Hillery York is a collections manager for the National Numismatic Collection. On July 6, 2016 she posted an article on the
Smithsonian's O Say Can You See? blog about the award ceremony held in Puerto Rico for the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold
As the rain clouds began to blow out to sea over the fortress of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, I looked out over the crowd of veterans
and their families, knowing that not even rain could ruin this day for them. On April 27, 2016, a team of Smithsonian staff traveled to
Puerto Rico with the most recently issued Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented to the U.S. Army 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed
"The Borinqueneers." According to the Senate's website, the medal was given in recognition of the regiment's
"pioneering military service, devotion to duty, and many acts of valor in the face of adversity." The Congressional Gold Medal is
the "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or
institutions," according to the site.
The first Congressional Medals were issued by the Continental Congress and struck in Paris during the American Revolution to "serve
as an expression of national appreciation," according to the Congressional Research Service. Long before the power of the Internet,
medals were small, portable objects on which images and messages could be struck and disseminated around the country and around the world.
The medals were used to commemorate "distinguished contributions, dramatize the virtues of patriotism, and perpetuate the remembrance
of great events." It should come as no surprise that the first recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal was General George
Washington, the commander of the Continental Army. Washington received the medal for "wise and spirited conduct" in the Siege of
Boston in June 1775.
The 65th Infantry Regiment is the recipient of the most recent medal in honor of its valor, determination, and bravery during the Korean
War. The 65th is the first segregated Hispanic military unit in the history of the United States. The 65th Infantry Regiment garnered the nickname
"The Borinqueneers" originating from the Taíno name of the island of Puerto Rico (Borinquen). Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in
1898 and in 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship. The 65th Infantry Regiment participated in World War I, World War II, and the
Korean War. Interestingly, the first shots fired from the United States, signaling its involvement in World War I, were shot from the fort of
"El Morro" San Juan, Puerto Rico at a German ship that sailed into in San Juan Bay on March 21, 1915. Since that time, over 100,000
Borinqueneers have served as American war veterans and "The Borinqueneers" hold another distinction as the first military unit with service
during the Korean War to receive this award.
To date, over 300 Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded. My congratulations to the Borinqueneers, whose patriotism inspires so
many of us.
Launch ceremonies for coins and medals are a unique opportunity for numismatists. Thanks to Hillery and the NNC staff for documenting the
event. The article omitted the numismatic details however, so below is some information from the U.S. Mint site. -Editor
The obverse design depicts a portrait of a fictional Borinqueneer. The soldiers in the background are in an inverted “V” formation,
taking the high ground with fixed bayonets during an assault on the enemy during the Korean War. The inscriptions are “65th INFANTRY
REGIMENT” and “BORINQUENEERS.” The Crossed Rifles insignia appears at the bottom of the design.
The reverse design depicts the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is a 16th-century citadel, a central symbol
of Puerto Rico and the preferred military command ceremonial parade site of the 65th Infantry Regiment. The inscriptions are “HONOR ET
FIDELITAS,” “1899–1956,” “WORLD WAR I,” “WORLD WAR II,” “KOREAN WAR,” and “ACT OF CONGRESS 2014.”
Obverse Designer: Joel Iskowitz
Obverse Sculptor–Engraver: Phebe Hemphill
Reverse Designer: Donna Weaver
Reverse Engraver: Renata Gordon
To read the complete articles, see:
Fidelitas:" The awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal to the "Borinqueneers"
Wayne Homren, Editor
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