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Jose Calugas

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Jose Cabalfin Calugas, Sr.
Jose Calugas Medal of Honor (cropped).jpg
Calugas in 1945
Born (1907-12-29)December 29, 1907
Barrio Tagsing, Leon, Iloilo, Philippine Islands
Died January 18, 1998(1998-01-18) (aged 90)
Tacoma, Washington
Place of burial Mountain View Memorial Park
Lakewood, Washington[1]
Allegiance  Philippines
 United States of America
Service/branch Recognized Guerrilla Unit
Philippine Scouts (United States Army)
Years of service 1930[2][3]-1957[4]
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit 88th Field Artillery Regiment (Philippine Scouts)[5]
38th Field Artillery Regiment[6]
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of Bataan
Battle of Luzon
Philippine Resistance (1941–45)
Philippines Campaign (1944–45)

Jose Cabalfin Calugas[7] (December 29, 1907 – January 18, 1998) was a member of the Philippine Scouts during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Bataan.

At the age of 23, Calugas joined the Philippine Scouts of the United States Army and completed training as an artilleryman and served with different artillery batteries of the Philippine Scouts until his unit was mobilized to fight in World War II. After noticing one of his unit's gun batteries had been destroyed and its crew killed, he gathered several members of his unit together, dug in and attempted to defend the line. He was captured along with other members of his unit and forced to march to a distant enemy prison camp, where he was held as a prisoner of war. When he was released in 1943, he was secretly assigned to a guerrilla unit in the Philippines where he fought for the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese.

After World War II Calugas received a direct commission and became United States Citizen. Retiring from the Army, he settled in Tacoma, Washington.

Early life and military training[edit]

Calugas was born in Barrio Tagsing, Leon, Iloilo, Philippines, December 29, 1907.[5][8] His mother died when he was ten, and he later left high school in order to work and support his family.[9] In 1930, he enlisted in the United States Army and had received his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Upon completion, he received additional training as an artilleryman,[4] and then assigned to the 24th Artillery Regiment of the Philippine Scouts at Fort Stotsenburg, Pampanga. While stationed at Fort Stotsenburg, he married and began to raise a family. His next unit was the 88th Field Artillery Regiment of the Philippine Scouts. He was a Sergeant with Battery B when the United States and the Philippine Commonwealth, declared war with Japan in 1941. His unit was mobilized for duty and sent to Bataan in December 1941.[8]

Action in World War II[edit]

Medal of Honor action at Bataan[edit]

World War II First Line of Defense Memorial (Dinalupihan, Bataan, Philippines).
Historical Marker (January 6, 1942 -Jose Calugas was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor).

On January 6, 1942, his unit was covering the withdrawal of a portion of the U.S. Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), with the 26th Cavalry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts and the 31st Infantry Regiment. Calugas was working as a mess sergeant in charge of a group of soldiers who were preparing the day's meals, known as KP duty. He noticed that one of his unit's guns had been silenced, and its crew killed. Without orders, he ran the 1,000 yards (914 m) across the shell-swept area to the inactive gun position. Once there, he organized a squad of volunteers who returned Japanese artillery fire. The position remained under constant and heavy fire for the rest of the afternoon. While Calugas and his squad maintained a steady fire on the enemy positions, other soldiers had time to dig in and defend the line. As the day ended and combat subsided, he returned to KP.[10] For his actions on that day, his superiors recommended Calugas for the United States military's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. Before he could receive it, however, all American forces on Bataan surrendered to Japanese forces.[11][12]

Surrender of Bataan and the death march[edit]

Prisoners during the march from Bataan to the prison camp, May 1942. (National Archives)

Arguably, the Battle of Bataan represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. During the final stage of the Battle of Bataan and after repeated assaults and artillery fire by Japanese forces, the communications and defenses of the allies on Bataan peninsula had been almost completely destroyed. On the last two days, the entire Allied defense collapsed, clogging all roads with refugees and fleeing troops. By April 8, the senior U.S. commander on Bataan, Major General Edward "Ned" P. King, Jr., recognized the futility of further resistance, and explored proposals for capitulation. On April 9, 1942, approximately 76,000 Filipino and American troops surrendered to a Japanese army of 54,000 men under Lt. General Masaharu Homma. This was the single largest surrender of one of its military forces in American history.[13]

Route of the Bataan Death March. The section from San Fernando to Capas was by rail. The prisoners marched the last 8 miles from Capas to Camp O'Donnell.

