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.
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’.
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!
Golden Oldies of Clinton History, Vol. 2 – Gary Herrity (2003-08)
We Remained – Russell W. Volckmann (1954)