József Vigh was born on 24 August 1915 in Zalaszántó, his father was a carpenter, who died a heroic death in the First World War. He started his military service in 1937, after one year he remained as a probationary officer in the 6/III Battalion in Nagyatád, and in 1940 he was transferred to the regular staff. He participated in the Don offensive operations for one year and was wounded on 10 August 1942. On this occasion he received the Governor's Commendation with Swords. At the end of 1943, he was transferred to the Assault Forces stationed in the Pripyat Marshes as a company commander of the 36/9th Company. After a short leave of absence, he was transferred to Kaposvár as a training officer of the 6th Mechanized Armoured Cannon Company. From 20 November 1944 he took part in the battles of Gödöllő and Pest as commander of the 12th Division's direct armoured gun company. According to his statement, he prevented the bombing of the airfield in Matyásföld and had several clashes with the Arrow Cross. He was transferred with his company between 11 and 12 February 1945 (he gave different dates in different biographies, some of which mention January 1945 as the end of his first military service, suggesting that he did not take part in any fighting from then until he was captured). He was then appointed commander of the heavy armoured gun company of the 1st Infantry Regiment, and was demobilised in the summer of 1946. The reasons given for this were his anti-democratic behaviour and his alleged (uninvestigated) corruption. In 1945 he joined the National Peasant Party. In 1947 he was dismissed with the loss of his pension rights. He was subsequently able to find work as a horse nurse and as a labourer. He defected in 1956.