July 30, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday – Russell W. Volckmann

On a recent visit to Iowa my husband Jim found the gravestone of Russell William Volckmann  that I have written about several times in this blog. 

MacArthur Left But Volckmann Remained

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The headstone is located in Springdale Cemetery, Clinton, Iowa (FindAGrave location).  There are several Volckmanns buried in the same general area around the General’s headstone.

MacArthur Left But Volckmann Remained

volckmann-and-valdes-07-july-1945

macarthur

Almost everyone from my generation (baby boomers) knows the quote by General Douglas MacArthur wherein he says, “We Shall Return” in reference to when he was ordered to leave the Philippines in 1942 to command allied forces in the Southwest Pacific Command.

What you may not know is that many men under his command didn’t just surrender as they were ordered, but instead they avoided the Bataan Death March and other atrocities by traveling to northern Luzon where they waged the fight of their lives. One of these men is the subject of this article. His name was Russell W. Volckmann and he was from Clinton, Iowa.

Volckmann

We first were made aware of Colonel Volckmann (his rank in 1941) after reading a small book published by the The Clinton Herald, and written by Gary Herrity. Herrity’s reference to the book written after the war entitled “We Remained” (1954) by Volckmann caught our interest, and after waiting about a week for an interlibrary loan, we were able to read this previously unknown (to us) account of Russ Volckmann’s three years behind the lines fighting against the Japanese invaders.

While Volckmann wasn’t the only person to remain on the island, he was one of four men to help build the guerrilla forces and lead them, along with many brave Filipino citizens, in a three year endeavor to survive and thwart the ruthless ‘Japs’.

volckmann-and-valdes-07-july-1945

Philippine Army Chief of Staff Major Gen. Basilio J. Valdes (L) posing outside command post w. legendary Luzon guerrilla leader Colonel Russell Volckmann (R).  LIFE photo

I would like to make a special point of mentioning that if it wasn’t for the extreme courage and sacrifices that were made by the Philippine people, the outcome of the war and the survival of Volckmann and his compatriots would never  have happened as it did.

Russell Volckman went on to become a Brigadeer General after the war, and is noted even now as one of the proponents of the use of guerilla warfare that has since become one of the effective methods of defence. Volckmann was often sought out as a military consultant on this subject.

Volckmann’s book is well worth reading, not only for American historians, but for Filipino historians too.  My husband is also from Clinton, Iowa.  He said that he never remembered hearing about Colonel Volckmann, or being taught about his importance  in American history in any of his classes throughout his school years.

We cannot forget these heroes!

Sources:

Golden Oldies of Clinton History, Vol. 2 – Gary Herrity (2003-08)

We Remained – Russell W. Volckmann (1954)

COG -77th Edition – Disasters

Cape Esperance, US Navy WWII era

COG -77th Edition – Disasters

My father-in-law, Loren Wilkerson, was in the Navy during World War II and near the end of the war he was on the CVE (carrier vessel escort) Cape Esperance as they made their way to Leyte Gulf for the battle that would eventually take place there.

On their way to the eventual battle, the Cape Esperance encountered one of the worst typhoons in naval history.  Named typhoon Cobra, it wreaked havoc and caused many deaths for the US Naval vessels caught in its path. If you are interested in reading more about this storm, I recommend the book Typhoon, The Other Enemy by Robert Calhoun. My husband read the book and sent it to his dad. (I didn’t get to read it before that happened, so I just ordered a copy of the book for our library today.) Even though Robert Calhoun was onboard a different ship, his experiences were essentially the same as Loren’s.

Admiral Nimitiz letter to the Pacific Fleet dated 13 Feb 1945 gives an accounting of the ships involved and the damages they suffered. Not only were ships lost, but the Aircraft Losses from Typhoon Cobra 1944 were extensive. The total of the lives lost was at least 800. At one point, Loren said the ship’s captain wanted to abandon the Cape Esperance, but the men didn’t want to do that, and they fought to save the ship instead.

It’s my goal to document Loren’s history, either in the Navy, or as a civilian, so that his descendants will know stories of his life. On July 24th of 2008 the city of Low Moor, Iowa honored their WWII veterans and my article Low Moor, Iowa Honors WWII Vets is a more extensive recounting of his experience during typhoon Cobra.

CASU7 detachment at Quillayute NAS 1944

CASU7 detachment

Originally uploaded by webduckie

Today I was able to pinpoint the location of where this photo was taken using my dad’s Service Memories book. My mom must be commended too for adding all the documentation to the book.

Dad’s book says that he was transferred from Sand Point NAS to Quillayute NAS 06 March 1944. Since this picture was taken in September of 1944, it is likely they were in Quillayute.

As a side note, 26 January 1944 Dad was home on leave (from service in the South Pacific on New Caledonia) to get married 05 February 1944 at his in-law’s home in Seattle.

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