After the surrender, Calugas and the other prisoners marched from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp in the province of Tarlac. The Japanese, having expected the fighting to continue, anticipated about 25,000 prisoners of war and were inadequately prepared or unwilling to transport a group of prisoners three times the size. The majority of the prisoners of war were immediately relieved of their belongings and endured a 61-mile (98 km) march in deep dust, over vehicle-broken macadam roads, and crammed into rail cars for the portion of the journey from San Fernando to Capas. En route, over 21,000 men and women died from disease, starvation, dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution. The deaths of Filipinos to Americans was disproportionately high: approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died on the Bataan Death March. Calugas remained a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell until January 1943, when he was released to work for the Japanese.[11]

Post POW release[edit]

His release placed him as a laborer in a Japanese rice mill, and while assigned there he secretly joined a guerrilla unit, #227 Old Bronco.[8] As an officer of the guerrilla unit, he participated in the attack on the Japanese garrison at Karangalan.[8] His unit fought in the continued campaign against the Japanese, which eventually led to the liberation of the Philippines.[10]

Filipino male in World War II Army Khaki uniform saluting in the foreground. A color guard in the background; the 48-star United States flag on the viewers left, a reversed/war Philippine Commonwealth flag on the viewers right.
Sergeant Calugas wearing the medal after being awarded the medal at Camp Olivas.

After the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, he finally received the Medal of Honor for which he had been approved at the beginning of the war. The Medal was presented to him by General of the Army General George Marshall.[10][11] Calugas subsequently accepted a direct commission in the United States Army,[10] and was later assigned to the 44th Infantry Regiment, which was assigned with the occupation of Okinawa.[8] After the unit was disbanded in 1947, he was assigned to the Ryuku Command, on the Ryukyu Islands in the South China Sea, where he remained until 1953.[8] He was later assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington.[9]


Although he had been born in a U.S. territory, and had fought in the United States' Army, Calugas technically was not a citizen. Following the Spanish American War in 1898, Philippine residents were classified as U.S. nationals. The 1934 Tydings–McDuffie Act, or Philippine Independence Act, reclassified Filipinos as aliens, and set a quota of 50 immigrants per year to the United States, with the exception of those who joined the U.S. Navy, but not the U.S. Army.[14] While serving in Okinawa, Calugas completed the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen.[8][10]

Retirement and post military life[edit]

Calugas eventually retired from the army with the rank of Captain and in 1957 he moved into Tacoma, Washington with his family. After retiring from the army he earned a degree in Business Administration from the University of Puget Sound in 1961 and worked for the Boeing Corporation.[4] In addition to furthering his education and starting a new career, he was involved in several veterans groups within the Seattle and Tacoma area. He died in Tacoma on January 18, 1998 at age 90[4] and is buried at Mountain View Memorial Park in Tacoma, Washington.[1] He was survived by his three children, including retired Sergeant First Class Jose Calugas, Jr.,[15] eleven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.[9] His wife of 52 years died in 1991.[9]

Honors and awards[edit]

Calugas earned multiple military decorations before he died, including the Medal of Honor.[2][3][6][16]

Bluebird-colored ribbon with five white stars in the form of an "M". Medal of Honor
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citations with two oak leaf clusters[17]
Prisoner of War Medal
Good Conduct Medal with two loops
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal
Philippine Defense Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Philippine Liberation Medal with two service stars
Philippine Independence Medal
United Nations Korea Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

The action for which the award was made took place near Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, on 16 January 1942. A battery gun position was bombed and shelled by the enemy until 1 gun was put out of commission and all the cannoneers were killed or wounded. Sgt. Calugas, a mess sergeant of another battery, voluntarily and without orders ran 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area to the gun position. There he organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy, although the position remained under constant and heavy Japanese artillery fire.[18][19][20]

