For holding off the North Koreans, a Silver Star

Busan (South Korea)Unrest, Conflicts and WarWalter Reed National Military Medical CenterWhite HouseU.S. Army

On Aug. 3, 1950, Sgt. Francis Phillips was a forward observer with the Army's 8th Field Artillery in South Korea. His job was to relay enemy positions to the howitzer crews about 8 miles behind him.

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My jeep driver and I ran into heavy fire on a battlefield in Mason, near Pusan.

The bullets were flying all around us. They sounded like the crack of a whip when they hit the jeep.

We managed to get out and ran for cover behind the jeep.

Three North Korean soldiers came from behind a rock. Their backs were turned to us.

I waited to see how many there were, then I shot all three with my carbine.

A fourth Korean jumped out from behind the rock. I killed him, too.

I was looking through my field glasses, trying to spot the largest target when my driver got hit.

I saw his steel helmet fly by. He was knocked unconscious. I thought he was a goner, but it turned out he only had a scratch on his head.

Then, an enemy artillery shell hit nearby. I don't remember much, except calling for the medics. They carried me to the side of the road.

I asked the medic, "Are my earphones OK?" They had been blown off my head, but he went back and got them.

The shrapnel got me in both arms and the small intestine. I had 30 pieces of metal in my left arm, and my leg was broken. I also had a head injury.

The pain was horrible, and there was no relief from it.

The medic couldn't give me morphine because of the head injury. It was like someone was turning a knife in my stomach.

I couldn't stand because of my leg. But the medics could see the battlefield.

I lay there for four hours, calling in the enemy's location, until the fighting ended. We won the battle. The North Koreans didn't break through our lines.

They loaded me on a stretcher and took me to a field hospital.

"Give him a shot of morphine," the doctor ordered.

I was taken by train to a schoolhouse-turned-hospital in Pusan. I'd wake up from one operation, and I'd be getting ready for another.

In a few days, they put me on a hospital ship bound for Tokyo. I had my stomach opened three times, once in Korea and twice in Japan. They gave me heavy doses of morphine.

I was in a hospital in Tokyo for a month. Then I came home to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. There, I lay in bed for 18 months.

I was 19, a year or so out of Ashley High School in Luzerne County, and I lay helpless in a hospital a couple hundred miles from home. I had been 170 pounds. Now, I weighed 80 pounds.

When I was feeling better, President Harry Truman invited me to the White House one afternoon in 1951. The Marine Band was playing. There were dignitaries everywhere.

A colonel read a citation, and Harry Truman, president of the United States of America, pinned the Silver Star on the lapel of my uniform.

Later, Truman came over and chatted about the war, women and beer.

The president pointed out some of the attractive women in the room.

"Drink up," Truman said, "I have a whole cellar full of beer."

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Philips, 68, a retired salesman of cookware, china and silver, lives in Palmer Township. He and his wife, Jeanette, have three sons, David, Daniel and Matthew.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * Francis Phillips died Sept. 11, 2002.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Busan (South Korea)Unrest, Conflicts and WarWalter Reed National Military Medical CenterWhite HouseU.S. Army
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