Richard E. Cavazos: 1929—: U.S. Army General Biography
Became U.s. Army's First Hispanic General, Repeatedly Recognized For His Military Achievements
In 1976 Mexican American Richard E. Cavazos made military history by becoming the first Hispanic to attain the rank of brigadier general in the United States Army. Less than 20 years later, the native Texan would again make history by being appointed the Army's first Hispanic four-star general. It was a long way from Cavazos' days as a lieutenant with the 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. The 65th, comprised mostly of soldiers from Puerto Rico, was a minority unit similar to the African-American Tuskegee Airman of World War II. Though praised by General MacArthur who said of the 65th, "They are a credit to Puerto Rico and I am proud to have them in my command," according to a speech given by the Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera in 2000, the unit—called "The Borinqueneers" after an indigenous Puerto Rican Indian tribe—suffered racism and segregation away from the frontlines. According to Caldera, this took a "toll on the 65th, leaving scars that have yet to heal for so many of the regiment's proud and courageous soldiers." However, Cavazos rose above this racism, going on to become one of the most respected generals—Hispanic or otherwise—in the military. He also worked with military luminaries such as General Colin Powell and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the latter of whom wrote in his autobiography, It Doesn't Take a Hero, that Cavazos was one of the finest division commanders he ever worked for.
Cavazos was born on January 31, 1929, in Kingsville, Texas, and raised on a ranch. He attended Texas Technological University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in geology in 1951. During college he was an active member of the ROTC program and through it received an officer's commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army on June 15, 1951. He topped off his degree with officer basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia and then completed Airborne School before heading off to Korea with the 65th Infantry. He joined Company E as a platoon leader and eventually became a company commander. Cavazos proved to be a fearless soldier. On February 25, 1953, Cavazos' platoon was attacked by a large enemy force. A fierce battle ensued, yet Company E managed to overcome the enemy. According to Frontiernet, as the battle was winding down, "By the light of a flare, Lieutenant Cavazos observed an enemy soldier lying wounded not far to the front of his position. He requested and obtained permission to lead a small force to secure the prisoner.
Intense enemy mortar and small arms fire completely blanketed the route to be covered. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Cavazos, with complete disregard for his personal safety, continued alone through the enemy fire to capture and return with the enemy soldier." For his actions Cavazos received a Silver Star, one of the military's highest honors. He later received the Distinguished Service Cross for another battle fought on June 14, 1953.
- Richard E. Cavazos: 1929—: U.S. Army General - Became U.s. Army's First Hispanic General
- Richard E. Cavazos: 1929—: U.S. Army General - Repeatedly Recognized For His Military Achievements
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