The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann

American Guerrilla- Russell Volckmann by Mike Guardia

After reading this book you will be surprised to see how little recognition Russell Volckmann gets around Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall.

A story of true grit and not only overcoming and surviving after American Forces surrendered but rising up and destroying the enemy. Volckmann sets great examples for Small Unit Tactics (SUT) and using everything at his disposal to win his war. If you are interested in the Special Operations then you must learn more about Russell Volckmann.

After WW2, Volckmann wrote the manual for what would be the Special Operations FM 31-20 ( Operations Against Guerrilla Forces ). His time in the jungles left him with lasting health conditions that prevented his involvement in the Korean War and, in my opinion, kept him from getting the recognition he deserves.

The Volckmann Program: Russell Volckmann’s Legacy 

At the outset of World War II, Army Captain Russell W. Volckmann was serving as a full-time embed in the Philippine army (the executive officer of the 11th Infantry Regiment, 11th Division of the Philippine Army). Volckmann fought alongside his unit when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, and later, rather than surrender, Volckmann disappeared into the jungles of North Luzon and raised a guerrilla army of more than 22,000 men.

For the next three years, he led his guerrillas against the Japanese, and they killed more than 50,000 enemy soldiers. When the Japanese commander of the Philippine occupation force, General Tomiyuki Yamashita, finally surrendered, he made the initial surrender overtures not to MacArthur but to Volckmann.1 Volckmann went on after the war to help design and create the Green Berets of the U.S. Army Special Forces. ( )


A main selection of the Military Book Club

Finalist – Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award

Bronze Medal Book Award – Military Writers Society of America

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.

Mike Guardia, a veteran of the United States Army, is also author of “Shadow Commander,” about the career of Donald Blackburn and “Hal Moore: A Soldier Once…and Always,” about the life and career of Harold G. Moore, the famed commander at the Battle of Ia Drang.


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