muñiz, founded the Puerto Rico Air National Guard and served as its commander for many years. Nido served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force and in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.[83]
  • Ramón Núñez-Juárez, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
    Núñez-Juárez was listed as Missing in Action during the Korean War and posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, second highest medal after the Medal of Honor, that can be awarded by the Department of the Navy. He was the only Puerto Rican member of the United States Marine Corps whose remains have never been recovered and who was listed as Missing in Action during the Korean War.[84]
  • Jorge Otero Barreto, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army
    Otero Barreto with 38 decorations, which included 3 Silver Star Medals, 5 Bronze Star Medals with Valor, 4 Army Commendation Medals, 5 Purple Heart Medals and 5 Air Medals, has been called the most decorated U.S. soldier of the Vietnam War.[25]
  • Dr. Dolores Piñero, U.S. Army Medical Corps
    Piñero, who despite the fact that she was not an active member of the military, was the first Puerto Rican woman doctor to serve in the Army under contract during World War I. At first she was turned down, however after writing a letter to the Army Surgeon General in Washington, D.C. she was ordered her to report to Camp Las Casas in Santurce, Puerto Rico. On October 1918, She signed her contract with the Army.
  • José M. Portela, Brigadier General U.S. Air Force
    Portela served in the position of Assistant Adjutant General for Air while also serving as commander of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. In 1972, Portela became the youngest C-141 Starlifter aircraft commander and captain at age 22. Portela is also the only reservist ever to serve as director of mobility forces for Bosnia.[85]
  • Marion Frederic Ramírez de Arellano, Captain, U.S. Navy
    Ramírez de Arellano was the first Hispanic submarine commander. He was awarded two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for his actions against the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II.[86][87]
  • Antonio J. Ramos, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    Ramos was the first Hispanic to serve as commander, Air Force Security Assistance Center, Air Force Materiel Command, and dual-hatted as Assistant to the Commander for International Affairs, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command.[88]
  • Agustín Ramos Calero, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army
    With 22 military decorations Ramos Calero was the most decorated soldier in all of the United States during World War II.[23]
  • Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci, Major, U.S. Air Force
    Ribas-Dominicci was one of the pilots who participated in the Libyan air raid as member of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing. His F-111F was shot down in action over the disputed Gulf of Sidra off the Libyan coast. Ribas-Dominicci and his weapons systems officer, Capt. Paul Lorence, were the only U.S. casualties of Operation El Dorado Canyon.[89]
  • Frederick Lois Riefkohl, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
    Riefkohl was the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the United States Naval Academy and in World War I became the first Puerto Rican to be awarded the Navy Cross.[90]
  • Rudolph W. Riefkohl, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Riefkohl played an instrumental role in helping the people of Poland overcome the 1919 typhus epidemic.[91]
  • Félix Rigau Carrera, 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
    Rigau Carrera was the first Puerto Rican pilot and the first Hispanic fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. Rigau Carrera was also the first Puerto Rican parachutist and the first pilot to fly on air mail carrying duties in Puerto Rico.[80]
  • Manuel Rivera, Jr., Captain, U.S. Marine Corps
    Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was the first U.S. serviceman to die in Operation Desert Shield.[92]
  • Pedro N. Rivera, M.D., Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    In 1994, Rivera became the first Hispanic to be named medical commander in the Air Force. He was responsible for the provision of health care to more than 50,000 patients.[93]
  • Horacio Rivero, Admiral, U.S. Navy
    In 1964, Rivero became the first Puerto Rican and second Hispanic Admiral (four-star) of the U.S. Navy. Rivero participated in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and in 1962, Admiral Rivero was the commander of the American fleet sent by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis to set up a quarantine (blockade) of the Soviet ships in an effort to stop the Cold War from escalating into World War III.[94]
  • Pedro Rodríguez, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army
    Rodríguez was a member of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry. He earned two Silver Stars within a seven-day period during the Korean War..[95]
  • Antonio Rodríguez Balinas, Brigadier General, U.S. Army
    Rodríguez Balinas was the first commander of the Office of the First U.S. Army Deputy Command. During the Korean War he fought with Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment and was awarded the Silver Star Medal[96]
  • Maria Rodriguez Denton, Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy
    Rodriguez Denton was the first woman from Puerto Rico who became an officer in the United States Navy as member of the WAVES. It was Lt. Denton who forwarded the news (through channels) to President Harry S. Truman that the war had ended.[97]
  • Fernando E. Rodríguez Vargas, DDS, Major, U.S. Army
    Rodríguez Vargas was an odontologist (dentist), scientist and a Major in the U.S. Army who in 1921 discovered the bacteria which causes dental caries.[98][99]
  • Eurípides Rubio, Captain, U.S. Army
    Rubio was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Tay Ninh Province in the Republic of Vietnam on November 8, 1966.[100]
  • Jaime Sabater, Sr., Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
    Sabater commanded the 1st Battalion 9th Marines during the Bougainville amphibious operations in World War II.[101]
  • José L. Santiago, Sergeant Major, U.S. Marine Corps
    Santiago has the distinction of being the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines first Hispanic Sergeant Major and its first Sergeant Major since its reactivation on July 13, 2007.[102]
  • Héctor Santiago-Colón, Specialist 4, U.S. Army
    In 1968, Santiago-Colón was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam as member of Company B of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.[103]
  • Antulio Segarra, Colonel, U.S. Army
    In 1943, Segarra became the first Puerto Rican Regular Army officer to command a Regular Army Regiment when he assumed the command of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment which at the time was conducting security missions in the jungles of Panama.[104]
  • Frankie Segarra, Master Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
    Segarra is the first Puerto Rican to reach the grade of Master Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps within his MOS.[105]
  • Rafel Toro, Private, U.S. Marine Corps
    Toro was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his "extraordinary heroism in battle"[106] while fighting in Nicaragua during the second Nicaragua campaign in 1927.
  • Humbert Roque Versace, Captain, U.S. Army
    Versace, who is of Italian and Puerto Rican descent, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War in 2002. He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed in Southeast Asia while in captivity.[107]
  • Raúl G. Villaronga, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Villaronga was the first Puerto Rican to be elected as Mayor of a Texas city (Killeen).[108]

