Alfred A. Calambro, 83, career Army officer who survived Bataan

September 25, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Alfred A. Calambro, a retired career Army officer who outwitted enemy guards and survived the Bataan Death March, died Monday of heart failure. He was 83 and had lived in Catonsville since 1960.

A native of Iloilo, in the Philippines, where he was educated, Mr. Calambro became a naturalized U.S. citizen after joining the Army in 1932. It was while serving as a scout with the 12th Ordnance Co. that he was captured by Japanese forces after the fall of Corregidor in 1942, and the surrender of American forces under the command of Gen. Jonathan Wainwright.

Mr. Calambro was among some 70,000 starving survivors of the fall of the Bataan Peninsula who were forced to march 60 miles to a prisoner of war camp -- one of the war's cruelest episodes. The Bataan Death March, as the event came to be known, claimed some 14,000 lives.

"It was a period of time he really didn't want to talk about," said a son, Mark Calambro of Severn. "He remembered how the Japanese forces kept coming and coming and eventually swept over the entire island. He was taken prisoner along with his brother and put in a camp where he lost some 60 pounds during six months of confinement."

While he and his brother were being marched to another camp, they fooled the Japanese troops guarding them by feigning their deaths and rolling down a hill.

"They escaped and made their way to a village where they were able to get civilian clothes. They then took a train to Manila and were able to find their sister, who hid them.

"During their stay there, my father came down with malaria and his cousin wrapped her body around his to keep him warm [because] they had no medicine. He later recovered and was able to escape to his home island.

"I never heard him say anything derogatory about the Japanese -- he never would. He always remained objective about what they had done to him," said Mr. Calambro.

In 1946, he married the former Julita Balberona, whom he was engaged to before the war.

"They were separated when the war came and they both thought that the other was dead until relatives brought them together again after a seven-year separation," said a daughter, Daisy McTighe of Columbia.

Mr. Calambro resumed his military career and served in Korea from 1951 to 1953. He later served tours of duty in Japan and in Washington state before retiring with the rank of captain in 1959.

A retiring individual who was semi-reclusive after his Army career, Mr. Calambro, the son of farming parents, enjoyed planting fruit trees and gardening. He was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered for Mr. Calambro at 10 a.m. today at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 1283 Odenton Road, Odenton, with interment in Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to his wife of 49 1/2 years and his son and daughter, Mr. Calambro is survived by four other sons, Philip Calambro of Sykesville, Martin Calambro of Ellicott City, Robert Calambro of Catonsville, and Alfred Calambro of Petersburg, Va.; another daughter, Maria Wolfing of Coconut Creek, Fla.; a brother, Rudolfo Calambro of Hixson, Tex.; two sisters, Lucilla Arengo of Baltimore and Paula Acebuque of Iloilo, the Philippines; and seven grandchildren.

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