American Guerrilla

American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann-The Man Who Escaped from Bataan, Raised a Filipino Army Against the Japanese, and Became the True "Father" of Army Special Forces by Mike Guardia.

A main selection of the Military Book Club and a selection of the History Book Club.

With his parting words "I shall return," General Douglas MacArthur sealed the fate of the last American forces on Bataan. Yet one young Army Captain named Russell Volckmann refused to surrender. He disappeared into the jungles of north Luzon where he raised a Filipino army of over 22,000 men. For the next three years he led a guerrilla war against the Japanese, killing over 50,000 enemy soldiers. At the same time he established radio contact with MacArthur's HQ in Australia and directed Allied forces to key enemy positions. When General Yamashita finally surrendered, he made his initial overtures not to MacArthur, but to Volckmann.

This book establishes how Volckmann's leadership was critical to the outcome of the war in the Philippines. His ability to synthesize the realities and potential of guerrilla warfare led to a campaign that rendered Yamashita's forces incapable of repelling the Allied invasion. Had it not been for Volckmann, the Americans would have gone in "blind" during their counter-invasion, reducing their efforts to a trial-and-error campaign that would undoubtedly have cost more lives, materiel, and potentially stalled the pace of the entire Pacific War.

Second, this book establishes Volckmann as the progenitor of modern counterinsurgency doctrine and the true "Father" of Army Special Forces- a title that history has erroneously awarded to Colonel Aaron Bank of the ETO. In 1950, Volckmann wrote two Army field manuals: Operations Against Guerrilla Forces and Organization and Conduct of Guerrilla Warfare, though today few realize he was their author. Together, they became the Army's first handbooks outlining the precepts for both special warfare and counter-guerrilla operations. Taking his argument directly to the Army Chief of Staff, Volckmann outlined the concept for Army Special Forces. At a time when U.S. military doctrine was conventional in outlook, he marketed the ideas of guerrilla warfare as a critical force multiplier for any future conflict, ultimately securing the establishment of the Army's first special operations unit-the 10th Special Forces Group.

Volckmann himself remains a shadowy figure in modern military history, his name absent from every major biography on MacArthur, and in much of the Special Forces literature. Yet as modest, even secretive, as Volckmann was during his career, it is difficult to imagine a man whose heroic initiative had more impact on World War II. This long overdue book not only chronicles the dramatic military exploits of Russell Volckmann, but analyzes how his leadership paved the way for modern special warfare doctrine.

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'Guerilla Daughter' has sent an update along with a caveat that the work is steady and no date is end - being a housewife / homemaker.

She is the daughter of Colonel Arthur Philip Murphy, a now-deceased American Army officer who was an integral part of USAFIP-NL and for the past two years I've been working on writing my father's memoirs. I do have more than 300 pages written (20 chapters) and am, chronologically, late into 1943, so maybe one of these days I'll reach the end. I'm writing about his days as a guerrilla in North Luzon during WWII. He never surrendered, was never captured and never wounded (if you don't count malaria) and ended up serving as Chief of Staff for Russell W. Volckmann toward the end of the war. Volckmann commanded the United States Army Forces in the Philippines, North Luzon (USFIP-NL).

I am sure she will update us when her research is complete and finds a publisher.

This book refers to one leader of the guerillas and SWC has a current RFI to trace information and relatives of another leader, Major Walter M. Cushing. See: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=20529

In a previous exchange in 2010-2012 another enquirer was connected to this book's author. Hopefully the RFI gains what it seeks.

Yet again proof that SWC / SWJ has value.

Just came across this thread. My father in-law was a member of the 121st. He started out in intel and ended up in the infantry fighting at the Battle of Bessang Pass.

He's almost 90 and loves to recount stories of his days in the war. This weekend I captured about two hours of video of him retelling his adventures.

I've begun to ask him very specific questions about dates, places, people etc in order to coordinate his tales with documented engagements. Please email me if you have specific questions to ask him.

As far as the running question of "Volckmann" organizing 20,000 ... My father in-law did tell me he had 6 weeks of formal training in the jungle before returning to coast to perform intel duties. This suggests there was someone (Volckmann ?) behind the groups of guerrillas organizing their efforts.

