For the commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the fall of Bataan, we are sharing excerpts from veterans of the Second World War. In A Daring Heroic Feat, Domingo Osilla PFC, Phil. Scout-USAFFE recounts the heroism of Sgt. Jose Calugas, the Filipino soldier who was conferred the highest award by the United States, the Congressional Medal of Honor. [Excerpted from War Memoirs of the Alcala Veterans by Alberto Marquez, published with the permission of New Day Publishers.]
The battle at barrio Colis, Hermosa was one of the most hard-fought artillery battles that took place in Bataan during World War II. In that battle, Sgt. Jose Calugas a Filipino who belonged to the Philippine Scouts (U.S. Army) earned for himself the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the United States government to its soldiers.
On January 10, 1942 our outfit, the Battery A and Battery B of the 88 Field Artillery of the U.S. Army, was engaged in an artillery encounter with the enemy at Barrio Colis, Hermosa, Bataan. The battle took place in a rolling-hills area covered with thick grasses and dotted with few trees.
The advancing enemy tanks and armored cars which were equipped with machine guns and light artillery guns subjected our outfit to a barrage of artillery fire and we countered their attack with our 75 mm guns firing at close intervals.
The battle went on intensely for almost three hours causing several casualties on our side. Besides losing several men, we lost many of our artillery guns that were hit directly by cannon shells rendering them useless and unserviceable.
Toward noon, our force had weakened out and the enemy had made a considerable advance for they were already about 800 meters away from us. As they got nearer their firings got more and more intense rendering more casualties on our side.
Certain that we could no longer resist the enemy’s intensified attack, our officers ordered us to abandon our positions and withdraw to the left flank to join other comrades there. We could not take along our serviceable battery pieces because the trucks which we used to haul them were badly battered and damaged by the enemy guns.
The Battery kitchen had not escaped damage for it was hit directly by exploding cannon shells. Sergeant Calugas, the Mess Sergeant, was then about to withdraw too, like the rest of the men, when he was called by Colonel Befsala, their Commanding Officer, to help them man one of the 75 mm guns that had escaped damage.
The sergeant got to work right away. He was the gun loader while a certain Lieutenant Chua was the gunner. After firing a couple of shots, the enemy retaliated by firing a barrage of cannon fire against them. At this juncture, the Colonel gave the order that they withdraw and take cover, but Calugas did not obey the order. Instead, he took over the gun and manned it almost singlehandedly, for he was a loader and gunner at the same time.
When Sergeant Calugas fired his first shot, his gun hit one of the advancing enemy tanks. He fired a second shot and again it hit another. When the enemy observe this, they stopped their advance. Again, the enemy opened a barrage of fire against us. The Colonel shouted at Calugas ordering him to withdraw and to take cover but the sergeant defied the order. He stood his ground amidst the intensified firings of the enemy. His subsequent firings burned away many of the enemy’s ranks and armored cars.
The sergeant’s unusual feat in gunnery surprised Colonel Belsafa because everytime the sergeant fired his gun, the Colonel always followed it up thru his binoculars (field glass) and he actually saw what happened to the enemy’s tanks and armored cars.
The effect of Sergeant Calugas’ expert firings demoralized the enemy. Their advance for that day was delayed. When night came, we recovered a few of our artillery guns under cover of darkness. We could only imagine how many lives could have been lost and how much war equipment damaged had the enemy continued their advance on that day.
After recovering our artillery guns that night, we withdrew to the town of Abucay, Bataan where we stayed for several days. There we made several encounters with the enemy mostly during the night because during daytime, we were always spied uopon by enemy planes flying above us.
In the later part of February, we withdrew to the town of Limay and defended Limay beach for more than a month, before we were ordered to move to the town of Cabcaben, the “Little Baguio” of Bataan.
We stayed in Cabcaben up to the time Bataan fell into the hands of the enemy on April 9, 1942. During the surrender, many of our comrades tried to escape despite the Jap propaganda that Americans, not the Filipino soldiers were their enemies. When the escapees of which I happened to be one, were passing the town of Balanga, all of a sudden, Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets surrounded us. They took us to a place surrounded by barbed wires. Inside were other prisoners awaiting orders to move to a place unknown to them.
For his outstanding valor beyond personal safety and for causing the delay of an advancing powerful enemy that would have caused loss of several lives and damage to war equipment, Sgt. Calugas was later awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. He holds the distinction of being the only soldier in Bataan who received such an award.