BY DUANE ALLEN VACHON, PH.D. Jimmy Wayne Phipps was born on November 1, 1950, in Santa Monica, California. He attended Marina Del Ray Junior High School in Culver City, California and Venice High School in California. He left high school to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on January 3, 1968 and was discharged on January 7, 1968 to enlist in the Regular Marine Corps.
He completed recruit training with the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California on March 14, 1968. Transferred to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, he underwent individual combat training with Company L, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Training Regiment, followed by basic infantry training which he completed in May 1968.
From June until August 1968, he was a student with the Marine Aviation Detachment, Naval Air Technical Training Command, Memphis, Tennessee. Transferred to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he attended the Marine Corps Engineer Schools, until the following October. He was promoted to private first class on October 1, 1968.
In December 1968, he was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam where he served as a combat engineer with Company B, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He was initially attached to Company C, 1st Battalion 5th Marines (C/1/5) as its combat engineer. He was then detached and returned to Company B, but in late May, volunteered to return to the field with C/1/5. While participating in combat in what was referred to as the “Arizona Territory,” located in the vicinity of An Hoa on May 27, 1969, he was killed in action during the combat action for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor Citation tells the rest:
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JIMMY W. PHIPPS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following 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, First Engineer Battalion, First Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 27 May 1969, Private First Class Phipps, was a member of a two-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, Private First Class Phipps discovered a 175mm high explosive artillery round in a rice paddy. Suspecting that the enemy had attached at 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 with a few meters of him and that the imminent explosion could kill all three men, Private First Class 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 own body. Private First Class Phipp’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty saved the lives of two Marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
/S/ RICHARD M. NIXON President
Eleven years of combat left their imprint on a generation. Thousands returned home bearing shrapnel and scars; still more were burdened by the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress, of Agent Orange, of memories that would never fade. More than 58,000 laid down their lives in service to our Nation. Now and forever, their names are etched into two faces of black granite, a lasting memorial to those who bore conflict’s greatest cost. They didn’t all receive a Medal of Honor like Phipps, but they were all heroes.
Our veterans answered our country’s call and served with honor, and on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam. Yet, in one of the war’s most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected — to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example. We must never let this happen again. Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us.
PFC Jimmy W. Phipps is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica California Plot: Block 18.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.