I am the daughter of Colonel Arthur Philip Murphy, a now-deceased American Army officer who was an integral part of USAFIP-NL. Sadly, I have only recently read "American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann" and was never contacted by the author before its publication. I am in possession of all of my father's papers and writings concerning his role in USAFIP-NL and concerning his career subsequent to that period, including sworn testimony which directly refutes some of the basic tenets of the book, particularly with regard to who it was who actually wrote Field Manuals 31-20 and 31-21. I would very much like to make contact with either Mike Guardia or his father, Miguel Angel Guardia, to discuss this matter further. I can be reached at pminch@sbcglobal.net.

Moderator adds: Author has made contact in 2012 with the book's author thanks to the help of his Fort's switchboard.

I know this is unrelated somewhat to the previous posts, but I have been searching for some information on a relative of mine who was a notable figure in the guerilla efforts during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during WW2. You all seem to be well versed on the subject so I hope someone can point me in the right direction. My great grandfather was Captain Walter Cushing. I have heard many versions of his story and it has become somewhat of a myth among my family members, and I would like to get whatever versions of the story from credible sources if possible so I can set the record straight. If anyone knows of websites, books or any other records of his services during his time in the Philippines that would be greatly appreciated.

Jennifer,

If you check-in please contact the two researching authors! 'Guerilla Daughter' whose email is displayed and nathanhooker90@yahoo.com (who posted a RFI in April 2014).

Behind Enemy Lines, 1959, by James Dean Sanderson, has a 22-page chapter on Walter M Cushing. It seems credible. I researched some of the other chapters, especially one on Popski's Private Army, and it checked out well. Cushing and Popski were similar in spirit, among the most admirable men in history. The book is available on Amazon and eBay. Enjoy!

Hello, Jennifer. I see that after nearly 18 months, apparently no one on this forum has stepped forward to help you in your quest to learn everything you can about your great-grandfather, Walter Cushing. I have in my possession a copy of "Guerrilla Days in North Luzon," published by USAFIP-NL in July 1946. Chapter III of this book, nine pages long, is devoted to the exploits of Walter M. Cushing and is probably as close as you're going to get to an authoritative source. If you don't already have copies of this material and if you'll contact me at pminch@sbcglobal.net and give me your mailing address, I'll be more than happy to photocopy these pages and mail them to you.

Steven:

All true but not useful; mandatory... ;)

Ken,

It's less an American tendency than a human tendency. I suspect that when the Legions came home from Gaul a tall tale or two made the rounds, and the same is probably true of every expeditionary force in history.

The accounts are worth reading, ancient or modern, but the grain of salt always needs to be there and a functional BS meter is a useful thing to have.

Mike:We can swap drinks and kisses... ;)

And that's Great Grandpa. Double sigh...

Steven:True. Our American tendency to hyperbole and hooray for us can be really annoying. Unless I'm employing the hyperbole, of course...

As for the book, if the intent was to do a Volckman bio, may be some exaggeration, that sort of seems to go with the territory. I find the truth, as near as can sometimes be ascertained, to generally fall between the two sides to every story. We'll see. He really did do a lot for Special Forces and was then sort of pushed aside by more, er, publicity conscious folks.

Ken,

You're right, I probably exaggerated... but when I see

"...he raised a Filipino army of over 22,000 men. For the next three years he led a guerrilla war against the Japanese, killing over 50,000 enemy soldiers..."

I confess that more than a bit of "whoa, WTF" runs through my brain. One of the first things you realize when you look into that fight at ground level is that nobody "raised" these guerrilla units, they generally formed on their own and in many cases operated with almost complete autonomy, not least because of extreme limits on communications. So yeah, the "raised" and "led" did perhaps lead me to assume a level of leader-centricity. I may have also filtered that through too much experience of American accounts centering almost entirely on the valor and creativity of the Americans in the picture, treating the Filipinos as little brown bodies who did what they were told, except when they should have but didn't.

We all have our hot buttons...

"I are an old enlisted swine, alas manhugs are forbidden to me (other than to wearers of Maroon or Green Berets and unless accompanied by a kiss in the ear; thus you can have one when we meet but no long distance stuff...). ;)"

Allright Grandpa Ken, I'm back at bragg now. As I recall, you and your boy owe me a drink at McKellar's Lodge :). I'm so gonna give you a man hug if you show up...I don't discount the lessons that you taught me. I didn't forget.

