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Russell William Volckmann
Lt. Col. Russell W. Volckmann, post WW II
Born (1911-10-23)October 23, 1911
Died June 30, 1982(1982-06-30) (aged 70)
Place of birth Clinton, Iowa
Place of death Iowa City, Iowa
Allegiance United StatesUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1934-1957
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Battles/wars

World War II

Korean War

Cold War
Awards
  • Distinguished Service Cross (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit
  • Bronze Star (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • Korean Service Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
  • American Defense Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal[1]

Russell William Volckmann (September 23, 1911 - June 30, 1982) was a West Point graduate, a U.S. Army infantry officer and a leader of the guerrilla resistance to the Japanese conquest of the Philippines during World War II.[2] After the war, he remained in the U.S. Army and helped create the U.S. Army Special Forces. In addition to his other services to his country, Russell Volckmann, at that time a colonel, is considered a co-founder of the U.S. Army Special Forces (the "Green Berets"), together with Colonels Aaron Bank and Wendell Fertig. He eventually retired as a brigadier general.

Pre-war[edit | edit source]

Russell Volckmann was born 23 October 1911, in Clinton, Iowa, to Hattie May (Dodds) and William J. C. Volckmann. He attended high school at Shattuck Military Academy, Fairbault, Minnesota.[citation needed]

In 1930, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry upon graduation in June 1934.[3] Although he asked for assignment to the Philippines, a choice duty station requested by many officers, his below average performance at West Point resulted in assignment elsewhere. Volckmann received orders to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, where he was a rifle platoon leader and later a company executive officer with the 3rd Infantry Division. In 1937, he received orders to attend the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing this school he served at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as a company commander[4] with the 2nd Infantry Division. In 1940, he finally received orders for duty in the Philippines[5]

In the summer of 1940, 29-year-old Captain Volckmann loaded himself, his wife Nancy and their young son aboard a ship for duty in the Far East. Upon arrival in the Philippines, he became the commander of Company H, 31st Infantry Regiment.[6] In July 1941, he was transferred to the 11th Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Division (Philippine Army) as the regimental executive officer. This was unusual duty for a company-grade officer, but political tensions in the Pacific resulted in accelerated expansion and training for the Philippine Army.[7] In August 1941, Volckmann's wife and son, along with all other U.S. military dependents, were sent back to the United States due to war concerns.[8] On 8 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines.

World War II[edit | edit source]

At the fall of Bataan in 1942, Volckmann refused to surrender and accompanied by Donald Blackburn, another American officer also serving in the Philippine Army, left Bataan and began a trek to northern Luzon. This was before the fall of Corregidor. Using back trails, sometimes hiding in villages and sometimes in the company of other fleeing American and Filipino soldiers, Volckmann and Blackburn traveled to the cordillera in Northern Luzon. Once there they hoped to assist in establishing an organized resistance against the Japanese.[9] During this journey, they had close encounters with Japanese patrols, but always managed to avoid being seen. Volckmann strongly credits the assistance of Filipino civilians in making their journey a success, especially during their periods of illness, particularly that of Blackburn who contracted malaria. Volckmann organized military resistance among the Ifugao's 11th Infantry Battalion: 1st Lieutenants: Francisco Balanban, Alpha Company; Guinid Tuguinay, Bravo Company; Pedro Dulnuan Sr., Admin. His forces operated in the western and northern coasts of Luzon, launching attacks against the Japanese occupiers. During the U.S. and Filipino invasion of the Philippines in January 1945, Volckmann's guerrillas cut key communication lines and bridges and isolated barracks. Once the invasion had landed, he led attacks against the retreating Japanese forces far behind the lines, capturing bases and air fields, thereby allowing the American advance to proceed at a much quicker pace.[2]

Eventually, Volckmann was designated as Commander, United States Armed Forces in the Philippines—Northern Luzon or USAFIP-NL (Military and Guerrillas).[4] During World War II. Volckmann served either in regular or irregular military units, and was never assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as mentioned in some sources.[citation needed]

Post World War II[edit | edit source]

