Jose Calugas Jr.
This is a life story of my hero. My father was the only Filipino recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWII in Bataan, Philippine Islands.
He enlisted in the Philippines Scouts, an elite military unit composed of native Filipinos in the Regular Army led by officers from the continental United States of America. This is a life story of a soldier who spent 27 years in the United States Army because he loved freedom, and his adopted country.
A proud and humble soldier, beyond adversities and long separation from his dear family sacrificed his life to help others. His desire to get a good education after he retired from the military earned him a BA Degree in Business Administration at age 55. It was his most cherished goal.
His advice to the youth of America is “Be a man and fight for America and protect America as much as you can whether at war or in peace.”
My father Jose Cabalfin Calugas, Sr. was born on December 29,1907 in Barangay Tagsing, Leon, Iloilo Philippines. He was the oldest of three siblings of Antonio Calugas and Juliana Cabalfin, simple and frugal barrio folks of moderate means. His mother died when he was 12 years old.
Barangay Tagsing is situated in the upland of Leon approximately 24 kilometers from the town. Most of its the people are farmers. It was the center of the resistant movement during the Japanese occupation.
On the last week of August 1942 the Japanese set the town of Leon on fire. The Church, the Parochial School and the Elementary school were burned. For several days the town was ablaze. There were atrocities conducted by the Japanese among the civilian population who would not cooperate.
The Philippine Department’s General order 310 on 8 October 1901 authorized the recruitment rather than hiring of Filipino men as soldiers throughout the Islands. Under this order, there would be some fifty companies of one hundred men recruited from all over the country. (For more information: http://www.philippine-scouts.org/History/history.html )
Having heard from some of his friends and relatives in the town of Leon who joined the Philippine Scouts, my father enlisted on March 12, 1930. After his basic training he was assigned to company “C” 24th Artillery at Fort Stotsenburg, Pampanga.
During the period until 1940, the Philippine Scouts trained vigorously. They were excellent marksmen and each spring teams of their most outstanding experts were sent by each regiment to Camp Perry, New York, where they competed effectively against the best in the US Army.
Increasing Japanese successes in China in late 1930’s followed by their movement in Indo-China in the summer of 1940, finally energized the US War Department. General George Grunert asked the war Department for re-enforcement of troops and supplies. For the Philippine Scouts, doubling their strength to 12,000 men took effect in 1941.
The 88th Field Artillery Battalion, my father’s unit, was constituted into the Regular Army in 1 October 1933 and was activated in 19 April 1941 in the Philippines.
We lived outside Fort Stotsenberg. Life outside the base was simple but comfortable. I was born on January 18, 1940 as their second child.
At the onset of World War II, my father decided to send us back home in
Leon to live with our relatives, so he does not have to worry about our
The First Battalion, 88th Field Artillery (PS) initially was deployed from Fort Stotsenberg in December 1941 in the barrios of Mexico and Lagaban, Bataan. On December 30, 1941, the Battalion moved to Hermosa.
In early January, the battalion joined the 23FA BN (PS) in support of the 31st Infantry (US) in defending position at LAYAC JUNCTION. The 1st battalion, 88th FA (PS) was in more protected position than the 23rd and, therefore did not suffer as heavily as did the 23rd FA.
Major Howard reported in his notes that the 1st battalion, 88th FA (PS) lost one gun during the withdrawal from LAYAC JUNCTION line. On the 6th of January, the 1st battalion FA was supporting the defensive line behind the Culo River held by the 26th Cavalry (PS), the 31st Infantry and the Philippine Army units. When one gun was put out of commission by the enemy fire, Sgt. Jose Calugas of the 88th FA voluntarily run 1,000 yards across a shell swept area, put the gun back into action and fired effectively against the enemy although his position was under constant heavy enemy fire.
Sgt. Calugas manned the 75-mm cannon by himself which fired effectively, destroying about sixty advancing vehicles and their occupants. For his action beyond and above the call of duty, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Congressional Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor known as the Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military award given to the United States Military for bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Since it was established in 1862 at the beginning of the Civil War, it had only awarded to 3,440 heroes - almost half of them Civil War soldiers.
Since the beginning of World War II, only 842 Medal of Honor have been awarded. Over half of that number died in their moment of heroism. Only 326 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen from Pearl Harbor to Somalia have survived to actually wear the Medal. As of May 2004 only 132 of them are still living.
*Two more Philippine Scouts, Ist Lt. Alexander R. Nininger, Jr., whose nephew Mr. John A. Patterson is the current President of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, and 1st Lt. Willibald C. Bianchi were also awarded a Medal of Honor.
For more about Philippine Scout Medal of Honor
On 9 April 1942, the prisoners were rounded up and marched 65 miles in the heat without water. Marching for days in a terrible heat, beaten and deprived of food and water, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 of the 78,000 Americans and Filipinos who surrendered to Japanese died during the march. Of the 12,000 Americans taken prisoner at Bataan, only 4,000 were alive at the end of the war.
My father was among the Philippine Scouts taken as prisoner and forced to march. He was caught drinking water by the Japanese guards and was beaten by a rifle butt on his head. He was lucky he has his steel helmet on, even then the blow caused him approximately a three inch laceration to his scalp.