"I'll quote Jimmy Smith "It is amazing what Soldiers can accomplish when they are granted the initiative to solve this dilemma of flexibility." PV2s, 2LTs, SPCs all soldiers, all can think. Often say things worth listening to..."

As it should be....That's why we have commander's intent and purpose so that we can let the boys run.

And yes, as every O and Nco that I know, we refer to the men under our control as our boys :). Just as I refer to four men as "my" commander. It's a term of endearement.

Steven Rogers:

"hard to see how a story as complex and diverse as that of the Luzon resistance could be meaningfully centered on a single individual, but I'll try to keep the mind... say 1/3 open."

Perhaps I missed it but I didn't see that claim -- "centered on a single individual" -- in the review. Nor did I see anything in the review that indicates that all the hundreds, even thousands, of people involved in that resistance won't get adequate credit.

"I suspect this is true of any war, any time: look at the official record signed off by the commanders, and then go out and talk to a bunch of NCOs, privates, local residents... you're gonna hear different things. Often VERY different things. Where do you think you'll hear something closer to the truth?

I don't suspect that's true, I'm positive it is. Sometimes. I've seen doctored reports and I've seen, harsh unvarnished truth reported. Preponderance toward the honest efforts.

I'm equally positive that memories dim, stories change to protect reputations -- or destroy them -- and that parochialism and bias abound. Everywhere. I've seen NCOs, private, local citizens skew the truth or just skew their honest recollection inadvertently, Again, preponderance toward honest effort.

"Do you really think everything that goes into an official report is an accurate and dispassionate account of actual events?

I know full well many, not all, are not. Some are totally honest and objective. Sorting out which is which takes skill. I know equally well that unoffical and narrative 'history' has its own problems. And sorting that out is even more problematic and difficult...

"do you think anyone would say in a report that guerrilla rosters, or contracts for disposal of surplus goods, or distribution of aid, or anything else were deliberately manipulated to make sure some people got power and some people didn't? Of course nobody would put that in a report. Do you think it didn't happen?"

I think it almost certainly did happen and I'd be amazed if at least some reports did not expose it as happening. There are more honest people than not...

Back to the opening quote in this comment; are you sure it's that open? :D

Mike Few:I are an old enlisted swine, alas manhugs are forbidden to me (other than to wearers of Maroon or Green Berets and unless accompanied by a kiss in the ear; thus you can have one when we meet but no long distance stuff...). ;)

I'll quote Jimmy Smith "It is amazing what Soldiers can accomplish when they are granted the initiative to solve this dilemma of flexibility." PV2s, 2LTs, SPCs all soldiers, all can think. Often say things worth listening to...

"That's a shame. You could have donated those items to any host of research organizations where they could have been used by others. Evidently you are frustrated that your story hasn't been heard."

A bit of a shame, but hardly exorbitant. Certainly the material might have been put to some use by someone somewhere along the line. It's certainly not my story, and I wouldn't say there's any great frustration, except when I come up against the sanitized versions that float around. That's true of more recent events as well. What was the line from Shaw?

"History, sir, will tell lies, as always"

That's from memory, might be a bit off.

"if one were socialized in the body-count mentality of Vietnam and into thinking that this is the way the US Army has always been, and that is how the US Army will always remain, then there is no point in studying anything regarding military history."

It's the way armies have always been. Inflated body counts, exaggerated stories, and sanitized official reports are as old as warfare.

Military history is worth studying, it's not worth worshiping. Sad fact of life: a lot of it is shaky, a lot of it is wrong, and almost all of it was written by the victor, with other perspectives omitted. Take it with a big grain of salt.

[Steven Rogers] "Just in case it isn't clear, I live in the Philippines."

I think that was clear to most of us from the beginning.

[Steven Rogers] "The project went by the wayside and the notes and tapes are long gone..."

That's a shame. You could have donated those items to any host of research organizations where they could have been used by others. Evidently you are frustrated that your story hasn't been heard.

[Steven Rogers]... and when I set them side by side I know which one sounds more credible to me.

But then these are matters that become open to endless debate.

[Steven Rogers] "Do you really think everything that goes into an official report is an accurate and dispassionate account of actual events?"

