James Roger Tuggle was born on Oct. 9, 1913 in Cumberland County. He attended Clinton County High School and was part of the Class of 1939 at Western Kentucky University, where he was Captain of their ROTC Program. Following college, he joined the service and was sent to Fort Francis E. Warren in Laramie, Wyoming for training.
Captain Tuggle served with the U.S. Army's 101st Philippine Division, 101st Field Artillery Regiment and was a training officer for the Philippine Scouts. On May 7, 1942, following the fall of Bataan, the most intense phase of the Japanese invasion, probably in a skirmish at Mindanao, he was taken as a prisoner of war. The Japanese invasion of the Philippines is often considered the worst military defeat in U.S. history. About 23,000 American military personnel and about 100,000 Filipino soldiers were killed or captured.
Captain Tuggle was first kept in Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1 and then later at Bilibid at Muntinlupa, several miles southeast Manila, until December 1944, when he was transferred to the Oryoku Maru, a Japanese passenger cargo ship that had been commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy as a prisoner of war transport ship for transport to Japan. He survived an American aircraft bombing of the ship in December 1944, which killed 200 Allied POWs and was eventually transferred to the Brazil Maru on a voyage from Takao to Moji.
The ship had been hauling livestock and no attempt was made to clean out the manure prior to the boarding of the prisoners. Records indicate that Captain Tuggle died of acute colitis from eating or drinking contaminated food or water while aboard the Brazil Maru. An estimated 500 prisoners would die aboard the Brazil Maru, although sources vary. The ship was sunk by a mine at Kobe on May 12, 1945.
Captain Tuggle was listed as dead at sea on Jan. 11, 1945, at the age of 31. His name is on a monument at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines. It is also on Clinton County's War Veterans Monument. Manila American Cemetery contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of WWII, more than 17,000. Another 36,286 are listed as missing in action. Over 500 Philippine Scouts are buried there according to the American Battle Monuments Commission. The cemetery, and all who are there or mentioned, including Captain James Roger Tuggle, is an epic story of sacrifice and valor in the service of liberty.
Captain Tuggle was the son of William and Bessie Tuggle, who are buried at Highway Cemetery. A plot for Captain Tuggle is also there. Another son, Fred, was an Army Major who served in Korea. He is buried at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville. Sister Reba Barrett is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, where Kentucky Governor and Clinton County native Thomas Bramlette is buried.
Captain Tuggle was awarded a Silver Star.
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