From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Melvin Phillips '43

Date of birth: November 2, 1919

Date of death: February 26, 1944

Age: 24

Lucky Bag

From the 1943 Lucky Bag:


Melvin was lost when USS Grayback (SS 208) was sunk by Japanese aircraft on February 26, 1944 south of Okinawa.

His parents were listed as next of kin. There is a cenotaph to his memory in South Duxbury, VT.

From the Class of 1943 anniversary book "25 years later…":

Mel was born in Moretown, Vermont on 11 November, 1919. He was appointed from Vermont and entered the Academy on 15 June, 1939. After graduation he stayed on at the Academy in the Executive Department until September when he reported for submarine training in New London which he completed in December 1942. Mel proceeded to the Submarine Force Southwest Pacific where he joined the submarine USS GRAYBACK in April 1943. He qualified in submarines on 31 January 1944, and conducted four successful war patrols aboard GRAYBACK. On the submarine’s return from the East China Sea on her tenth war patrol, she was discovered on the surface by a Japanese carrier based aircraft which made a direct hit that caused the submarine to explode and sink immediately with all hands. Mel received the Bronze Star Medal for an earlier patrol. The citation reads:

For heroic service as Torpedo Data Computer Operator of a United States Submarine during an aggressive War Patrol. Efficiently and with outstanding technical skill, Lieutenant Phillips provided a continual flow of vital, accurate information which was of invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer, thereby contributing materially to the success of his vessel in sinking and damaging an important amount of enemy Japanese shipping, including an auxiliary cruiser. Lieutenant Phillips's courageous conduct and steadfast devotion to duty under extremely perilous conditions were an inspiration to the officers and men with whom he served and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

In addition, he wore the Purple Heart Navy Unit Commendation Medal, American Area Campaign Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal. He was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde George Phillips who at Mel's death lived at Moretown, Vermont.

Discovery of Grayback

In 2019 USS Grayback was found near Okinawa. Previous expeditions to locate her final resting place had been unsuccessful because of a mistake in translating the attacking aircraft's report.

Class of 1943

Melvin is one of 84 members of the Class of 1943 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.