There is actually much to be believed from Volckmann and Blackburn. However, if one were socialized in the body-count mentality of Vietnam and into thinking that this is the way the US Army has always been, and that is how the US Army will always remain, then there is no point in studying anything regarding military history. Here cynicism would reign over rational discussion and investigation. Volckmann kept good records, and they appear to be accurate. In fact one of the complaints of Lapham was that Volckmann even kept records. Lapham viewed this as a security risk according to Mike's book.

[Steven Rogers] "In America, of course. Maybe even in Manila today. These are melting pots, easy to blend. Philippine provincial towns in the early 40's were quite the opposite. Mestizo communities were small, populations were very static, and people knew each other by sight."

No in America I don't get mistaken for a Filipino mestizo at all, not by Filipinos or anyone else here in the US. But all over Southeast Asia, and even in PI, yes. You take a guy with a Spanish name with some hint of Asian features (high cheekbones, little body hair) and people are going to think he is a Filipino mestizo. Happens all the time to me. Even "Eddie" Ramos thought I was a PI mestizo when we met. Now go back to the 40's when Spanish was still being spoken by the upper/educated class in PI, and even moreso. As I stated in the case of Walter Cushing, he was a mestizo Mexican-American who spoke fluent Spanish. His ability to blend in was to fool the Japanese in places like Manila and Baguio, not to fool locals in some rural town. In fact sympathetic Filipinos would present Cushing as a Filipino mestizo. As a sidebar, PI remains very close to the Spanish-speaking world, and "La Reina de los Corazones" is still considered the most beautiful woman in Spain.

[Steven Rogers] "As far as the manipulation of rosters goes... do you think anyone would say in a report that guerrilla rosters, or contracts for disposal of surplus goods, or distribution of aid, or anything else were deliberately manipulated to make sure some people got power and some people didn't? Of course nobody would put that in a report. Do you think it didn't happen?"

You keep harping on this issue. I have already stated twice that the roster fraud was covered in the book. How truthful the truth is will always be open to debate. Not only that, but there were charges of war crimes brought on both Volckmann and Blackburn that Mike mentions in the book. Mike certainly would not have mentioned this if your concerns about hagiography were valid.

As my closing response to you, the bottom line is that American and Filipino men took the full measure to keep up the good fight as opposed to capitulating to the Japs. Thank you to all you for the opportunity to discuss the book and to SWJ for initiating the topic.

And re this...

"Actually, I get mistaken for a Filipino mestizo quite often, and even by Filipinos."

In America, of course. Maybe even in Manila today. These are melting pots, easy to blend. Philippine provincial towns in the early 40's were quite the opposite. Mestizo communities were small, populations were very static, and people knew each other by sight.

Even today it's hard for a Manila Filipino, let alone a mestizo, to pass for local in a provincial town. They walk differently, they dress differently, and if they speak any doubt vanishes. To Americans the distinctions are invisible, to Pinoys they're like neon signs.

As far as the manipulation of rosters goes... do you think anyone would say in a report that guerrilla rosters, or contracts for disposal of surplus goods, or distribution of aid, or anything else were deliberately manipulated to make sure some people got power and some people didn't? Of course nobody would put that in a report. Do you think it didn't happen?

"Thanks to both the Guardias for proving that one does not have to be annointed or reverent to know something. Second lieutenants standing things on their heads; what's this world coming to... ;)"

Okay, manhugs aside....

Does that mean we are free to begin with the 2LT harassment?

Mike

[Ken White]Thanks to both the Guardias for proving that one does not have to be annointed or reverent to know something. Second lieutenants standing things on their heads; what's this world coming to... ;)

Thank you Ken.

Just in case it isn't clear, I live in the Philippines. I've lived here for over 30 years, much of that time in North Luzon. I've always had an interest in the history, I have some languages, and I talk to people.

Back in the '80s I contrived the notion of a book on the subject, and spent a fair bit of time on interviews, mainly Filipinos but also a fair number of Americans who stayed on (all long dead I'm sure, the livers don't hold up). The project went by the wayside and the notes and tapes are long gone, but I've a memory or two.

As I said initially, the divergence between those stories and the official record are extraordinary... and when I set them side by side I know which one sounds more credible to me.

I suspect this is true of any war, any time: look at the official record signed off by the commanders, and then go out and talk to a bunch of NCOs, privates, local residents... you're gonna hear different things. Often VERY different things. Where do you think you'll hear something closer to the truth?

