Men of the 65th: The Borinqueneers of the Korean War

Zest Bks. May 2023. 136p. Tr $37.32. ISBN 9781728449623; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781728479149.
Gr 7 Up–Aikens-Nuñez shines a light on “a forgotten story in a forgotten war” about the most decorated regiments in the history of the U.S. military. The Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment was first established in 1899. Until the Korean War, these soldiers could not hold combat roles due to racial prejudice. In 1950, they were called on to fight in the Korean War, when they were nicknamed the Borinqueneers. Aikens-Nuñez relates the extraordinary feats of the Puerto Rican soldiers with admiration and awe. She presents a well-researched account of how they endured segregation and neglect, but still fought, often without resources or reinforcements. After an especially disastrous massacre, with low morale and the disdain of their commanding officers, what remained of the 65th refused to fight, resulting in the largest court martial of the Korean War. Because of outside pressures, the 91 men were eventually granted clemency. In 2014, they were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal. The narrative is sometimes dry, but teens will be pulled in by the compelling stories of the soldiers’ courage as they fought for a country that didn’t always deserve it. The text is peppered with sidebars providing context for military terms, the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican culture. Quotes as chapter openers, archival photos, maps, pull quotes, and charts break up the prose. Back matter includes a time line, glossary, source notes, selected biography, further reading, and index.
VERDICT An excellent choice for those interested in military or Puerto Rican history; a great pick for U.S. history courses or research.

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