Cpt. Jose Cabalfin Calugas Sr
USCIS Fort Sill Field Office
Captain Jose Cabalfin Calugas Sr. was born on December 29, 1907, in Leon, Iloilo, Philippines. His mother died when he was 10, and after several years of his family struggling, Captain Calugas dropped out of high school to support the family as a farmer. On March 12, 1930, he joined the Philippine Scouts, an army of Filipino soldiers commanded by American Army officers and equipped with American arms.
After attending basic and artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Captain Calugas returned to the Philippines to serve as a mess sergeant in the 24th Artillery Regiment, Philippine Scouts. He later transferred to the 88th Field Artillery, and in December 1941, his unit was ordered to the Bataan peninsula following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. On January 16, 1942, Captain Calugas had just finished serving lunch in a field kitchen near the village of Culis when the Japanese attacked.
His Medal of Honor citation details his heroic actions:
A battery gun position was bombed and shelled by the enemy until one gun was put out of commission and all the cannoneers were killed or wounded. Sergeant 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.
The award was dated February 24, 1942, but his medal presentation was delayed because of increased fighting, heavy casualties, and a dwindling food supply. By April 9 of that year, General Edward King Jr. surrendered approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops. Despite insurmountable odds, Captain Calugas endured the Bataan Death March and nine months in a prisoner of war camp. He was later transferred to a Japanese-controlled rice mill, where he set up a spy network for Philippine guerillas, and fought with the U.S. troops when they returned to the Philippines.
Captain Calugas finally received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony on April 30, 1945, and following that, he accepted offers of U.S. citizenship and a commission in the U.S. Army. He retired from military service at Fort Lewis, Washington, on May 6, 1957. He remained in the Puget Sound area and went on to have three children with his wife, Nora.
In his 50s, he went to work for Boeing Co. and used his GI Bill to earn a business degree from the University of Puget Sound. Later in his retirement, he had a vegetable farm. However, four strokes forced him to stop work.
Captain Calugas died at the age of 90 and is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Tacoma, Washington.