Do you really think everything that goes into an official report is an accurate and dispassionate account of actual events?

7:36 PM and 7:24 PM responses were mine. Still getting the hang of posting.

[Steven Rogers] "...The idea of a Spanish-speaking American passing himself off as a Filipino mestizo is ridiculous..."

Actually, I get mistaken for a Filipino mestizo quite often, and even by Filipinos.

[Steven Rogers] "Anyone who believes that every record in DC represents a guerrilla who actually fought deserves a medal for innocence. Rosters were routinely inflated, during the fight to gain advantage in the aggressive competition for the very limited amount of US aid that was brought in, after it for political advantage. And yes, the manipulation of the guerrilla rosters after the war was extensive. MacArthur's people were directly involved in it, the purpose was not to reward those who fought but to shape the post-war order. Collaborators were exonerated, real guerrillas excluded, phantom guerrilla groups appeared out of the mist..."

As I mentioned before, the false claims are addressed in the book.

[Steven Rogers]"...if you examine the competing pictures with an eye toward compatibility with human nature, it doesn't take long to figure out which is more accurate..."

Oliver is that you?

[Mike Few]"...Does that mean we are free to begin with the 2LT harassment?

I'm just saying..."

Lol!

[Steven Rogers] "Is the 22,000 figure meant to represent the guerrillas actually under Volckmann's command in the (rather small) section of North Luzon in which he operated, or the total number of guerrillas after the nominal assignment of regional command?"

The figure represents total command. You may recall that the guerrilla force expanded over time, so that figure would be the peak. Blackburn leaves Volckmann as part of this expansion, as did others to take over subordinate commands as these grew and came into operations. Naturally, fence-sitters started joining up once it became apparent that the US was winning the Pacific War and would soon be "returning" to the Philippines.

[Steven Rogers] "The comments on the National Archives, I fear, invoked a mild giggle on my part, there's a huge world of difference between what "happened" on paper in Washington DC and what happened on the ground in Luzon."

Normally I would giggle along with you. However, I am giggling now for a different reason. The archive documents are from the Philippines. They are from our Army in the Philippines written in those times. These are original documents, old, yellowed, some are notes written on cardboard or mere scraps of paper. Some are organizational charts penned by Volckmann and Blackburn themselves. These guys were there and their signatures are all over these documents, as well as those of their Filipino officers and men.

[Steven Rogers] "How many Filipino veterans were interviewed in the course of the research, I wonder? How many months on the ground in Luzon? Did the interviewer speak the right languages?"

How many Filipino veterans are even still alive I wonder who worked with Volckmann and Blackburn. Recall that Ramsey was 91 when Mike talked to him. Blackburn died just a few weeks after Mike interviewed him. Others that Mike tracked down had just recently died. He missed them by weeks. This is covered in the Introduction chapter.

[Steven Rogers] "You want to know what really happened, go to where it really happened and squat in the dirt with some old folks. Won't find it in DC."

That was pithy. I mean, "Fire for effect!"

Most of the old folks from the USAFIP-NL in PI are now dead and that's what you would find if you went to PI today looking for them. In addition, you would find no written records there by the actual men who fought with Volckmann and Blackburn as part of USAFIP-NL. However, their written documents are now in the National Archives II building in College Park, MD. Much of the documentation in the Archives is the written work of Filipinos WHO FOUGHT ALONGSIDE Volckmann and Blackburn. Since they were part of USAFIP-NL, it makes sense to me that the documents would be with the other USAFIP-NL documents here in the US, which they are indeed. A trip to PI would of course have been an enhancement to the research by walking the actual terrain. Since you mentioned you have done boots-on-the-ground research, I think I would be interested in seeing your book on the subject so that I may add it to my body of knowledge and so that I can pass your book along to Mike. What is the title of your published work, and does it have verifiable references? Is the work found under Steven Rogers or are you using a pseudonym?

Don't read this book if you "want to know what really happened." As that will always be open to debate for the conspiracy theorist types. Do read the book if you are interested in the life of a great American soldier.

Amazing how in American retellings the Americans become Pancho Villa, James Bond, and not infrequently Superman. Again, if you hear your stories in the Philippines you will hear some different ones.

