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Wendell Fertig (December 16,1900 – March 24, 1975) was an American civil engineer in the Philippines, who became a leader of a guerrilla force in the Japanese-occupied Southern Philippine island of Mindanao during World War II.
Fertig was commissioned as a Captain (reserve) in the United States Army Corps of Engineers at the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific theater (1941). Promoted twice by April 1942, Fertig - by then a Lieutenant Colonel - was sent from Bataan to Mindanao by General Edward P. King (Luzon Force Commander) to assist General William F. Sharp (Mindanao Force Commander). After the Philippines were surrendered to the Japanese in May 1942, Fertig decided to continue the fight.
Over the next two and a half years, Fertig created and commanded the "United States Forces in the Philippines" (USFIP), recruiting escaped POWS, Filipino natives, rival guerrilla groups, and soldiers who had refused to surrender. This was done despite Fertig having no formal military training (he was direct-commissioned into the military). Between 1942 and 1944, USFIP conducted numerous raids against the Japanese Occupation Forces on Mindanao in order to both sustain his operation with captured supplies, and to carry on a harassing operation against the Japanese. Fertig's forces were able to repel Japanese attempts to recapture territory held by the guerrillas. In order to be able to lead, Fertig had to promote himself to Brigadier General as he knew that no Filipino would follow a Lieutenant Colonel in a guerrilla operation. This self-promotion did not endear him to General Douglas MacArthur or his staff, but MacArthur did send logistical support to Fertig throughout 1943 and 1944. This was not done earlier because MacArthur did not know whether such a force existed as there was immense difficulty in communicating with Fertig and his group. He also felt that recognizing Fertig as a guerrilla commander would be dangerous if the Japanese were to capture him and score a propaganda coup.
From humble beginnings, USFIP became one of the best equipped and effective irregular units operating in World War II. In fact, when the submarine USS Narwhal went to Mindanao in 1944 to deliver supplies, they were met by the uniformed band of USFIP playing "Stars and Stripes Forever". In 1945, Fertig's forces participated in the Battle of Mindanao that effectively ended organized Japanese resistance in the region.
Fertig was promoted to full Colonel by MacArthur and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. After the war ended, Fertig resumed his career as a civil engineer. He is widely regarded as a hero by the people of Mindanao, and was a highly respected figure among the U.S. Special Forces. He helped found the Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Some military scholars are of the opinion that the failure of the military to promote Fertig to the rank of General was a travesty perpetuated by MacArthur's staff. Through his efforts in establishing USFIP, Fertig ended up by 1944 commanding a force totalling approximately 38,000 effectives, (the equivalent of an Army Corps), with 16500 of them armed.
John Keats' biography They Fought Alone describes Fertig's guerrilla operation.
Wendell Fertig and some fictionalized actions of the US Forces in the Philippines are featured in W.E.B. Griffin's 8th book of The Corps Series, Behind the Lines. The book is based on the beginning phases of Fertig's operation and the top-level political maneuvering surrounding it.