JOHN L. PHILLIPS, JR., LCDR, USN
John Phillips, Jr. '33
Date of birth: unknown
Date of death: February 16, 1944
From the 1933 Lucky Bag:
From the 1953 edition of the book "Double Three Roundup", published by the class of 1933:
Phil spent three and a half years in the MARYLAND before going to Pensacola. After receiving his wings in January 1938, he was ordered to VT-6, first in the YORKTOWN, then the ENTERPRISE. He returned to Pensacola as an instructor in September 1940 and in March 1943 was ordered to fit out and command VT-7. This became VT-6 that summer and John became Air Group Six Commander later the same year. His group did much of the pioneering in night tactics for ComAirPac. Phil was lost on 16 February, 1944, after directing the attack against enemy ships and installations in the vicinity of Truk Atoll. He was awarded the Navy Cross, 2 Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
Phil married Eleanore S. Gill from Philadelphia on June 22, 1935, in Seattle, Washington. Their daughter, Eleanore Diane, was born in 1940. Diane resembles her father in many ways; she is active in sports, church and scouts, and is studying piano and dancing.
In 1948 Eleanore married Leonard R. Snyder, who is in the publishing business in Philadelphia. Their address is 8231 Forrest Avenue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.
From Find A Grave:
On 16FEB1944, Lt. Cdr. John Phillips was commanding Air Group Six during the attack at the major Japanese fleet base at Truk. Flying an F6F Hellcat from USS INTREPID with Ens. John R. Ogg (BuPers #176896), he was overseeing the strikes against shipping trying to leave the base. Neither Phillips or Ogg returned and no radio contact was heard.
His wife was listed as next of kin.
Prior to the war, he was a founding member of Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6 in 1938. Later, he was commanding officer of Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6 from November 10, 1943 until he took command of Air Group (CAG) 6 following the death of "Butch" O'Hare '37 in late November 1943.
John was piloting an Avenger torpedo bomber, outfitted with radar, and was credited with two air-to-air kills on the night of November 26, 1943 — one of three American aircraft aloft when Butch O'Hare was killed. For many years John's radioman/gunner was — likely unfairly — blamed for accidentally shooting down O'Hare.
Two sites list John as a recipient of the Navy Cross, but both give the same obviously-wrong citation that has LCDR Butch O'Hare's name at the end and also says he died in the action (November 26, 1943).
Several Naval Academy alumni registers list him as a recipient, but have been unable to find contemporary reference to the award.