Tribute to Puerto Rican Soldiers
The United States Colored Troops Institute for Local History and Family Research at Hartwick College is undertaking a new initiative to assist the national effort to identify and honor Puerto Rican soldiers of the Korean War whose names do not appear on the reconstructed roster of the soldiers of the famed 65th Infantry Regiment. The roster is compiled by webmaster Danny Nieves of the 65th Infantry Honor Task Force. The unit, also known as the Borinqueneers, was honored on June 10 when President Barack Obama signed into law the bill that authorized the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the regiment.
Numerous names of soldiers are missing from the roster because their military records were destroyed by a fire. Online information provided by the National Archives indicates that 80 percent of the Army records that “documented the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912-1964 were destroyed by the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.”
From 1950-1952, 61,000 Puerto Rican soldiers served during the Korean War, with many serving in the segregated unit known as the Borinqueneers. The soldiers faced extreme military action, evidenced by them being awarded nine Distinguished Service Crosses, nearly 250 Silver Stars, more than 600 Bronze Stars and 2,700 Purple Hearts.
The first Puerto Rican soldier honored by the USCTI is Private Guillermo Bartolomey, the grand-uncle of Hartwick College alumna Dr. Roxanne Suarez ’03 of Frederick, MD. She and her father, New York State Judge Lucindo Hilda Suarez of the Bronx, researched their family connection to Bartolomey with the assistance of extended family members and Harry Bradshaw Matthews, Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs at Hartwick, and Founding President of the USCTI.
The Suarez-Bartolomey genealogy was documented from 1870 to 1940 in San German and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. In the 1940 Census, Guillermo and his sister Raquel Bartolomey Y Cordero were residing with their mother Maria T. Cordero Y Gonzalez. Guillermo’s son and daughter-in-law located the elder’s Certificate of Military Service that was a copy certified by the National Personnel Center in St. Louis, Missouri on May 14, 1974. The document indicated that the soldier’s term of service was from March 28, 1951 to April 10, 1953. The soldier’s complete registered name was Guillermo Bartolomey-Cordero, a surname inclusive of his maternal lineage. His sister, Raquel, was the mother of Judge Suarez. Pictures of Bartolomey in uniform also provide evidence of the soldier’s military service.
The findings about the Bartolomey-Suarez genealogy back to 1870, including Guillermo’s connection, resulted in the Suarez family being selected for the USCTI’s first American Society of Freedmen Descendants Gold Medal. The commemorative booklet, “A Tribute to the Borinqueneers,” may be downloaded here.