CHESTER L. PHILLIPS|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from an e-mail letter to Will Lundy)
August 28, 2001
When I was a small child, my grandfather passed on a stack of newspaper clippings about my relative, Capt. Chester L. Phillips, Jr. The clippings told a very interesting story that I will share with you, and will submit to your heritage database forms in more detail along with copies of the original newspaper clippings.
As a child, I had a great love for WW2 aircraft and as I have gotten older, the newspaper clippings have come to mean very much to me. The newspaper clippings are all I had, and all the family members had died that knew Captain Phillips. I knew he flew a B-24 named the "Little Beaver," and was shot down over Kiel, Germany in 1943. I had filed a request with NARA to get his military records, but was advised they had burned in a fire. I did not know how to proceed to find him or more of his story.
I recently visited a B-24 web site and a gentleman responded with Captain Phillips' place of burial and that he was in the 44th Bomber Group, 67th Bomber Squadron. I visited the 44th web site, and sure enough, there was the "Little Beaver" listed. I am ever indebted to this man for his help.
Chester was from Greenville, Texas. His parents were pretty successful people and he had taken flying lessons starting in the late 30's and had his own plane. His brother, Howard Phillips, was also a pilot. Howard went on to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force after he was rejected for service in the Untied States. Howard was stationed near Chester before his death, and they got to be together quite often according to the newspaper clippings.
Chester was a student at Texas State Agricultural College, which is now the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas. He was a senior and captain of the football field. They had a big football rivalry with Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. The tradition was that every year at Homecoming, they would try to set each other's bonfire on fire the night before, thus dampening the Homecoming activities for their rival. The Tarleton team came to Arlington and burned a big "T" in the Texas State Agricultural field. Chester, being the football team captain, of course, felt he had to respond to this act.
He took his plane and flew to Stephenville with another student. They had home made several phosphorous bombs to drop on their bonfire to ruin their Homecoming festivities. However, the Tarleton students were warned and they were waiting. When Chester flew over, a Tarleton student threw a big board in the air and it hit the propeller causing the plane to crash on the Tarleton State University campus. This was an embarrassing situation for Chester's school and family as it made all the newspapers. Even today at Tarleton State, this event is included in freshman orientation and is a rallying point for school spirit at Homecoming. I have been told by many Tarleton alumni that there is a mural on the wall in the student center with a plane crashing over the bonfire all those years ago. Chester was kicked out of school without graduating and his family was very disappointed. It was rumored that alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident. No surprise there.
Chester joined the Air Force because of his love for flying and I assume to avoid the public humiliation of this incident. The newspaper clippings say he trained pilots for some time and requested combat duty when the war started. I suspect he did this as an attempt to upstart his reputation after the bonfire incident, according to family members. He was denied several times before departing to England for duty.
The clippings say he participated in some of the first bombing raids over Kiel, Germany in 1943. He died May 14, 1943 piloting the "Little Beaver." That incident at his college proved to be a life-changing event. He would have certainly served, but I wonder what effect that incident had on him.
Ion the articles, he appeared to be somewhat of a swashbuckler type. If anyone can give some pointers as far as finding a picture of his plane, etc., it would be very much appreciated. I would like to join your 44th Bomber Group if possible. I never want to forget Chester and membership would be a great way to commemorate his service. I would also like to come to your convention in Shreveport, LA this year.
Thanks for all your help. Now I can complete Chester's story to pass down forever. I assume the entire crew of the "Little Beaver" was lost. If there are any members that might have known Chester or the crew, I would really like to speak to them. Thanks again. Aaron K. Williams, 840 F.M. 3427 Greenville, Texas 75401-6778. (903)455-2505.
(E-mail to Roy Owen, Jerry Folsom and Will Lundy)
August 28, 2001
Roy, I am sure you are aware that General Howard Moore, "Bill" Cameron and Bob Brown were close friends with Chester and perhaps could add much to what you are providing Aaron including photographs, personal anecdotes/stories, etc. Chester was killed over the target (Kiel) from a flak burst and the airplane spun out of control. Several (4) of the crew survived and became POWs, one of whom, S/Sgt. Forehand, Charles C., was a BGVA member, but is listed in our Roster as deceased in 2000. Do you know if any of the other three are still living? I cannot find any of them in my files. We look forward to meeting Aaron in Shreveport. Mike
To All: (from Roy Owen)
I have answered Aaron. I'll take care of getting him all we have on Captain Phillips. Thanks. If I need any help finding anything, I'll holler. Roy Owen.