The idea of a Spanish-speaking American passing himself off as a Filipino mestizo is ridiculous. Maybe to a Japanese, but you wouldn't fool the locals for a half a heartbeat.

Anyone who believes that every record in DC represents a guerrilla who actually fought deserves a medal for innocence. Rosters were routinely inflated, during the fight to gain advantage in the aggressive competition for the very limited amount of US aid that was brought in, after it for political advantage. And yes, the manipulation of the guerrilla rosters after the war was extensive. MacArthur's people were directly involved in it, the purpose was not to reward those who fought but to shape the post-war order. Collaborators were exonerated, real guerrillas excluded, phantom guerrilla groups appeared out of the mist...

All of this is common knowledge on this side of the water, and if you examine the competing pictures with an eye toward compatibility with human nature, it doesn't take long to figure out which is more accurate.

"Thank you for the kind words I will pass those along to Mike."

Does that mean we are free to begin with the 2LT harrasment?

I'm just saying...

Thank you for the kind words I will pass those along to Mike.

Blackburn and Volckmann remained lifelong friends. The book has a picture of them and their families at the beach. It's one of those pictures that could hang in Americana as a portrait of the happiness of young families after the war. Nothing bonds men closer together than the sharing of common hardships. But I think we all know that. What an adventurous and fascinating life these two buddies had.

I don't know much about Lapham other than what Mike wrote in the book, which is that Lapham rejected any opportunity to work with Volckmann. Lapham was a 1LT, had his own command and would not subordinate himself to anybody else regardless of their rank. He was also critical of Volckmann after the war as well as other American guerrillas. Other officers found along the way by Volckmann and Blackburn considered the war over due to the surrender order and refused to join any guerrilla group. The Japs didn't care and eventually gathered them up, with many of them executed while in prison.

Again the focus of the book is on Volckmann, but Mike left a very good audit trail for the would-be researcher to follow via the notes and bibliography.

I have become interested in the Cushing brothers as a result of reading Mike's book. These were three brothers from El Paso that were mining engineers. They were half Gringo and half Latino (like my son). Anyhow the Cushings could pass themselves off as mestizo Filipinos, half-breeds. We must recall that back then the educated Filipinos spoke Spanish and so did the Cushings. So, Walter Cushing used to just walk into the occupied cities and find out where all the Japs were, gather intel, etc. He would even go to cocktail parties in James Bond mode, talk to diplomats, etc. Eventually, his own guerrillas were wiped out. Japs surrounded Walter in his last battle, and rather than be captured Walter Cushing put his last bullet through his head. The Japs were so impressed they buried him with full honors - so the legend goes. None of the Cushings survived the war. So, here we have three mining engineers from El Paso battling it out with the Japs. Sullivans, Tex-Mex style.

There is other interesting stuff about American miners that fascinate me, but are not part of this Volckmann story. These are from the National Archive documents that Mike reviewed. Some of the American miners became guerrillas and bandits. Think Pancho Villa type stuff but to a lesser degree. That is, these guys would go and kill Japs as targets of opportunity, but would also pillage and plunder from Filipinos so that they could obtain supplies needed for survival. I read a couple of these confessions from these miners from the National Archive documents. I am not sure how MacArthur handled them.

Is the 22,000 figure meant to represent the guerrillas actually under Volckmann's command in the (rather small) section of North Luzon in which he operated, or the total number of guerrillas after the nominal assignment of regional command?

The comments on the National Archives, I fear, invoked a mild giggle on my part, there's a huge world of difference between what "happened" on paper in Washington DC and what happened on the ground in Luzon.

How many Filipino veterans were interviewed in the course of the research, I wonder? How many months on the ground in Luzon? Did the interviewer speak the right languages?

You want to know what really happened, go to where it really happened and squat in the dirt with some old folks. Won't find it in DC.

Yes, that idiot. Sigh.

I think it's a plot.

Did it again. I'll get you for this, Bill Nagle :D

The idiot who didn't sign in at 5:25 PM is me... :<

Had an interesting conversation at a party with then BG Donald C. Blackburn. He had no question that Volckmann was genuine, commanded a number of Gs -- about 20K, he said, four 'Regiments.' He also discussed Ramsey, Fertig and Lapham -- not fond of the latter, I gathered.

