Men of the 65th
Men of the 65th
by Talia Aikens-Nunez
GENRE: YA Nonfiction
Honor and Fidelity. That is the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army.
Since the regiment’s creation in 1899, the men of the 65th have proudly served the US through multiple wars, despite facing racial discrimination. Their courage, loyalty, and patriotism earned them hundreds of accolades, including the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.
But the honor and fidelity of the men of the 65th came into question in 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, when ninety-one Borinqueneers were arrested and tried for desertion and disobeying orders. How could this happen in one of the most distinguished and decorated units of the Army?
In this telling of one of the forgotten stories of the Korean War, author Talia Aikens-Nuñez guides us through the history of the Borinqueneers and the challenges they faced leading up to what was the largest court martial in the entire war. Rediscover the bravery of the men of the 65th through Aikens-Nuñez’s thorough writing and the soldiers’ firsthand accounts of the Korean War.
“The Borinqueneers successfully defended the 1st Marine Division’s retreat, but they soon realized this was only part of a much larger withdrawal of UNC [United Nations Command] troops. As the retreat continued into mid-December, news came that the enemy buildup had accelerated. Chinese and North Korean forces were gathering and converging on Hungnam. The UNC’s worst fears were coming true: they were losing ground in the war.
They had to accelerate their plans in response to protect their troops and evacuate the Korean refugees that had fled to Hungnam. They ordered troops to board ships, division by division, and sail south to Pusan… Meanwhile, the 65th and the 3rd Infantry Divisions would hold the main line of resistance, providing enough cover for everyone to make it safely out of Hungnam…With each withdrawal, the enemy continued to push the Borinqueneers and the 3rd Infantry Division.
…They were exhausted from several days of fighting…The soldiers of the 65th were some of the last to leave Hungnam. They were hurried and squeezed tightly onto the final boats. Finally, they could rest and relax. Once they left, the military would destroy the port so the enemy could not use the equipment and facilities against them.
…After they loaded onto the final ship and set sail, the dynamite detonated. The soldiers looked back and watched the port explode…everything – erupted in smoke and flame.
About the Author:
Talia Aikens-Nuñez is passionate about sharing with young readers the little known stories, accomplishments, and contributions of people of color from all throughout history. Aikens-Nuñez is the author of Small Nap, Little Dream, a bilingual Spanish/English picture book. She and her husband live in Connecticut with their two children.
Q&A With the Author:
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really enjoyed learning details about the Men of the 65th – what they had to endure, what wars and battles they were involved in and how they spent their downtime (the little downtime they did have). For example, the men left Puerto Rico for Korea in summer and arrived in Korea in the early fall. They left a place where the temperature is regularly in the 80s. And, arrived in a place where, that fall, the temperatures dropped to below zero. They still had summer clothes. So, they had to be inventive. They layered up, jumped around to warm up and created gadgets to keep them warmer using their tent stoves and blowtorches. Not only did they have to fight a war, they had to fight to stay warm.
Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?
I really enjoy writing nonfiction young adult books. At this time, I am still looking for the next story that I want to research more. I am looking for a little-known story in history that deserves more attention. In particular, I like shining a light on people and stories in history that for whatever reason were ignored. If you know of a story, please let me know.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future?
I want to find another story that I can dive into like I did with the Men of the 65th. Time will tell.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing after the birth of my first child in 2008. I’ve primarily written for children. Honestly, my children are typically an impetus for my books. I initially started writing books with characters that looked like them. My daughter was the motivation for my first published book, Escucha Means Listen. It is a picture book mostly in English but sprinkled with Spanish. That evolved into writing some fiction. I wrote a series called OMG. Then when I heard the story about the Men of the 65th (about 10 years ago) I immediately searched for books about them that I could share with my kids. I could not find anything. So, then I started to write it.
Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I really hope they enjoy learning about this little known slice of US history and they share what they learn with others.
Talia Aikens-Nunez will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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