Died when: 74 years 98 days
Star Sign: Sagittarius
Wendell Fertig (December 16, 1900 – March 24, 1975) 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 held a U.S. Army reserve commission and was called into military service before the war in the Pacific began. Ordered from Corregidor before its surrender to the Japanese, he was sent to Mindanao to assume 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. Fertig used his knowledge of the Filipino people to organize them into a guerrilla army and civilian government. He also used his engineering knowledge to solve problems in supply and construction. Fertig led the guerrillas against the Japanese and their collaborators, mostly in hit-and-run raids and vital coast watching activities. After making contact with U.S. forces in the Pacific, the guerrillas began to receive supplies, 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. At these times, Fertig had his forces retreat before the Japanese until they were also dispersed, then counterattacked the Japanese with local superiority in numbers. This continued until American forces returned to the Philippines. After the war, Fertig returned to his civilian engineering career, but retained his reserve commission. He spent four years as commander of the ROTC detachment at the Colorado School of Mines, his Alma mater, and served in a U.S.-based psychological warfare unit during the Korean War. Leaving active duty in the mid-1950s, he ran a successful Colorado mining company until his death. During his post-war years he was widely regarded as a hero by the people of Mindanao, and was a highly respected figure among the U.S. Special Forces. One authority lists him among the top ten guerrilla leaders in history.