When I mentioned I'd arrived in the 77th right after he left, he had some revelatory comments about the formation of the then specialty, now branch that is SF. They differed from the public version...

Thanks to both the Guardias for proving that one does not have to be annointed or reverent to know something. Second lieutenants standing things on their heads; what's this world coming to... ;)

Yeah, yeah. I am the wise-ass in the family too. Glad my son didn't turn out that way. I wouldn't even have the patience to write a book. The CAV did it to me too, or maybe it was Ranger school. Or, I was just born like this.

As for the shocker, if it's viewed as an academic endeavor, that lessens the shock. All MA History majors are required to submit a thesis. Mike thought that doing it concurrently as a book would not take that much more effort, and that even if publishers turned it down, that it would make for a good thesis and a passing grade. My own impression is that he liked the investigative aspects of writing the story - the research. He spent several days with General Don Blackburn, in his home, reviewing his personal records, photos, files, etc. (to include stuff like the Son Tay raid). Blackburn was Volckmanns' XO during the early guerrilla days, and is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the US Special Forces as well as Volckmann, Bank, McClure, etc. Unfortunately General Blackburn passed away a few weeks after Mike visited him. The very gracious Blackburn family invited Mike and my wife to the funeral at Arlington. Unfortunately I was away in Africa.

Another teaser --- Volckmann was 45-yrs old when he went to Airborne school. I don't even want to think about attempting something like that at that age.

Mr. Guardia,

"That's very cute. Wise guy, eh? You should meet the author."

Yes. I'm sarcastic, and that's the attitude that I encouraged in my own men. They were historically CAV- the best in their fields and they let everyone know it.

I was shocked to learn that a 2LT wrote a book. I won't get into my focus during that time, but needless to say, it wasn't so focused.

I'm genuinely impressed by your son. I hope this reply will speak to that. It speaks volumes of what you did in raising him. Additionally, I am a product of your alma matter, and I am glad to know that you taught the same values to your children.

He's seems like someone that I would want within my own organization. I just might need some time to teach him the whole shoot, move, and communicate stuff :).

I look forward to reading the book, and again, I am impressed by your son.

Respectfully,

Mike

Interesting comments. I browse this blog often. I am the author's father.

Let's address the "hagiography" comment first [by Steven Rogers]. Here is an answer from the Introduction chapter of "American Guerrilla":

"In all, I have been mindful not to resort to hagiography. Although I believe Volckmann to to be a forgotten hero and a tactical innovator, I do not pretend that he was infallible. An innovator of any kind is bound to make mistakes along the way. Many of my primary sources do not portray Volckmann in the most flattering light. Furthermore, despite the breadth and accuracy that I believe my sources posses, none of them are without their potential liabilities."

Now for the next comment [by Steven Rogers]: "While Volckmann was officially designated commander of the Luzon guerrillas in early 1944..."

Officially you say? My opinion is that "officialdom" has no place here. This is simply because "officialdom" ordered a surrender at Bataan, while "officialdom" itself took a fast boat to Australia leaving others to conduct a Death March, or by defiance of the order live off of the land as they may, abandoned. However, with regards to the leadership of guerrilla forces in North Luzon, Volckmann took over command of the North Luzon guerrilla forces earlier than 1944. In fact he and Don Blackburn took over after colonels Moses & Noble were captured and executed by the Japanese, as were many others who stuck around for the fight.

Next comment [by Steven Rogers]: "...Possibly it's the claim that Volckmann "raised a Filipino army of over 22,000 men", which seems a substantial exaggeration."

No exaggeration. Documents in the National Archives II verify these numbers. These are original documents. The notes and paper trail are well documented in the book.

Next comment [by Steven Rogers]: "One is the relations between the USAFFE guerrillas and the Hukbalahap."

This is addressed in the book. The relations were cordial, at least from the meeting described in Volckmann's war diary that the family made available to Guardia. The battles with the Hukbalahap were with Ramsey's guerrillas, not Volckmann's. Guardia also interviewed Ramsey. Here is Guardia's account, again from the Introduction chapter:

"...Ramsey was another American guerrilla who led a small band of raiders in the northern Zambales Mountains. Ramsey was indeed a competent leader, but spent most of his time battling the Hukbalahap, or Philippine Communists. As of 2008, Ramsey is 91 years old. Despite his age, however, he remains mentally sharp and recalls his meetings with Volckmann in excruciating detail.

