Historically Yours: George Phillips, USMC, Medal of Honor recipient

Elizabeth Davis
Special to Boonville Daily News

George Phillips was born July 14, 1926, in Rich Hill. He lived with an uncle and worked on the railroad before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps on April 25, 1944, at the age of seventeen. America already had been at war for two-and-a-half years.

At Iwo Jima, on the night of March 14, 1945, Pvt. Phillips was on guard duty while the rest of his unit was resting. When an enemy soldier tossed a hand grenade in their midst, Phillips sacrificed his life by throwing himself on the grenade to save his fellow Marines. He was eighteen.

Phillips was one of 472 men to be awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration for valor, during World War II. His uncle received the decoration on his behalf.

More Medals of Honor were awarded during World War II to servicemen who used their bodies as shields against hand grenades than for any other action. A total of twenty-seven Marines and five army personnel received the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of their comrades in this manner, but five of them survived.

Four Marines — Cpl. Richard E. Bush, Pfc. Jacklyn H. Lucas, 1st Lt. Carlton R. Rouh, and Pvt. Richard R. Sorenson — along with Army Tech Sgt. Yeiki Kobashigawa, who survived the bodily insult of a grenade blast.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.davis@gmail.com