Sunday, May 27, 2012

TFH 5/26: PFC Jimmy W. Phipps, USMC

Combat engineers have one of the most hazardous roles in action, as if any combat role is "safe". Their job is to demolish enemy obstacles, clear mines, and prepare the way forward for assault forces. They also, sometimes out of necessity, conduct explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) on the battlefield when dedicated EOD personnel aren't available.

Jimmy Wayne Phipps was born on November 1, 1950 in Santa Monica, California. He left high school to volunteer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, transitioning to the active United States Marine Corps on January 7, 1968. In May 1969, he was serving with the 1st Engineer Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment infantry unit.

PFC Phipps was clearing enemy ordnance from a rice paddy on May 27, 1969. After he had exhausted his explosives, he prepared to destroy a remaining enemy artillery shell with a hand grenade. As he was about to set the grenade, the fuse for a charge left by the enemy was lit. To protect the lives of the two men with him, including his platoon leader, he dove onto the shell to shield them from the blast. For his courage and sacrifice he was posthumously decorated with our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company B, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Near An Hoa, Republic of Vietnam, 27 May 1969. Entered service at: Culver City, Calif. Born: 1 November 1950, Santa Monica, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a combat engineer with Company B in connection with combat operations against the enemy. Pfc. Phipps was a member of a 2-man combat engineer demolition team assigned to locate and destroy enemy artillery ordnance and concealed firing devices. After he had expended all of his explosives and blasting caps, Pfc. Phipps discovered a 175mm high explosive artillery round in a rice paddy. Suspecting that the enemy had attached the artillery round to a secondary explosive device, he warned other marines in the area to move to covered positions and prepared to destroy the round with a hand grenade. As he was attaching the hand grenade to a stake beside the artillery round, the fuse of the enemy's secondary explosive device ignited. Realizing that his assistant and the platoon commander were both within a few meters of him and that the imminent explosion could kill all 3 men, Pfc. Phipps grasped the hand grenade to his chest and dived forward to cover the enemy's explosive and the artillery round with his body, thereby shielding his companions from the detonation while absorbing the full and tremendous impact with his body. Pfc. Phipps' indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and selfless devotion to duty saved the lives of 2 marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Today, Jimmy Phipps rests in peace at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. His name is inscribed on Panel 23W, Line 2 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The 1st Combat Engineer Battalion is still serving as part of the 1st Marine Division from their home station of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

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