Next comment [by Steven Rogers] "The other is the post-war manipulation of guerrilla rosters..."

Indeed there were fraudulent attempts to get on these rosters after the war so that people could get benefits and compensation for deeds that they did not do. MacArthur set up a commission for verification whereby certain criteria had to be met. Volckmann and others who were actually there were involved in this process. The documentation is all at the National Archives II, where Guardia made several trips.

Next comment [by Steven Rogers]: "...hard to see how a story as complex and diverse as that of the Luzon resistance could be meaningfully centered on a single individual..."

Here you are correct. The book is not offered as a treatise on the overall Luzon resistance. It is a historical biography on Volckmann and is clearly stated as such in the Introduction, and easily inferred from the title of the book itself. Nevertheless, the focus on Northern Luzon coincides with Volckmann's area of operations, not just because of the cover & concealment offered, but also because Northern Luzon was considered the prize by the Japanese due to it's mineral wealth. In fact other American guerrillas were actually American miners who took up arms when the Japanese invaded without an Army commission.

Next comment [by Mike Few] "Thank you. By the way, I'm a published author on Special Forces in the Phillipines during WWII. No big deal really."

That's very cute. Wise guy, eh? You should meet the author. He is an extremely quiet person. He wrote the book as his Master's thesis at the University of Houston. I would say that's a pretty good subject for a Master's thesis. He writes the book as a historian, not as a military officer, and does not use it as a calling card, though word has gotten out. He would probably be the first to tell you that he is challenged by the "move, shoot, and communicate" culture and certainly will never rise to the glorious heights of Courtney Massengale.

In any case, I am glad this story is out there. Never heard about the guy during my four years at West Point, but I did hear a lot about "officialdom" and "I Shall Return." With that in mind just wait until you read what one of the resupply submarines was loaded with as its cargo. It will give you a new appreciation for "officialdom", or maybe we should call it "officially-dumb."

The author is a 2LT (H/T Dave Maxwell). Wow, very impressive. What a way to get commissioned. I imagine it went something like this.

"Hi, welcome to the Army."

"Thank you. By the way, I'm a published author on Special Forces in the Phillipines during WWII. No big deal really."

Clear Lake grad publishes book on Army officer
Jorge De La Cruz
The Citizen

"U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Michael Guardia, a Clear Lake High School graduate, recently wrote a book, "American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann," which chronicles the story of an American Army officer in the Philippines during WWII who disappeared into the jungle to raise a guerilla army to fight against the Japanese."

http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2010/06/10/bay_area_citizen/lifestyles...

and following in the footsteps is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities, Michael G. ("Mike") Vickers.

interesting and from a different theater and with a broader impact is Roger Hilsman.. google him... He wrote the original American Guerrilla. copyright 1990

I'll be looking to read this, as it's a subject I'm familiar with. In the mid 80s I spent some time in Central and North Luzon interviewing both participants in the conflict and residents of conflict-affected communities, and I've often been struck by the frequently radical divergence between American and Filipino accounts.

It's premature, but my gut is sending me a hagiography alert on this one. Possibly it's the claim that Volckmann "raised a Filipino army of over 22,000 men", which seems a substantial exaggeration. Volckmann's group was one of several operating on Luzon, they were generally autonomous and frequently in conflict with each other. While Volckmann was officially designated commander of the Luzon guerrillas in early 1944, the impact this rather remote decree had on actual operations in the field is debatable.

I'm particularly interested in seeing how two issues are handled, as they've received a rather poor accounting from the official historical community to date. One is the relations between the USAFFE guerillas and the Hukbalahap. The other is the post-war manipulation of guerrilla rosters, which led to many real but unconnected guerrillas being excluded from benefits and many connected individuals of dubious affiliation padding the rosters with political cronies and claiming dramatic but generally fictional acts of heroic resistance. Political careers were launched and advanced in the process, with Ferdinand Marcos one notable beneficiary. Evidence suggests that American officials were at times complicit in this process, which was seen as a vehicle for advancing certain individuals.

Could say a whole lot more, enough for now. Hope to read the book... hard to see how a story as complex and diverse as that of the Luzon resistance could be meaningfully centered on a single individual, but I'll try to keep the mind... say 1/3 open.