Wendell Fertig was an American civil engineer, in the American-administered Commonwealth of the Philippines, who organized and commanded an American-Filipino guerrilla force on the Japanese-occupied, southern Philippine island of Mindanao during World War II.
Fertig, a civilian, had a reserve commission in the U.S. Army and was called back into the military before the war in the Pacific began. Ordered from Corregidor before its surrender to the Japanese, he was sent to Mindanao and assumed command of engineer activities there. Almost as soon as he arrived the U.S. Army forces on Mindanao surrendered, but Fertig refused to do so.
Lieutenant Colonel Fertig decided that if he was able to resist capture, then it made sense that other American military personnel did as well; they would need leadership. He also considered that hundreds of Philippine scouts could be used as guerrilla assets against the Japanese if they could be located and persuaded to follow him. However Fertig was also a realist; what chance would he have of commanding any force of men as a newly promoted lieutenant colonel, and a civil engineer? So Wendell Fertig promoted himself to the rank of Brigadier General, United States Army and formed one of the most fantastic guerrilla operations in America’s entire history.
After a long period of organization, Fertig led the fight against the Japanese in hit-and-run raids and vital intelligence gathering activities. He amassed over thirty thousand armed men, the equivalent of an Army Corps, which included American forces who had managed to escape as prisoners of war, and fighting men of the Philippine Islands. His command finally made contact with U.S. forces in the Pacific using a homemade radio. Fertig's forces then began to receive supplies (medicine, radios, ammo, etc.) by submarine, but never enough to stage large scale attacks. More than once the Japanese tried to destroy Fertig and his guerrilla army, committing large numbers of troops for this purpose. This continued until the American forces returned to the Philippines, landing first on the island of Leyte.
After the war, Fertig was promoted to Colonel and received the Distinguished Service Cross. Many felt that he should have received the Medal of Honor, as well as a bigger promotion, but he did not receive them due to politics and small mindedness on General MacArthur's part. Despite this he never complained about not receiving the honors others felt were his due. He returned to his civilian engineering career, but continued his service as a reserve officer. He spent four years as the commander of the ROTC detachment at the Colorado School of Mines and served in a U.S.-based psychological warfare unit during the Korean War.
Wendell Fertig died in 1975 at the age of 74. For many people in the Philippine Islands, and indeed among many regular Army personnel, he will always be regarded as General Fertig, a true American hero. He deserves to be remembered by us all.
Thank you again to Mustang. For me, Colonel Fertig's story was inspirational on the virtues of never giving up and to fight the bastards to my last breath, a lesson I really need now when I look at the near ruin my country is in.