My research journey led me to Vieques, a guest post by Talia Aikens-Nuñez


I spent months researching the 65th Infantry Regiment, whose battle name was the Borinqueneers, to write Men of the 65th. I watched documentaries on the unit, read memoirs by commanders of the unit, read military history books, read old articles, interviewed former Borinqueneers, read transcripts and watched interviews of former soldiers by the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress, and read court transcripts from the largest mass court-martial in the Korean War. I wrote, edited, and re-wrote multiple sections of the book. But, I wanted to get more of a personal feel for the story. So, my family and I flew to Vieques, Puerto Rico.

All photographs courtesy of the author.

The tiny island sits right off the coast of the Puerto Rico mainland. Vieques is affectionately referred to as La Isla Nena (the baby girl island). In the book, I detail a large-scale training exercise and maneuver that the regiment participated in on Vieques called Operation PORTREX. This exercise and maneuver took place in 1950 right before the Korean War broke out. It was supposed to mimic a war. The Operation PORTREX script required the men of the 65th to act as the ‘Aggressors.’ They were to pretend that they captured Vieques and were to defend it from being taken back by the ‘Liberators’. The Liberators were some of the most decorated divisions from World War II. The Liberators consisted of navy, army and air force military men. The script called for the Liberators to push the Aggressors off the island. The Liberators outnumbered the Aggressors 4 to 1. It was not meant to be a fair fight. The men of the 65th strategized, planned and executed those plans to defend the island. They showed that they were a well-trained, strong and capable unit. They did not get pushed off the island.