Other honors[edit]

On Mount Samat, there is a relief commemorating the event that lead to the awarding of the Medal of Honor.[21] Within the family housing area of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, a street known as Calugas Circle was dedicated in his honor, with his family present, in 1999. His Medal of Honor was given to the Fort's museum for safekeeping and display by Calugas and his family before his death.[22] In 2006, a 36-unit apartment building, designed for low-income and disabled residents was dedicated as the "Sgt. Jose Calugas, Sr. Apartments" in High Point, Seattle.[23] On Memorial Day in 2009, his memory was honored at the Living War Memorial Park on a memorial that had previously been established there.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Jose Calugas". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Congressional Record – Extension of Remarks" (PDF). February 3, 1998. Retrieved May 22, 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Congressional Record – Extension of Remarks". 1998 Congressional Record, Vol. 144. Government Publishing Office. February 3, 1998. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d Mooney, Joe (January 22, 1998). "JOSE CALUGAS, A HERO OF BATAAN, DIES". Seattle Post Intellegencer. Retrieved May 22, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b Rudi Williams (May 5, 1999). "Medals of Honor Bestowed on 10 Asian Pacific Americans". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b CWO4 Ricardo Vinas (16 December 2011). "Capt(then Sergeant) Jose C. Calugas' old uniform donated to the Iloilo Museum". World War II Relics and Artifacts (Iloilo Museum, Philippines). Inc. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Duane A. Vachon, PH.D. (28 February 2011). "The First Filipino WW II Medal of Honor, Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas, U.S. Army (1907–1998)". Hawaii Reporter. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Jose Calugas, Jr. "My Father". Children speak about their POW fathers. US-Japan Dialogue on POWs. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d Carole Beers (24 January 1998). "Jose Calugas, Medal Of Honor Winner, 'Death March' Survivor". Seattle Times. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Beers, Carole (January 24, 1998). "Jose Calugas, Medal of Honor Winner, Death March' Survivor". Seattle Times. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c Sterner, C. Douglas (2007). Go For Broke. American Legacy Media. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-9796896-1-1. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  12. ^ "American Artillery and the Medal of Honor" (PDF). Field Artillery. December 1987. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  13. ^ Young, Donald J. (1992). The Battle of Bataan: A History of the 90 Day Siege and Eventual Surrender of 75,000 Filipino and United States Troops to the Japanese in World War II. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-757-3. 
  14. ^ "THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUKBALAHAP MOVEMENT". United States Army Center of Military History. February 14, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ Ingrid Barrentine. "Asiean Pacific Heritage". Media. United States Army. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  16. ^ CWO4 Ricardo Vinas (16 December 2011). "Capt(then Sergeant) Jose C. Calugas' old uniform donated to the Iloilo Museum". World War II Relics and Artifacts (Iloilo Museum, Philippines). Inc. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Larry L. Pangan, MSgt. USA (Ret.) (11 May 2007). "Bataan: Victory in Defeat". History. Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. Retrieved 29 March 2012. The records also show that each of the Philippine Scout Units earned three Presidential Unit Citations. 
  18. ^ "MOH Citation for Jose Calugas". 1999. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  19. ^ "WWII Medal of Honor recipients". Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Department of Defense. 2004. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Jose Calugas". Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Army. United States Army. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Mount Samat Memorial". Memorials & Dedications. Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. 12 May 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  22. ^ John A. Patterson (May 11, 2007). "Philippine Scout Heroes of WWII". History. Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Calugas Apartments at High Point dedicated". News releases. Seattle Housing Authority. April 12, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  24. ^ Erkkinen, Meghan. "Memorial honors local Medal of Honor recipients". Tacoma Weekly. Retrieved May 24, 2009. [permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Whitman, John W. (1990). Bataan: Our Last Ditch : The Bataan Campaign, 1942. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-87052-877-7. 

External links[edit]