PHILIP V. WEEMS, JR., MAJ, USMCR
Philip Weems, Jr. '40
Date of birth: July 21, 1916
Date of death: July 1, 1943
Philip Van Horn Weems, Jr. was admitted to the Naval Academy from Tennessee on June 21, 1935 at age 18 years 11 months. This admission was with the Class of 1939.
On June 4, 1936 he was "Deficient in studies for first term. Continued with class until end of academic year. Also deficient in studies for second term. Recommended to be dropped. Permitted to resign. Readmitted with class of 1940." His readmission date was given as August 17, 1936, at age 20 years 1 month.
On February 11, 1938 he was "Deficient in studies, first term's work. Recommended to be dropped. Permitted to resign."
Philip van Horn Weems, Jr. is listed on the page "And Some We Knew."
Philip Van Horn Weems, Jr., was lost early in the morning of June 29, 1943, when he died of injuries received in an automobile accident on Helensville Highway at Henderson's Corner, Kumeu, New Zealand. His death was in the line of duty, not due to his own misconduct. (Information from his casualty card, obtained by Kathy Franz.)
In the July 1, 1943 (inaugural) issue of Weemsana, a "family newspaper devoted to gathering and disseminating news of the descendants of the late Joseph Burtha Weems and Bessie Rye Weems:"
Bee [Phil's younger brother, George "Bee"]… reported that he visited with Phil on New Zealand before he left there, and now has independent command of a battery of artillery. Phil's address is: C Battery, 3rd Spc. Wpns. Bn., 9th Marines, c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California. Herewith a quotation from one of Phil's letters to his Dad:
"You would like to have been with us for the last week, I'm sure. Remember the time you made the rice butting when you, B [note: younger brother George "Bee" Weems] and I went camping in California? Some general in our outfit must have been spying on us, for out latest training practically forced me to imitate your recipe. We were sent off on a three-day, 40 mile hike with heavy packs, half a sock of rice, and half the same of raisins. That was what we had to live on for the trip with two slices of bacon each meal for a teaser. If they will give me a few fish heads to practice on I should make an ideal Jap prisoner! My feet are full of blisters, needless to say. I tried to convince the Col. that my unit should make the hike in vehicles but the trick to keep me from walking didn't go over so well.
"As a unit commander, I believe I'm getting along fairly well. I'm too easy on the men but I hae a tough exec to even matters up. All of my J.O.'s are very new so I have to be the "voice of experience." It gives me real pleasure to try and train the J.O.'s to do the work without orders from me. One more year with them and I wouldn't have to do any work except to sign my name all day on the too numerous paper work we have to turn in. My unit has an excellent record to date so we are under pressure to keep it that way. Had an inspection by the Regimental C.O. the other day and with much luck and a few tricks of the trade we "turned out the best unit inspected so far in this country." One of the officers had listed all the Col.'s "pet hates" and what he had noticed wrong with previous units in his inspection tour. By specializing on the things most likely to be noticed we covered ourselves with glory. Naturally, I gave all hands (including myself) the day off."
Phil is C.O. of an Antitank Battery of Artillery, and also commands an AA Platoon on New Zealand.
On the following page he is listed as a Captain, USMC.
In the October 1, 1943 issue:
This issue of Weemsana calls for its first sad announcement -- the death in line of duty of Major Philip Van Horn Weems Jr., USMC, somewhere in the South Pacific. Phil, as he was known to all of us, was promoted to Major on the day of his death, and at the time was Commanding Officer of an Antitank Battery of Artillery of the 9th Marines. Not much is known concerning the details of Phil's death. Following is a quotation from Uncle Van's [Phil's father, serving as a convoy Commodore] letter of July 28, 1943: "On my return from a two-months' voyage to North Africa, I learn of Philip's death about a month ago with his mechanized outfit in the South Pacific. I don't know much of the details, but I think his death was largely an accident involving the motorized equipment in which he was moving. Thus it happens that my oldest boy is the first one of the next generation to go in this big conflict. I remember when it started that according to the law of chance we would have to lose probably two or three of our group by death and perhaps three or four wounded before this is over. As tough as it is for Margaret and me and all of us, I feel we are merely one of millions who will suffer the same sorrow on these occasions."
Phil attended the US Naval Academy in 1939, and the University of Virginia after where we was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and majored in Journalism. He entered the Officer's Training School at Quantico, Va. in August, 1941, from which he was soon commissioned a 2nd Lieut. in the Marine Corps. He would have been 27 years old July 21.
In the July 1, 1945 issue there was a proposal for all of the Weems descendants to donate their veterans discharge bonus in Philip's name to the family educational fund. Notably, it gave his date of death as July 1, 1943.
Special thanks to Tom Poche, a volunteer who visited the Tennessee State Library and Archives and reviewed several of the dozens of boxes of Phillip Van Horn Weems, Sr.'s personal letters and papers.
Philip is listed in the 1941 edition of the "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Marine Corps Reserve:" 2LT Philip Van Horns Weems, Jr., date of rank August 17, 1940; prior service for the purposes of pay: 0 years/months; accepted commission on September 5, 1940; date of birth as above (July 21, 1916); training notes 25 (Completed course of training, platoon leaders’ class) and 28 (Completed Reserve officers’ course. Marine Corps schools.)
Philip's girlfriend was Anne Frances Whiting, whose notes and papers are a part of the collection of the F. Brooke Whiting House & Museum in Cumberland, Maryland. The collection is described partly thus: "Another important aspect of the collection involves correspondence which Anne received during World War II from her brother, F. Brooke Whiting II, who volunteered with the American Field Service and drove an ambulance in Africa and Italy, and her boyfriend Philip Van Horn Weems, Jr., a Captain of the United States Marine Corp and son of U.S. Naval Captain P. V. H. Weems, the twentieth-century navigation pioneer and genius. Philip Jr. was killed during the war while stationed in the South Pacific."
His father, Philip, Sr., USNA '12, was an aviation pioneer, inventor of navigational methods and instruments, and author of navigation textbooks.
Philip's younger brother, George Weems '42, was lost in an aircraft crash in 1951.
On July 10, 2018 emailed Philip's grandniece (George's granddaughter). Emailed a Find A Grave user identifying himself as Philip's cousin on March 4, 2019.
Prior to locating the casualty card, there was quite a bit of uncertainty regarding Philip's loss. Several reports exist of him being killed in action. Dates of his loss varied from 28 June to 1 July, or sometimes simply "before 1 July." His grand niece relayed the family story of his death in Guam — an impossibility, since the invasion of that island didn't occur for over a year after his death.
Memorial Hall Error
Philip is not listed with his classmates. He was identified through the diligent efforts of Leslie Poche, a volunteer who combed through Shipmate issues to find operational losses not accounted for in Memorial Hall.
The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.
The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.
The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.
2nd Lieutenant, Marine Corps reserve, Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia
2nd Lieutenant, Battery B; Marine Corps reserve, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines