Well ... maybe not so famous, as I have never heard anyone in The Smile Hi mention Wendell Fertig.
Not even those whose great-grandaddies played poker with T.T. Woodruff and Chuck Denney and Bat Masterson.
Fertig was born in La Junta in 1900. He grew up here, and graduated from high school here, and then he went to the School of Mines.
And then he went to the Philippines:
Fertig was basically shafted due to Army politics. Nonetheless:
By late 1944, Fertig commanded a force estimated at between 25,000 to 40,000 effectives, with most sources agreeing on 36,000—the equivalent of an Army Corps—with 16,500 of them armed. Officers with responsibility for corps command usually hold the rank of major general. In addition, Fertig created and help administer the civilian government of Mindanao while at the same time conducting the guerrilla war against the Japanese. The USFIP killed at least 7,000 Japanese soldiers and, while a constant drain on Japanese resources, they also prevented the Japanese from fully utilizing Mindanao's resources in support of its war efforts. At one time, the Japanese committed approximately 60,000 troops in an attempt to crush guerrilla resistance on Mindanao, troops that were desperately needed elsewhere. Throughout the entire Philippines, the guerrillas managed to tie down a Japanese army of 288,000 troops, of which approximately 43,000–60,000 were on Mindanao, depending on the time period.
After the war, examination of Japanese records indicated that the Japanese high command felt that 24 battalions of troops would be needed to guard rear areas against guerrillas once the American invasion of the Philippines began. Since seven divisions were slated to resist the invasion, this resulted in a ratio of one rear-area soldier to every three front-line troops. Ultimately, the Japanese concluded that, "It is impossible to fight the enemy and at the same time suppress the activities of the guerrillas."
While summarizing Colonel Wendall Fertig's contributions to the American war effort and his leadership of the USFIP on Mindanao, Keats (1990) states:
...apart from his insistence on honesty and justice, and the idea that the guerrilla army be a process of a responsible civil government, his fundamental contribution to Mindanao was his concern that the reward for performance should always be increased responsibility. In his command, demonstrated competence was the sole means to promotion, and no man was denied an opportunity to prove himself. This concept built a nation in North America, and it built another on Mindanao... It was Fertig, more than any other man, who gave the Filipinos of Mindanao increasing reason to believe in themselves. This, rather than a military victory, was Fertig's triumph.
(excerpted from Wiki article)
The Fertigs lived at 302 Lincoln. Fertig's parents arrived in La Junta in 1888. Fertig's father, Welby, was the water service foreman for the Santa Fe for 33 years.
Wouldn't it be nice if there were some sort of historical plaque or other such marker, memorializing this La Juntan's remarkable contribution toward the defeat of the Japanese in World War II?