During December 1945, Colonel Volckmann briefly returned to the United States to reunite with his family. After two months of leave and medical treatment due to his exposure to various diseases in the Philippines, he returned to the Philippines to assist in unfinished business related to his command as the guerrilla leader of North Luzon. This included investigation of war crimes, payments to civilians of vouchers issued during the war, and confirmation of pay to guerrilla soldiers. He did not return again to the United States until July 1946.[10] Due to his illnesses and the stress of continual combat, Volckmann would not be released as a medical patient until early 1948.[11] After his official release as a patient, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, now Army Chief of Staff, ordered Volckmann to write what would become the Army's first official counterinsurgency doctrine. During 1948-1949, Volckmann was busy writing this new technical manual, based on his experiences in the Philippines. In September 1950, FM 31-20 Operations Against Guerrilla Forces was released.[12] This was just in time, as the Korean War began when South Korea was invaded by the North Koreans in June 1950. The North Koreans made extensive use of guerrillas and regular U.S. Army doctrine was ineffective against them. General MacArthur requested that Colonel Volckmann be immediately assigned to Eighth Army Headquarters, and he appointed Volckmann as Executive Office of the Special Activities Group (SAG)-Far East Command, a combination of U.S. Army Rangers, U.S. Marines and South Korean troops. The unit was commanded by Colonel Louis B. Ely, a veteran of the OSS. As executive officer, Volvkmann's duties were to plan and conduct guerrilla activities behind North Korean lines. Less than six months into this new position, Volckmann was evacuated to the United States due to a relapse of a medical condition, most likely a severe stomach ulcer, he had incurred in the Philippines.[13] Upon his return, Volckmann began a new writing assignment, and, in 1951, FM 31-21 Organization and Conduct of Guerrilla Warfare was released. Brigadier General Robert A. McClure, director of the Office of the Chief of Psychological Warfare (OCPW), asked Volckmann to become OCPW's Chief of Plans—Special Operations Division. Joining Volckman were Colonel Aaron Bank, a former OSS operative who served with the Jedburghs in Europe; Colonel Wendell Fertig, another major leader of guerrilla resistance in the Philippines; and Colonel Melvin Blair, a veteran of "Merrill's Marauders."[14] After attending the National War College, in Washington, D.C., during 1953-1954, Volckmann was Chief of Special Operations Division, U.S. European Command, during 1954-1956.[4] In 1956, Volckmann completed the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. At that time, he was 45 years old and one of the oldest soldiers to take and complete that course. The course was required since he then served as assistant division commander, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during 1956-1957.[4]

Due to his service with irregular troops in the Philippines and loss of contact with the U.S. Army, Volckmann's promotions were also irregular. Promoted to major on 31 January 1942, months before his escape to North Luzon, he then received temporary promotion to lieutenant colonel on 20 November 1944, and a temporary promotion to colonel on 21 January 1945. However, he reverted to permanent lieutenant colonel on 1 August 1946, and then to colonel again, this time also permanent, on 1 February 1953. He received his final promotion to brigadier general on 31 December 1956.[citation needed]

In July 1957, Volckmann retired from the Army after 27 years of military service, including his four years as a cadet at West Point.[4]

The Special Forces Association lists Volckmann one of three men who "used their wartime experience to formulate the doctrine of unconventional warfare that became the cornerstone of SF [Special Forces],"[15] Bank often receives credit for being the true founder,[16] but this is because he created the Table of Organization for the Special Forces and commanded the first units. In addition, in a letter dated 23 February 1969, Bank gives credit to Volckmann for "the development of position, planning and policy papers that helped see the establishment of Special Forces units in the active Army."[17] Volckmann and Fertig both commanded corps-sized guerrilla units in World War II and organized them from the ground up. It was they who developed the doctrine of U.S. military guerrilla insurgency that guides the Special Forces today. One authority even lists Fertig as one of the top ten guerrilla leaders in history.[18]

Later life[edit | edit source]

After retiring from the U.S. Army, Volckmann was president of Volckmann Furniture Manufacturing Company in Morrison, Illinois. He was also president of Zeffyr Industries and president of Volckmann Division of Ethan Allen Inc., from 1970 until his retirement in 1977.[1]

However, Volckmann was often active in military matters. For example, in 1962, he was asked by the U.S. Air Force to lead a Rand Corporation study panel on the feasibility of air support in counterinsurgency operations.[19] Russell Volckmann died on 30 June 1982. Attending his funeral were several officials representing the Philippine government: Brigadier General Angel G. Kanapi, defense attache of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.; Mr. Nick Nor Paynor Jr., aide to General Kanapi; and Mr. Esperanto Curaming, representing the Philippine Consul General of Chicago. Also in attendance was Brigadier General Donald Blackburn of McLean, Virginian. Volckmann is buried in Springdale Cemetery at Clinton, Iowa.[citation needed]

Family[edit | edit source]

In August 1934, after graduating from West Point, Volckmann married Nancy Sorley. In 1936, a son, Russell Jr., was born. Although both accompanied him to the Philippines in 1940, they were forced to return to the United States with other military dependents in August 1941. In March 1942, his wife received a letter from him before the surrender of Bataan, It would be the last his family would hear from him until January 1945.[8]

Upon Volckmann's second return to the United States in July 1946, his wife Nancy requested a divorce, which was finalized in August 1947.[20] On 28 August 1948, he married Helen Rich, and they had two sons, William (b. 1954) and Edward (b. 1961). They remained married until Volckmann's death in 1982.[21]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Guardia 2010, p. 14. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "guardia15" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hogan 1992.
  3. Guardia 2010, pp. 17-18.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Guardia 2010, p. 193.
  5. Guardia 2010, p. 18.
  6. Guardia 2010, p. 20.
  7. Guardia 2010, pp. 20-22.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Guardia 2010, p. 23.
  9. Volckmann 1954
  10. Guardia 2010, pp. 149-152.
  11. Guardia 2010, pp. 156-157.
  12. Guardia 2010, pp. 160-163.
  13. Guardia 2010, pp. 165-168.
  14. Guardia 2010, pp. 170-173.
  15. Special Forces Association 2012.
  16. GlobalSecurity.org
  17. Guardia 2010, p. 173-177.
  18. Brooks 2003, p. 37.
  19. Guardia 2010, pp. 187.
  20. Guardia 2010, pp. 152-153.
  21. Guardia 2010, pp. 153.

References[edit | edit source]

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