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Legendary WWII survivors, the Philippine Scouts, gather in Tacoma

Post by Matt Misterek / The News Tribune on May 7, 2010 at 11:23 am with No Comments »
May 7, 2010 11:24 am

Some of the last living members of a storied American military unit from World War II are spending the weekend in Tacoma, along with family members and history buffs.

The annual reunion of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, whose senior members are Bataan Death March veterans, is being held today and Saturday at the La Quinta Inn and Suites, 1425 27th St. E.

Organizers say the public is welcome. Some of the sessions that might be of broader interest include “Help Me Understand My Connection” at 3:30 today; a documentary film called “Forgotten Soldiers” at 10 a.m. Saturday; a veterans panel at 11 a.m. Saturday; and “The Scouts Story Through Artifacts and Memorabilia” at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Philippine Scouts are known for holding off the Japanese on Bataan and Corregidor in the early months of the war. “As POWs, they were subjected to some of the worst atrocities in modern history and more than half of them died during the first eight months of their incarceration in Japanese prison camps,” according to a spokesman for the heritage society.

Among their exploits: The 26th Cavalry was the last U.S. Army unit to fight in combat on horseback, and the U.S. Army’s first three Congressional Medals of Honor in World War II were awarded to Philippine Scouts.

One of those Medal of Honor recipients was Jose Calugas Sr., a sergeant who later moved his family to Tacoma. He ran 1,000 yards and organized a squad of men to man an artillery piece after the gun’s original crew had been knocked out by enemy fire. He kept firing on the advancing enemy despite being under heavy fire himself, according to a Fort Lewis Military Museum display.

Calugas died in Tacoma in 1998. His son, Jose Calugas Jr., continues to be a leader in the heritage society. The Tacoma chapter is one of the most active in the organization.

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