Private Thomas W. Phillips


Photo courtesy of Rita Lawless.


Thomas W. Phillips
Philadelphia, PA
Mother, Mrs. Blanche Phillips
September 10, 1924
January 10, 1942
August 27, 1942
Guadalcanal C/1/5 Asst. BAR man Private KIA
Machine gun fire
Purple Heart
Buried in the field, Guadalcanal
Tangani Church, Kokumbona, Guadalcanal
Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines

Birth and Early Life:
Thomas Phillips was the oldest son of Walter and Blanche Phillips of Philadelphia, PA. He was born on September 10, 1924, and attended North Catholic High School until the age of seventeen, when the attack on Pearl Harbor spurred his decision to drop out and join the Marines.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Phillips enlisted on January 10, 1942. He trained at Parris Island with the Third Recruit Battalion, and after completing boot camp was assigned to Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines.

Wartime Service:
Private Phillips trained in North Carolina and in New Zealand through the spring and summer of 1942. In August his First Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel William E. Maxwell, landed on Guadalcanal.

Date Of Loss:
Tommy Phillips picked up extra BAR ammunition – he was a proud assistant automatic rifleman – and loaded his own bandoleers early on the morning of August 27, 1942; he and his battalion boarded landing craft and puttered out into the bay. The plan, as near as anyone could fathom, was to land somewhat farther along the coast and hopefully outflank a Japanese defensive position – it was hard to be more specific, as Maxwell did not care to inform his staff or company commanders of their objective. Phillips, still a few weeks from his eighteenth birthday, simply did as he was told. As the boats landed and the Marines hurried ashore, he stuck close to his gunner and squad mate, Private Robert J. Budd.

After a fruitless advance up a ridgeline that did nothing more than exhaust the Americans – the heat and humidity were approaching unbearable levels – Phillips’ company was called back to support the advance of another unit trying to make its way along the coast. As they advanced along a rough road towards a stand of coconut trees, a Japanese machine gun cracked, and Bob Budd dropped the BAR as he fell, blood spouting from holes in his neck and chest.

It was Tommy Phillips’ duty to recover the BAR; it was his instinct to reach for his friend. As he turned towards Budd, another Japanese bullet struck home. It hit the seventeen-year-old Marine in his right side, tore through his body, and exited through his left shoulder. Tommy was dead before he hit the ground; he and Bob Budd lay lifeless, side by side.

The two Marines were buried where they fell, under large piles of sand. The location was recorded when the battalion returned to friendly lines, but no Marine patrols returned to the area. An Army team tasked with the recovery of Phillips and Budd blew off the task in favor of drinking in a nearby village. Their report stating an incorrect location was no more than a fabrication. (1) Today, Tom Phillips lies where he was buried on that August afternoon. A memorial plaque dedicated to him and Bob Budd stands on the wall of a mission in the town of Kokumbona.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Blanche Phillips

Status Of Remains:
Buried on Guadalcanal

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines. Tangani Church, Kokumbona, Guadalcanal.

(1) See entry for Private Robert Joseph Budd. Ken Budd undertook a series of searches at his own expense to recover his brother and Tom Phillips; the discovery of the fabrication was discovered on one of his trips to Kokumbona. A recent (2007) geological survey revealed that a home had been built in the area, but a search could still be conducted; at this time it is unknown what (if any) action will be taken to recover these two Marines.

9 thoughts on “Private Thomas W. Phillips

  1. A friend of mine is a niece of Pvt Phillips and recently discovered a description of her uncle’s service and death on Guadalcanal by an individual by the name of Orville L. Kline. She is trying to locate Mr. Kline to see how he may be connected to her uncle. Any information about Mr. Kline would be appreciated.

    1. Hi John,

      Is your friend referring to this listing on the World War II Memorial Registry?

      I did a quick Google search on Mr. Kline, and found he has written a number of similar biographies for other servicemen’s memorials on the Registry, from all branches and theaters of World War II. I don’t see any indication in muster rolls that he served with Pvt. Phillips, and believe he is another independent researcher rather than a direct connection to Pvt. Phillips.


      1. Geoffrey,
        Yes that is the listing. My friend Rita and her family were wondering who Mr. Orville Kline might be and how he came to have knowledge of the circumstances of her uncle’s death in combat. Thank you very much for your efforts and very quick response.
        John O’Donnell

      2. Certainly, I’m glad to help! I saw one of Rita’s posts looking for Ken Budd; if I find a way to get in touch with him I’ll pass it along. And if there’s any other information she’d like, or research assistance I can provide, would be glad to help with that as well.

        I also saw that she added a picture of Pvt. Phillips to the WW2 Registry. I’d like to ask her permission to share that picture on this page (credited, of course!) If you get the chance, could you pass on the request? Thank you!


      3. Geoffrey, I’m writing again in case the first email didn’t receive. I am Rita Lawless, the niece of Pvt. Thomas Phillips. I have been on your website just recently. I give you permission to use my uncle’s picture from wwiimemorial. I am the person who put it there. I recently found out about Ken Budd and all his trips to Guadalcanal. I found his address and phone number and spoke to him twice recently. I will ask him if it is okay to give you his phone and email address. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for all the work that you do for our Marines and their families. Rita

      4. Hi Rita–great to hear from you (again, it seems? I’m afraid I didn’t get your first email) and thank you for permission to post the picture. I’ll work it into an update for later today.

        I’ve been working on the research side of MIA efforts pretty exclusively–work and school are a bit limiting–but I do keep abreast of the expeditions. The pinpoint accuracy that Ken Budd managed to achieve is remarkable–especially considering how many are found purely by chance, and how many still remain to be found.

        I would be honored to help you in your research any way I can. You can email me directly at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s