Pictured above, on security patrol, 65th Inf. Reg. Borinqueneer Modesto Cartagena (far left) checks the credentials of South Korean civilians in 1951 during the Korean War.
Distinguished Service Cross Recipient
The most decorated Puerto Rican soldier in US history, a proud 65th Infantry Regiment "Borinqueneer", the late Sergeant First Class Don Modesto Cartagena de Jesús served in WWII & Korea.
He is a recipient of the nation's 2nd highest award for heroism, the Distinguished Service Cross, as well as the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and “V” device, the Purple Heart, and many others. Hailing from Cayey, Puerto Rico, he was very active in veterans affairs for many years following his renowned military service.
Due to the language barrier and the often inadequate respect for their heroic actions at the time, numerous Latino soldiers were under-recognized, and Don Modesto's Distinguished Service Cross citation reads more like a Congressional Medal of Honor citation, which he has merited.
His official citation reads:
“The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Modesto Cartagena (RA10404100), Sergeant, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving with Company C, 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. Sergeant Cartagena distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Yonch'on, Korea, on 19 April 1951. On that date, Company C was assigned the mission of capturing Hill 206, a terrain feature dominating a critical road junction. When the company assaulted the summit, it encountered stubborn resistance from a well-entrenched and fanatically determined hostile force. Sergeant Cartagena, directed to move his squad forward in order to approach the enemy positions from another ridgeline, led his men toward the objective, but, almost immediately, the group was forced to seek cover from an intense and accurate volume of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire. Locating the hostile emplacements that posed the greatest obstacle to the advance of the friendly forces, Sergeant Cartagena left his position and, charging directly into the devastating enemy fire he hurled a grenade at the first emplacement, totally destroying it. Ordering his squad to remain under cover, he successfully and single-handedly assaulted the second enemy position. Although knocked to the ground by exploding enemy grenades, Sergeant Cartagena repeated this daring action three more times. Finally, an increased volume of fire from the remaining hostile emplacements was concentrated on him and he was wounded. The extraordinary heroism and completely selfless devotion, to duty displayed by Sergeant Cartagena throughout this action enabled the company to secure its objective successfully with a minimum of casualties, reflect great credit on himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea: General Orders No. 698 (September 16, 1951) Home Town: Puerto Rico."
Profiles in Courage: