Agustín Ramos Calero is the most decorated Puerto Rican and Hispanic Veteran of World War II. Over the course of his 21 years of service, he earned the nickname “One Man Army.”
Born in 1919, Agustín Ramos Calero grew up in Isabela, Puerto Rico. Coming of age during the Great Depression was difficult, and many Puerto Ricans enlisted in the United States Army to earn a secure income. Calero volunteered in 1941.
He trained at Camp Las Casa in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and was a member of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers: a segregated Hispanic unit, mostly made up of Puerto Ricans. This less formal name for the regiment stems from Puerto Rico’s Taíno name, Borinquen. After the United States entered World War II, Calero transferred to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division in Europe.
There, Calero famously fought alongside his unit in Colmar, France, in the Battle of Colmar Pocket, which freed the area of Germany’s military control. During this battle, Calero earned the nickname the “One Man Army” after single-handedly killing 10 German soldiers and capturing 21 soldiers. He received the Silver Star for his actions.
Calero was wounded four times during World War II but continued serving after it ended and even during the Korean War. During the Korean War, he returned to the Borinqueneers and fought in Busan, Korea.
In Korea, the Borinqueneers played a vital role pushing North. They also protected the perimeter of Hungnam, as the 1st Marine Division arrived after a “fighting retreat” and helped with the evacuation of the area. They later travelled near Seoul to drive away the Chinese 149th Division. Even though the military had been desegregated in 1948 by executive order, the Borinqueneers remained segregated for most of the Korean War, since desegregation was a slow process and had many opponents.
The Borinqueneers exemplified their motto of “Honor and Fidelity” despite facing discrimination and segregation. On April 13, 2016, the Borinquenners were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. When presenting the award, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “Throughout their service, they suffered persistent discrimination. For too long, their contribution to our history has been overlooked, so today, today we are setting the record straight by giving them the highest award within our possession.” Paul Ryan went on to ask, “Would you fight for a country who discriminated against you?” continuing to emphasize that “it takes a certain caliber of man to do that.”
In 2021, April 13 was recognized as National Borinqueneers Day. This day honors all members of the 65th Infantry Regiment, a regiment that served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War, and pays “tribute to the sacrifices made and adversities overcome by Puerto Rican and Hispanic military service members.”
Calero retired in 1962 and died of cancer in 1989. He is buried at Puerto Rico’s National Cemetery in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
We honor his service.
Writer: Kimberly Kassis
Editors: Katherine Berman and Julia Pack
Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley
Researcher: Carl Wesseln