Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Hero of Pearl Harbor and
WWII bombardier dies, 85



By Lisa Asato

Claude Bernard Phillips -- who earned the Silver Star for shooting down a Japanese plane on Dec. 7, 1941 -- had a hard time seeing himself as a hero.

But his actions during the war spoke otherwise, and Phillips received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and Presidential Unit Citation.

His "extraordinary heroism" also earned him a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on July 31, 1942. As a bombardier on a reconnaissance and photographic mission, Phillips helped man guns and fend off an attack by enemy aircraft near Wake Island.

Phillips died Aug. 31 at Wahiawa General Hospital. He was 85.

Born in Oneida, Tenn., in 1916, Phillips came to Hawaii in 1937 as a private in the Army Air Corps. He rose to the rank of major before retiring from the Air Force 27 years later in 1964.

Phillips flew 84 combat missions during the war in the South Pacific.

"I'm still in shock of being thought of as a hero," Phillips told a reporter at his 1997 induction into the Gallery of Heroes at the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii. "It makes me feel very honored."

On Dec. 7, 1941, the day that started it all, Phillips is credited with shooting down an enemy plane over then-Hickam Air Field.

"He grabbed a machine gun off a B-17 bomber that was damaged in the attack and used the machine gun to shoot down an enemy aircraft," said Maj. Stephen Clutter, Hickam Air Force Base spokesman. "We certainly count him as one of our heroes here at Hickam."

Sylvia, Phillips' wife, said he was a humble man. He would "tell the same story every time, he never embellished it," she said. "But he was proud of his (citations) and proud of serving his country."

He is also survived by son Robert Phillips of Louisiana; daughter Geraldine Yoder of Ohio; eight grandchildren; several great-grandchildren; and sisters Selma McGibney of Ohio, Lucille Wright of Georgia and Ottie Sexton, Delphia Baldwin and Edna Heth of Tennessee.

Phillips was interred last week with full military honors at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

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