21st century[]


Puerto Rico National Guard - 2012

  • Iván Castro, Captain, U.S. Army
    Castro, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is one of three blind active-duty officers who serves in the US Army and the only blind officer serving in the United States Army Special Forces.[109]
  • Ramón Colón-López, Chief Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force
    On June 13, 2007, Colon-Lopez a pararescueman, was the first and only Hispanic among the first six airmen to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He is the Commandant of the Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer School[110]
  • Emilio Díaz Colón, Major General, Army National Guard PRNG
    Díaz-Colón is the second Superintendent of the Puerto Rican Police who once served as the Adjutant General of the Puerto Rican National Guard.[111][112]
  • Olga E. Custodio, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force
    Custodio made history when she became the first female Hispanic U.S. military pilot. She holds the distinction of being first Latina to complete U.S. Air Force military pilot training. After retiring from the military she became the first Latina to become a commercial airline captain.[113]
  • Hila Levy, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Air Force
    In 2007 Levy became the first Puerto Rican Rhodes scholar.[114]
  • María V. Martínez, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army
    Martínez is the first Puerto Rican female to reach the rank of Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army. She serves as Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director of the Army Diversity Office in the Pentagon, Washington D.C..[115]
  • Rafael O'Ferrall, Brigadier General, U. S. Army
    O'Ferrall is the first Hispanic and person of Puerto Rican descent to become the Deputy Commanding General for the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, Cuba while simultaneously serving as Assistant Adjutant General (Army) and Deputy Commanding General of the Joint Force Headquarters at San Juan, Puerto Rico.[116]
  • María Inés Ortiz, Captain, U.S. Army
    Ortiz, who was of Puerto Rican descent, was the first United States Army nurse to die in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom since the Vietnam War.[117]
  • Evelio Otero, Jr., Colonel. U.S. Air Force
    Otero led the establishment of the first ever U.S. Central Command Headquarters in Qatar. He founded the Polish and Colombian Joint Special Operations Commands while he was assigned to United States Special Operations Command.[118]
  • Hector E. Pagan, Brigadier General, U.S. Army
    Pagan is the first Hispanic of Puerto Rican descent to become Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.[119]
  • Lizbeth Robles, Specialist, U.S. Army
    In 2005, Robles was the first female soldier born in Puerto Rico to die in combat as an active soldier during Operation Iraqi Freedom.[120]
  • Maritza Sáenz Ryan, Colonel, U.S. Army
    Sáenz Ryan is the head of the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy. She is the first woman and first Hispanic (Puerto Rican and Spanish heritage) West Point graduate to serve as an academic department head. She also has the distinction of also being the most senior ranking Hispanic Judge Advocate.[121][122]
  • Marc H. Sasseville, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force
    On September 11, 2001, then - Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville {whose mother is Yita Joan Frontera Lluch from Yauco, Puerto Rico[123]) was the acting operations group commander under the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard. He was one of four fighter pilots given the mission of finding United Flight 93 and destroying it however they could, even it meant ramming the plane.[124][125]
  • Frances M. Vega, Specialist, U.S. Army
    On November 2, 2003, Vega became the first female soldier of Puerto Rican descent to die in a combat zone during Operation Iraqi Freedom.[126]
  • Maria Zumwalt, Colonel, U. S. Army
    Zumwalt, a native of Bayamon, was the commander of the 48th Chemical Brigade.[127]

