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Latino U.S. Military Heroes 

Trailblazer of the Day | Monday, September 30, 2013

Adm. David Farragut, Adm. Horicio Rivero

The famous naval order - “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” - was issued by U.S. Adm. David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War. The son of Spaniard who fought for the Americans in the War of 1812, Farragut was the first Hispanic U.S. Navy admiral. Today, Illinois remembers Adm. Farragut with a Joliet elementary school, a Chicago high school (Home of the Admirals) and a street (Farragut Avenue). The first Latino four-star admiral was Adm. Horicio Rivero, born in Puerto Rico in 1910, who graduated at the top of his class at the Naval Academy and commanded the USS Chicago.

Other milestones:

•    The first Latino to achieve the rank of four-star general in the U.S. Army was Gen. Richard Cavazos, a decorated commander in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The first Latina general was New Mexico native Brig. Gen. Carmelita Vigil-Schimmenti, who earned her stars in 1985.

•    One of the U.S. Air Force’s greatest “aces” was Col. Manuel J. Fernández, Jr., a Key West native of Cuban heritage who was part of the Berlin Airlift and flew 125 combat missions in Korea. Lt. Oscar Perdomo, a Texas native, was known as the “Last Ace of World War II” for shooting down five enemy planes in one day in the war’s final hours.

•    The first Latino Medal of Honor recipient was Philip Bazaar, a Chilean-born sailor in the U.S. Navy, for valor during the Civil War Battle of Fort Fisher. The first Illinois Latino to earn the Medal of Honor was Pfc. Manuel Perez, Jr., who was killed in action in the Philippines in 1945. An elementary school in Chicago is named in his honor.

•    One of the most decorated units in the Korean War was the “Boriñquenos”, a Puerto Rican-based regiment which saw intense action from 1950 to 1953.

•    In 1979, President Jimmy Carter named Mexico City-born Edward Hidalgo as the first Latino Secretary of the U.S. Navy. In 1998, Mexican-American Louis Caldera became first Latino Secretary of the U.S. Army.