Photo courtesy of Rita Lawless.
Thomas W. Phillips
|HOME OF RECORD:
|NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Blanche Phillips
|DATE OF BIRTH:
September 10, 1924
January 10, 1942
|DATE OF DEATH:
August 27, 1942
|Guadalcanal||C/1/5||Asst. BAR man||Private||KIA|
|CAUSE OF DEATH:
Machine gun fire
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
|STATUS OF REMAINS:
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.
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.