Notable Puerto Ricans who served in the military[]

Notable Puerto Ricans who served in the military
Flag of Puerto Rico.svg

Gautier BenítezMislanPaoli
Albizu CamposRafael and Jesus HernándezNick Estavillo
Roberto Clemente AcabaSanchez
First row:
José Gautier Benítez • Angel Mislan
Antonio Paoli
Second row:
Pedro Albizu Campos • Rafael Hernández (left) w/brother Jesus
Nicholas Estavillo
Third row:
Roberto Clemente • Joseph M. Acaba
Joe Sánchez

The following are the names of notable Puerto Rican men and women or people of Puerto Rican descent who served in the military of Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, England, United States or of that of any other country and have gained fame through previous or subsequent endeavors, infamy, or successes:


  • Joseph M. Acaba, U.S. Marine Corps - Astronaut, scientist, educator
    First Puerto Rican astronaut
  • Johnny Albino, U.S. Army - bolero singer
  • Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, U.S. Army - Politician
    President and principal leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
  • Dr. Carlos Albizu Miranda, U.S. Army - Psychologist, educator
    First Hispanic Educator to have a North American University renamed in his honor and one of the first Hispanics to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology in the United States.


  • Ray Barretto, U.S. Army - Percussionist, jazz and salsa leader
  • Dr. Víctor Manuel Blanco, U.S. Army Air Force - Astronomer
    In 1959, Blanco discovered "Blanco 1," a galactic cluster.[128] Blanco was the second Director of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, which has the largest 4-m telescope in the Southern Hemisphere,[129] In 1995, the telescope was dedicated in his honor and named the "Víctor M. Blanco Telescope" and is also known as the "Blanco 4m"[130]
  • Dr. Frank Bonilla, U.S. Army - Academic of Puerto Rican descent
    Bonilla became a leading figure in Puerto Rican Studies.


  • Roberto Clemente, U.S. Marine Corps - Major League baseball player,
    First native Puerto Rican to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Francisco J. Collazo, U.S. Army - Businessman
    Founder of "COLSA Corporation", a first-rate provider of engineering and support services in Huntsville, Alabama.[131]


  • Dr. Carlos Del Castillo, U.S. Army - Scientist
    Recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.[132]


  • Sixto Escobar, U.S. Army - Boxer
    First Puerto Rican world champion and member of Boxing Hall of Fame.
  • Nicholas Estavillo, U.S. Marine Corps - Former Chief of Patrol, NYPD
    In 2002, Estavillo became the first Puerto Rican and the first Hispanic in the history of the NYPD to reach the three-star rank of Chief of Patrol.[133]
  • Noel Estrada, U.S. Army - Composer
    Composer of "En Mi Viejo San Juan."