While tens of thousands of his comrades succumbed on the Death March due to Japanese atrocities, injury, disease, and lack of water and food, my father somehow found strength to hang on. From severe beating and bleeding from the head caused by a rifle butt, he was able to stop the bleeding from some medicinal leaves he found around the prison camp. He contracted malaria and he took advantage of his disease to outwit his captors. Every time the Japanese guards look at him, he would put an act of shaking uncontrollably, so the guards would leave him alone.
His debilitating bout with malaria, dysentery, beriberi, his fear of reprisals against his family in Iloilo and the general sense of hopelessness did not break his high spirit.
While a prisoner at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, he was severely beaten. He was malnourished, contracted malaria and dysentery. He was released from the Japanese prison in January of 1943. He worked in the Japanese rice mill where he had recuperated and spied for the guerrillas.
He escaped and joined squadron #227 Old Bronco unit in October 1943, a
guerrilla unit whose headquarter was in
The overall command was under Major Robert B. Lapham and executive officer
Capt. Harry Mckenzie in Munoz, Nueva Ecija. My father was promoted to 2nd
lieutenant in command of the heavy weapons platoon.
In early 1947 the 44th Infantry Philippine Scouts arrived in Naha,
Okinawa. My father was assigned as a Ist Lt. in the Signal Depot, RYCOM
service command. He was stationed in Okinawa from 1947- 1953.
As an expression of the hero’s exploits, on 7 April 1952, the late President of the Philippines, Mr. Elpedio Quirino, invited my father in the 10th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. He was received with a grand welcome by the president, the late Secretary of Defense Mr. Ramon Magsaysay and other veterans organizations and of course the Philippine Scout veterans.
On 9 April1952 at Camp Murphy at a solemn celebration, General Florencio Selga, PC chief of the Philippines, presented him the Distinguished Conduct Star. On this occasion, he was pinned the first “Survivor Bataan Death March” ribbon. He was first to sign on the Registry book for the Bataan Death March Survivors, an official document of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
From 1953 to 1957, my father was assigned to various military installations in the continental United States and finally at Ft. Lewis Washington where he retired on April 1957 after 27 years in the military.
As a civilian
His goal after retirement was to go back to school and get a college education. He enrolled at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington under the GI Bill. It was a struggle, but with the support of his family and the strong discipline from years in the military he finished with a degree in Business Administration in 1961 at age 55.
He worked for the Boeing Aerospace Company as a cost accountant. While
working at Boeing, he was active in various Veterans organizations in
Tacoma and Seattle. He organized the Bataan Corregidor Survivors
Association, and was the first president of the organization. Members were
mostly Philippine Scouts veterans who retired in the area. He worked for
15 years and retired the second time at 67 years old.
He showed to his children and to his grandchildren that it wasn't too late to seek personal advancement, and that the only way to achieve this was through education and hard work. He was the first in our family to graduate from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. In this respect, my sister Minerva said, "I considered him a 'trailblazer.'"
To stay busy and remain active, he leased a five acre farm in Auburn, Washington about 15 miles from Tacoma. He planted corn and other vegetables. So we are always in abundant supply of vegetables and corn during summer. He sold some of the produce and shared some with his friends and the needy. He enjoyed his work in the farm. I think it reminded him of his childhood days spent in the farm in Leon.
My Dad had fond memories of his brother and his sister and close relatives in the Philippines. He sponsored their children to continue their education.
On November 1977, after 25 years since his last visit in 1952, he returned to the Philippines with my mother under the Reunion for peace program on the invitation of President Ferdinand Marcos. He was deeply touched by the warm welcome extended to him. He was special guest at various veteran organizations in Manila where he met some of his friends and relatives in his home town of Leon.
Not long after his memorable visit in the Philippines, he suffered a severe stroke, which took a lot out of his very active life. He failed to recover fully, but with the help of my mother and the family he lived to the ripe old age of 90 years. He was buried at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, Washington with full military honors.
His family, relatives, friends and fellow veterans will remember him as a modest and humble person. He never bragged or talked about his experiences during the war. He told stories of his outstanding military accomplishments only when he has to. He loved his family especially his grandchildren. He has many friends, including Japanese when he was stationed in Okinawa and later in Tacoma, Washington.
When my father was asked if he had any bitterness or hatred against the Japanese, he said, 'If I lost my life in the battlefield, those were the vicissitudes of being a soldier. If God wanted my life, then at least I have the peace of mind knowing that what I did was a fulfillment of the oath I took as a soldier."
We also have learned how to forgive and love our enemies as well as our neighbors from our father. My father's mind wanders for the injustices and unpleasant experiences on the unfair treatment by his captors. But, forgiving help him press on with his life. He did not use the past events as an excuse for his shortcomings.
I was fortunate to know him as my father. I am proud to be his son. He is my Hero and I love him.
I especially thank Col. John Olson AUS (PS) Ret. He authored the book, The Philippine Scouts. Col. Olson is The Philippine Scouts Heritage Society Historian.
Col. Melvin H. Rosen AUS (PS) Ret. Author of, The History of the Philippine Scouts Field Artillery, who personally gave me a copy of his book in honor of my father. Col. Rosen is currently the legal advisor of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society.