Korean War, Vietnam War, 1970s
During the Korean War period, Hispanic Americans honorably served during the conflict. Five Hispanic American Marines posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions on the peninsula. One of the five, First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC, received the award for his actions during the Inchon landing. In October 1955, Horacio Riverio was promoted to Rear Admiral and assigned to monitor the H-bomb program as the Deputy Chief of the Armed Forcces Special Weapons Project. Hispanic Women continued to serve in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps with Seaman Juanita Mancillas being one example of many who continued to serve their country.
Continuing the civil rights progress with other ethnically diverse Americans in the United States during this time, Hispanic Americans continued to expand in the U.S. Navy and Marines. During this period, four Hispanic American U.S. Marines received the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, with three of them posthumously receiving the award. Recipient Colonel Jay R. Vargas, USMC, survived his service in Vietnam and returined from the U.S. Marines in 1992 after completing thirty-years of service. In 1964, Vice Admiral Horacio Rivero was promoted to full admiral and served as Commander in Chief of Allied Forces, Southern Europe until 1972 when he retired after forty-one years of service. In January 1967, Hospitalman Phil I. Valdez, USN, was serving as a corpsman in Vietnam. Continuing to aid a wounded Marine, Valdez was mortially wounded. He was posthumously promoted and received the Navy Cross. Additionally, USS Valdez (FF-1096) was named in his honor.
In the 1970s, the Navy developed and implemented an affirmative action plan to recruit Hispanic Americans. With the Vietnam War continuing into the decade, Hispanic Americans also continued to serve in the conflict. Two U.S. Marines posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the spring of 1970. Of note, in March 1973, Lieutenant Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. was released from captivity as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. During this period, LIeutenant Al Cisneros became fhe first Hispanic pilot to serve with the Blue Angels. In 1979, Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo became the first Hispanic American to serve in this appointed post. Secretary Hidalgo promoted the recruitment of Hispanics for both officers and enlisted alike.
NMUSN Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Navy Pamphlet
NHHC Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Navy Focus
Image: 428-GX-USN-1155656: Hanoi, North Vietnam. February 1973. American Prisoners of War waiting to board a C-141A "Starlifter". Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.