Robert Foster Phillips (November 3, 1924-May 1, 2016).
He was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he attended local schools and was drafted immediately after high school and sent to Europe as a combat medic with the 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division. Phillips was wounded in the Battle of the Siegfried Line in Germany in September 1944 and following recuperation in England he returned to his former unit in December 1944 just in time to endure the Battle of the Bulge. Tasked to hold the line, his organization was hit hard with only 750 soldiers out of 3,100 making it back to Bastogne. The remnants of his Division transferred to French control, fighting in the Alsace campaign until February 1945 then returning under U.S. control fighting until V-E Day. Phillips remained in Europe as part of the occupation forces until sent stateside to process out of the Army in November that year.
Using his GI Bill he then earned a B.A. degree from the University of Oregon and deciding on a military career, he enlisted in the Army in April 1950. Two months later he was among the first general replacements sent to Korea. One week before departing he married his fiance, Marjorie Griffeth from Eugene Oregon, a union which produced two children, Kathryn and Mark.
In Korea he was assigned to Company 1, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division. His unit was attacked on September 8, 1950 in the vicinity of Kyongsu, South Korea where he and his platoon leader who was subsequently killed defended a strategic hill holding off an enemy attack until he was rescued by a U. S. machine gun and tank. For his heroic actions Phillips was recommended for the Silver Star which he would receive some 50 years later at a special ceremony held at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C. on 13 February 2001. The citation would in part read for his "utter disregard for his own personal safety and his cool display of marksmanship while exposed to concentrated enemy fire."
Phillips was later evacuated to Japan because of a severe ear infection and in August 1951 sent to Ft. Riley, Kansas as Regimental Supply Sergeant for the 10th Infantry Division. Two years following the Korean War he inquired about the status of his Silver Star and was informed that the paper work had been lost and that the time limit for resubmitting had expired. These limits were removed in the late 1990s and through Bob's persistence he was able to locate his former company commander who successfully completed the application.
Phillips mustered out of the Army in April 1953 returning to the University of Oregon earning an MA in 1956. He next went to Washington, D.C. where he became an historian for the Office of the U.S. Army Chief of Military History where he remained for several years before transferring to the Office of Air Force History. In that latter capacity he held several positions including Chief Historian at the Office of Aerospace Research, Chief Historian of the 17th Air Force in Germany before returning stateside in 1976 to serve as Deputy Chief Historian at Headquarters Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Phillips retired in 1986 following a thirty year civil service career. Following his retirement from the Air Force History program he completed his book To Save Bastogne, a history of his unit at the Battle of the Bulge. In addition, he remained active in several veterans' organizations including some in France.
Robert F. Phillips was respected and well liked by many. I believe that the best complement that I heard about Robert was expressed by Martin Blumenson, the esteemed historian and author of the Patton Papers. Martin said that "Bob" Phillips was one of the nicest men that he ever had the privilege of knowing. Many others would agree.
George M. Watson. Jr., Ph.D. Senior Air Force Historian--Retired.
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|Title Annotation:||In Memoriam|
|Author:||Watson, George M., Jr.|
|Publication:||Air Power History|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2016|
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