Puerto Ricans In World War II
Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent have participated as members of the United States Armed Forces in every conflict in which the United States has been involved since World War I. In World War II, Puerto Rican members of the U.S. armed forces guarded U.S. military installations in the Caribbean and participated in combat in the European and Pacific theatres.
Puerto Rico was annexed by the United States in accordance to the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, ratified on December 10, 1898, as consequence of the Spanish-American War. U.S. Citizenship was imposed upon Puerto Ricans as a result of the 1917 Jones-Shafroth Act (the Puerto Rican House of Delegates rejected US citizenship) and were expected to serve in the military. When an Imperial Japanese Navy carrier fleet launched an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Puerto Ricans were required to bear arms in defense of the United States. During World War II, it is estimated by the Department of Defense that 65,034 Puerto Ricans served in the U.S. military. Most of the soldiers from the island served in either the 65th Infantry Regiment or the Puerto Rico National Guard. As the induction of Puerto Ricans into the armed forces increased many were assigned to units in the Panama Canal Zone and the British West Indies to replace the continental troops serving in regular Army units. Those who resided in the mainland of the United States were assigned to regular units of the military. They were often subject to the racial discrimination that was widespread in the United States at the time.
Puerto Rican women who served had their options restricted to nursing or administrative positions. In World War II some of the island's men played active roles as commanders in the military. The military did not keep statistics with regard to the total number of Hispanics who served in the regular units of the Armed Forces, only of those who served in Puerto Rican units; therefore, it is impossible to determine the exact number of Puerto Ricans who served in World War II.
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