As Robert “Bobby” Phillips and his buddies performed collectively after college in Quincy, Massachusetts, no one of their close-knit hometown might have imagined that in the future he would disappear with out a hint in Vietnam after being ambushed by the enemy.
But 52 years after Phillips’ disappearance, his buddies and neighborhood nonetheless bear in mind him fondly. Their affection for Bobby culminated in efforts to have his identify inscribed on the town’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Clock Tower, regardless of authorized hurdles and the elapse of many years. Their mission was lastly realized on June 28, 2022, when the town held a memorial service on the clock tower with Bobby’s identify freshly inscribed on it.
A A lot-Wanted Picture
The memorial service was the results of an extended journey by which Vietnam journal performed a task. A Vietnam journal interview with researcher Janna Hoehn enabled Bobby’s buddies to acquire a poster-sized photograph of him to show on the service.
“I used to be making an attempt to get an image of Bobby Phillips for the ceremony we had been going to have, so I despatched her [Hoehn] an e-mail …. She was actually very useful,” mentioned James Vaughn, certainly one of Bobby’s classmates who additionally served in Vietnam. “I’d by no means have identified about her efforts to get an image for everyone.”
“Folks had been going up after the ceremony taking their footage with Bob [next to the poster],” mentioned Vaughn. “That made me really feel good — that he was so well-remembered on the town.”
Phillips’ identify is now publicly inscribed within the coronary heart of Quincy as a result of his buddies didn’t quit on him.
GET HISTORY’S GREATEST TALES—RIGHT IN YOUR INBOX
Subscribe to our Historynet Now! e-newsletter for one of the best of the previous, delivered each Wednesday.
Final Reunion in Vietnam
Based in 1792, Quincy is called the birthplace of American patriots John Hancock, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Vaughn describes it as a spot the place “everyone is aware of one another, and everyone’s acquired a foolish nickname.”
Phillips, born in Quincy on July 31, 1949, was referred to as “Flipper” for his cheerful and boisterous character.
“He was a bubbly child. He was at all times speaking in school,” Vaughn mentioned.
John Magnarelli, one other buddy and former schoolmate, described him as “enjoyable to be with, filled with mischief and at all times stepping into bother.” Phillips finally relocated out of state along with his mom, and his classmates misplaced contact with him. Then, as destiny would have it, he skilled an all-too-brief reunion with Magnarelli — in Vietnam.
“Too many people went to Vietnam,” mentioned Vaughn, including that fifty males from Quincy misplaced their lives in Vietnam. “We died at twice the speed of the US per capita.”
Whereas Vaughn, drafted into the U.S. Military, discovered himself at a Marine base at Marble Mountain south of Da Nang, Magnarelli crossed paths with their outdated buddy Bobby once more. Magnarelli had simply completed his tour of obligation in April 1970 and was sitting on the tarmac at Bien Hoa Airbase when a well-recognized stranger walked again into his life.
“I waited patiently to hop on a Freedom Chook for the journey again to the world when swiftly I noticed this soldier strolling previous me, and I immediately acknowledged Bobby Phillips,” he mentioned.
It turned out that Phillips had not forgotten his time in Quincy. Ending his second tour of obligation, he was attributable to return to the States in August — and actually informed Magnarelli he was planning to maneuver again to his outdated hometown. Each outdated buddies had been joyful to see one another, however standing on the air strip at Bien Hoa, they didn’t have as a lot time to socialize as they might have wished.
“We caught up as greatest we might within the quick time we had and vowed to reconnect as soon as he returned to Quincy,” Magnarelli mentioned.
It was the final time any of Phillips’ Quincy buddies noticed him.
Extra on the Lingering Recollections of Vietnam
On June 23, 1970, Pvt. Phillips, serving as a truck driver, left Dian for Lai Khe on what ought to have been a routine provide run. Accompanied by provide sergeant Joe Pedersen and armorer James Rozo, Phillips’ mission was to “replace clothes information, retrieve extra tools, modify hand receipts” and stock weapons for 2 subunits of the 595th Sign Firm.
Armed with M-16 rifles and one .45 caliber pistol, the three safely arrived of their 2 ½-ton GMC truck at Lai Khe. However the journey was not over — they nonetheless wanted to make one final cease earlier than returning.
Hazard stalked the highway to resulting in their ultimate visit Phuoc Vinh Sign Web site. The same old route was closed off. Mines and booby traps had been found on the highway, and troopers had been knowledgeable that unseen enemies might be mendacity in wait.
At least three troopers at Lai Khe warned SFC Pedersen on two separate events of the hazard on the route and informed him the right detour to take. Regardless of this recommendation, SFC Pederson took his get together down the outdated highway. Not one of the males had been ever seen alive once more.
The truck that Phillips was driving was discovered empty in a ditch by the roadside with its engine nonetheless operating. The windshields had been shattered by bullets. One of many entrance tires was blown out. A search get together discovered the physique of a Viet Cong rebel who had apparently been killed by a shot from Pederson’s pistol. Three M-16 rifles, all jammed, had been additionally found within the space.
From that time onward, Phillips’ destiny stays undetermined. In keeping with a captured Viet Cong named Tranh Van Thanh, who admitted taking part within the ambush to U.S. counterintelligence brokers in September 1970, Phillips and Rozo had been taken away someplace within the path of Cambodia. The Viet Cong alleged that Pedersen had died of pure causes after “refusing to eat.” The captured soldier was unable to guide U.S. troopers to a burial spot, and his claims had been contradicted by an inventory of names launched by the Viet Cong in 1973 of U.S. POWs who had died in captivity.
One other Viet Cong operative, taken prisoner in 1971, testified that he had seen two POWs matching the descriptions of Rozo and Phillips en path to Cambodia.
A U.S. intelligence report launched to Rozo’s household in 1985 said that the 2 males had tried an escape in 1972 and that Phillips survived within the jungles for a brief interval earlier than being recaptured and killed by the vengeful Viet Cong.
“I can’t think about how horrifying it was for him, consistently shifting, foraging for meals, evading his captors, with nothing however the garments on his again,” Magnarelli mentioned.
Nonetheless, none of this info has been conclusively confirmed — and thus all three males are nonetheless listed by the U.S. authorities as “unaccounted for.”
“His [Phillips’] physique was by no means recovered, and to this present day there’s nonetheless no closure for his household and buddies,” Magnarelli mentioned.
Phillips’ reminiscence stays alive within the hearts and minds of those that knew him. His identify is now displayed prominently on Quincy’s clock tower memorial.
“Effectively, Bobby, it’s been a very long time. Fifty-two years and also you’re 10,000 miles from Quincy,” Magnarelli mentioned in an emotional tackle on the memorial service. “However welcome house, my buddy.”
Our 9 best-selling historical past titles function in-depth storytelling and iconic imagery to interact and inform on the folks, the wars, and the occasions that formed America and the world.