Pelagio A. Cruz

(1912-1986)

Distinguished Military Officer

 

 

A Distinguished military officer, Pelagio A. Cruz was born in Baguio Pulong Gubat, Candaba, Pampanga on June 16, 1912. His family transferred to Baliuag, Bulacan when he was about eight years old.

 

Cruz finished at the top of his class at the Baliuag Elementary School. He pursued his secondary education at the provincial high school in Malolos, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1932.

 

In June 1932, he enrolled in the pre-law class at the University of the Philippines, but decided to transfer to the Philippine Constabulary Academy of Baguio where he was a pensionado. He did this to give3 way to his younger brother, who was also enrolled in the state university. His father had died, and his mother could not afford to send them together to college.

 

Cruz graduated as topnocher at the PC Academy in 1935. He was commissioned third lieutenant in the infantry. Later, he joined the first group of Filipino officers to study military aviation at the new Philippine Army Air Crops Flying school. He finished the course in October 1937. He and his co-graduates, Lieutenant Oscar Sales, Edwin Andrews, and Basilio Fernando, together formed the nucleus of the Philippine Air Force.

 

He became commander of the flying school. In 1941, he assumed command of the Maniquis Field in Camp Tine, Cabanatuan.

His flying school had three obsolete B-10 light bombers used for transition flights from trainer planes to regular aircraft. Philippines planes were not armed when the Japanese Air Force invaded the Philippines skies. During the Banana campaign, he was made commander of the Philippine Army Air Corps’ provisional infantry battalion. He served “as a walking pilot,” precisely because the corps lacked armed aircraft.

 

He won a Silver Star award for gallantry in action for leading an attack against the Japanese at Aglaloma Point.  He recalled that in that operation, 43 of his fine young men were killed. Most of them were air corps boys who had been trained as infantrymen. They did not even know to handle their rifles or how to use cover effectively.

 

When Bataan fell, Cruz was among the numerous Filipino and American war prisoners who took the long march to Capas, Tarlac, where they were held in concentration camps. He was released in October 1942. He returned to Baliuag to recuperate from the debilitating malaria, which he and many of his comrades had contracted while in the prison-camp.

 

Back in his hometown, Cruz met most of his old friends who were members of the underground movement in Bulacan. Later, he joined the province’s guerilla unit and became its chief of staff. To elude the Japanese Kempetai, he and his family fled to the swamplands of Candaba

 

After the war, he took up his pilot refresher course in USAF flying schools. He returned to the Philippines a year later to become executive officer of the Philippine Air Force, then commanded by Col. Edwin Andrews. When Colonel Andrews died in the tragic “Lili Marlene” crash on Mt. Makaturing in “ Lanao, he assumed command of the Lipa Army Air Base in Batangas. On August 16, 1947, he became PAF commanding officer.

 

On May 20, 1949, Cruz received his temporary one-star rank as brigadier-general. He was assigned to the Office of the Planning Board. In the same year, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Star for his services as PAF commanding general.

 

In 1951, he enrolled at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and Staff School, where he graduated with honors. Shortly after his return to the country, he was appointed commandant of the PATC’s Command and General Staff School at Fort McKinley (now Fort Bonifacio).

 

He was Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, with the rank of lieutenant general, when Cruz retired in 1962, after 30 years of military service. Forthwith, he was appointed as chief of mission to Japan of the Reparations Commission. In 1966, he became chairman of the Anti-Smuggling Action Canter, the forerunner of the Finance Ministry Intelligence Bureau.

 

One of the few government officials of the Marcos era to be retained by the Aquino administration, Cruz was the commissioner of the FMIB when he died at the Philippine Heart Center, after a heart by-pass operation, on October 21, 1986. He was 74.

 

 

 

Paula Katrina A. Vidallo

 

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