US Army Celebrates 237th Birthday: A Look at Latino Contributions

Happy 237th Birthday, U.S. Army! Today, we honor veterans, the fallen, and those who serve.

On June 14, 1775, the Continental Army, the forerunner of the United States Army, was created.

In the 237 years since, Latinos in the United States have increasingly become a part of the history and fabric of the strongest military the world has ever known.

The history of Latinos in the Army spans from the War of 1812, when Latinos played their first major role in what some term "America's second war of independence,"  to the most recent Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, 56,707 Latinos are enlisted in the U.S. Army - that's 12 percent of the force. In 1971, that number was three percent. There are also 4,686 Latino officers in the Army, making up 6 percent of the total force. That is five times more than in 1971.

Below are some notable Latino achievements documented by the U.S. Army.

Medal of Honor Winners

More than 40 Latinos have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration.

The latest Latino recipient of the MoH was Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry (Army) for his heroism during a battle in Afghanistan.

WAR OF 1812

Latinos played a major role in securing victory for the United States during the War of 1812 in nearly every battle. In the most famous battle of the war, Gen. Andrew Jackson's defense of New Orleans, Latinos from Louisiana and surrounding areas helped stave off a massive British invasion and led the United States to victory in what some term "America's second war of independence."

Civil War

The best-known Latino during the war was Adm. David Farragut, who commanded Union naval forces during the battle at Mobile Bay, Ala. Incidentally, Farragut's father, Jorge, assisted the U.S. Army during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Lt. Col. Federico Fernández Cavada served honorably in the Union Army and was captured during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Joseph H. DeCastro became the first Latino to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Pickett's Charge on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg - 7/3/1863 (he was awarded the medal on 12/1/1864.


Some 200,000 Latinos were mobilized for World War I. Many served with great distinction, including Nicholas Lucero, who was awarded France's medal for bravery in combat, the Croix de Guerre . He single-handedly destroyed two German machine gun nests and engaged the enemy for three hours.


About half a million Latinos served during World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur called the Arizona National Guard's 158th Infantry Regiment "Bushmasters," "One of the greatest fighting combat teams ever deployed for battle." The regiment was comprised of many Latino Soldiers.

KOREAN WAR (1950-1953)
More than 150,000 Latinos served with distinction.

VIETNAM WAR (1959-1973)  
Approximately 80,000 Latinos served with distinction in Vietnam, including Corporal Rodolpho P. Hernandez, who posthumously received the MoH for charging the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet, killing six before being mortally wounded, but allowed his comrades to counter attack and retake their position.

Persian Gulf War (1990-1991)
Approximately 20,000 Latino serviceman and women participated in Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-present)

About 53,000 Latino-origin people were on active duty at the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.

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