Most Americans are familiar with General Douglas MacArthur’s famous World War II quotation, as he emphatically stated “We Shall Return!”, upon leaving the Philippines in the war’s early days, in April, 1941. What many Clintonians may not realize is that a saga, which began here in Clinton and moved around the world, to the Far East and back again to Clinton, is the making of a story which has come full-circle in modern America.
Russell Volckmann was born in Clinton in 1911, where his father had started a furniture store in 1905. He called it Volckman’s (with one n), to save money on his advertising! Later, the furniture manufacturing plant was moved to Morrison, where a part of the story continues. However, our young Russ Volckmann was enamored of uniforms and the scouting organization, which recently had flourished in America. He decided to go on the glamorous Boy Scout Excursion to Yellowstone Park, but at only nine, he was too young. His father being an influential businessman, was willing to donate an automobile for the trip; and so, with 200 older boys, Russell began his career of adventure.
A few years later, he and best-friend John Van Allen embarked on another adventure together, as they attended high school at Shattuck Military Academy in Faribault, Minnesota. They were such good friends that the one who was a year older decided to stay on an extra year, to keep his buddy company. Later though, John returned to Clinton to help his father, Fred, run the department store, and Russell went to West Point, where he graduated as an officer in 1934. Those were bleak years in the military, so he, being an adventuresome sort, volunteered for duty in the Philippines. Volckmann could not have imagined the adventurous tack fate was about to take, or how his decision would affect world events, nor the impact it would have on his life and that of many Filipinos, including some men who later moved to Clinton.