  • Pedro Flores, U.S. Army - Composer
    One of Puerto Rico's best known composers of Ballads and Boleros.


  • Dr. Joxel García, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Physician
    García is a former four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He served as the thirteenth Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH).
  • José Gautier Benítez, Spanish Army - Poet
    Considered by many to be Puerto Rico's best poet of the Romantic Era.
  • Aníbal González Irizarry, U.S. Army - Journalist
    Former newscaster for "Telenoticias en accion."


  • Rafael Hernández, U.S. Army - Composer
    Composer of "Preciosa" and "Lamento Borincano"
  • Lorenzo Homar, U.S. Army - Visual artist
    Considered by many to be Puerto Rico's greatest graphic artist.


  • Dr. Jacob Lozada, U.S. Army - Management Consultant
    Nominated by President George W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs.


  • José "Aguila Blanca" (White Eagle) Maldonado Román, Cuban Liberation Army - Puerto Rican revolutionary
    His controversial exploits in Puerto Rico have contributed to making him part of Puerto Rican lore.
  • Hugo Margenat, U.S. Army - Poet
    Margenat was the founder of the political youth pro-independence organizations "Acción Juventud Independentista" and "Federación de Universitarios Pro Independencia"
  • Ángel Mislan, Spanish Army - Composer of Danzas
  • William Miranda Marín, Puerto Rico Army National Guard PRNG - Politician
    Miranda was the former mayor of Caguas, Puerto Rico from 1996 till 2010. He was also the Adjutant General (Mayor General) for the Puerto Rico National Guard from 1990 till 1992 and [134]


  • Antonio Paoli, Spanish Army - Tenor, opera singer
    First person in history to record an entire opera
  • Pedro Pietri, U.S. Army - Nuyorican poet and playwright
    Pietri co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Café.[135]


  • Sylvia Rexach, U.S. Women's Army Corps - Singer, composer
  • Marie Teresa Ríos, U.S. Women's Army Corps - Author
    Author of the novel "The Fifteenth Pelican," which was the basis for the popular 1960s television sitcom, The Flying Nun.
  • Tomás "Maso Rivera" Rivera Morales, U.S. Army - Composer
    Composed over 1,000 instrumental compositions for the cuatro.
  • Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez, U.S. Army - Professional golfer
    He is the first Puerto Rican to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.


  • Joe Sánchez, U.S. Army - Author and former New York City police officer
    Sánchez is a highly decorated former New York City police officer, and author whose books give an insight as to the corruption within the department.
  • singer, U.S. Army - Composer
    Singer of boleros
  • Miguel Ángel Suárez, U.S. Navy - Actor, playwright, stage director
    Acted in various films such as Stir Crazy and Under Suspicion.
  • Ray Suarez, U.S. Marine Corps - Politician
    Alderman of the 31st ward in Chicago.


  • Francisco Torralbo, Spanish Army - Politician
    Torralbo served as Spanish acting governor of Puerto Rico on two occasions, 1789 and 1792–1793, both ad interim.
  • Guillermo José Torres, U.S. Army - Journalist
    Television reporter and news anchorman
  • José "Chegui" Torres, U.S. Army - Boxer
    Light Heavyweight Championship and member of Boxing Hall of Fame.
  • Rafael Tufiño, U.S. Army - Painter and printmaker


  • Juan Emilio Viguié, U.S. Army - Pioneer movie producer who produced Romance Tropical, the first Puerto Rican film with sound.[136]


  • David Zayas, U.S. Air Force - Theatrical, film, and television actor
    He is most known for his roles as Angel Batista on Showtime's series Dexter and as Enrique Morales on the HBO prison drama Oz.

Gallery of notable Puerto Rican military personnel[]

<templatestyles src="Template:Gallery/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Note: The gallery is not limited to people who were born in Puerto Rico. People of Puerto Rican descent and or non-Puerto Ricans who served in the military and have made Puerto Rico their home may also be included.

See also[]


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