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General Phillips: A Quiet Hero

Updated on March 4, 2015
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Jules Corriere is a playwright and theater director, having written over 40 plays, one of them performing at the Kennedy Center in D.C.

WWII Veteran Who Beat Monty To Messina

This is my favorite picture of a wonderful man I met in Lavonia, Georgia. He stands a good 6 feet 3 inches tall, and could still fit into his army uniform from 65 years ago. After sitting with him in his home in Sandy Cross, Georgia, completely in awe of his life and achievements, he then showed me some of the things he still has. He sported his helmet, and it was a perfect photo op. You can see the twinkle in his eye, and it isn't hard to imagine how taken I was with his life and stories. And just to say it, I did have to pull the stories out of him. He's a hero of the quiet sort. The best of our heroes are, aren't they? He told so many tales, but this particular picture reminds me of one very important one. What an amazing man.

The Electronic Age. My Grandchildren understand it.

I still write with a goose quill pen. Mightier than the sword.

Though, the sword seems always the first tool to grab in a disagreement, then it's fight, fight fight, until you get to where you pick up this feather. And with it, end years of war with a signature declaring peace. One of these days, someone's gonna be smart enough to pick up the goose quill first.

My good fortune was to be in the European theatre. We had some civilization instead of the jungles of Japan. My whole division is now in Iraq- 3rd Battalion 3rd Infantry Division- the army's most decorated unit. I served with them during WWII. 40 medals of honor were awarded in the European theater. We received 30 of them. Men for whom duty came before all else. My assignment in the army was to write the citations for all our heroes posthumous. Used a goose quill for that, too.

One incident in Sicily I recall, we invaded the island July 10, 1943. We were told to protect Field Marshall Montgomery's flank while he drove toward Messina. He wanted to get all the glory and we were just supposed to stay in place. General Truscott was our commander, and he and General Patton had other ideas. We decided to march on. I drove into Palermo. General Montgomery took the other road, slowly fighting toward Messina. On Patton's orders, we marched on, in the rain, along the North coast. It put us within 10 to 15 of Messina. And so two boys from North Georgia, Gene Phillips from Sandy Cross, and Bill Gunner from Commerce, drove a jeep right into Messina. The unit marched in behind us, and we were there to welcome General Montgomery. That part was in the movie Patton. That's supposed to be me in the jeep. They got about everything right, except for that loop on Patton's uniform sleeve.

Monty wanted Messina, I guess for the glory. He was not happy with us. But something else drove us forward. One thing will give you drive when everything else falls away. Always do what is your Duty. The finest word in our language. Never wish to do less.

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See Gene's Story in the Movie "Patton"

General Phillip's story, as the young jeep rider, sent ahead of the troops to enter Messina, and knowing he would likely face the wrath of General Montgomery, was a compelling enough moment for Franklin J. Schaffner, the director of the Movie Patton, to include in the movie. General Phillips recalled the moment with an impish smile, saying, "Yeah, Monty would not be too happy about that. Montgomery wanted the glory. But he didn't get it. Not that time." The movie is currently available on Netflix. It is also available for sale.

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      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      @tvyps: Great question. The helmet he is wearing is the one he wore on that day, when he was a captain. He earned field commissions through the war, and then became career army after the war, earning the rank general.

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      Teri Villars 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Interesting story! My Dad was in WWII , D-Day. I will do a lens on it sometime in the future. Just a quick question, this man was a General or is "General" his first name? He is wearing Captain bars on his helmet which is several officer ranks below General....just curious.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Great little story...I know someone who was put up for the medal of Honor and sadly never received it, he is in his 90's now.