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Comrade Bill Phillips

A Summary of the Illustrious Career of Bill Phillips,

AMS-3, United States Navy


Being a non-swimmer I decide to join the Navy. And so on December 20, 1970 I boarded a plane for the first time in my life and headed for boot camp in San Diego, California. The third day I was there they threw me in a swimming pool and I proceeded to drown. A lifeguard jumped in and pulled me out just in time to save my life. I ended up spending two weeks in the dummy swim class and barely made the minimum requirements to stay in the Navy. I graduated from boot camp in March of 1971 and was sent to Memphis, Tennessee for Aviation A school learning to be an aircraft hydraulics and structural mechanic.

Bill PhillipsIn July of 1971 I arrived at my first duty station at the Naval air station Whidbey Island, Washington. After arriving, I was first assigned to mess hall duty for three months. I was rated very poor for this duty and wondered what the Navy was thinking, wasting all this minimal talent on scrambled eggs.

My first permanent duty assignment was with a reserve duty squadron VA-128, an A-6 attack aircraft squadron. I soon learned to hate that duty also and longed for the real Navy like the one in the movie South Pacific starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi.

Bill Phillips commissioned

In February of 1972, I volunteered for duty in Vietnam and was soon assigned to the USS Midway serving in the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club of Vietnam. After a four month hiatus {legal hold} for getting in to a fight with a captains guard at the transit center in Subic Bay Philippines. While awaiting Admirals Mast, I served on the World War II decommissioned troop carrier called the USS Benawah where I lived in the Captain’s cabin. This ship served as an over flow transit center for the guys going to Vietnam. I saw the Bob Hope show there. After being released from legal hold {charges dropped}, I boarded the Midway and they wondered where I had been.

Tonkin Gulf Yacht ClubI settled into life aboard ship being assigned to the intermediate air frames, maintenance and hydraulics department, and going around in circles in the Tonkin Gulf doing 24 hour air operations for several months until the end of the war. I remember watching President Nixon on close circuit TV announcing the end of the war. We continued to bomb Hanoi 24 hours a day for weeks after that announcement. Too bad Hanoi Jane didn’t get it, we could have saved the world from decades of exercise videos.

splashtopThe Midway came back to its home port, I think, in February of 1973 where it went into depot maintenance at Hunters Point, San Francisco for about three months. Then it headed for its new duty station home port in Yukoska, Japan.

Somewhere in that time period I was asked by a Maintenance Chief if I would consider an assignment as air crewmen on a 9 passenger cargo plane – a C-1A – a converted anti submarine warfare plane {S-2}. This was the ships only plane. It was used for flying men and cargo on and off the flight deck of the Midway. Since this was flying and not swimming, I said great.

This was an elite flight crew of only four men. Our illustrious leader Petty Officer Second Class ADR (Wild Bill) Foster who had been in the Navy for 14 years and made First Class Petty Officer several times. There was an AE3 named Rodney and a black guy named “Reverend Rouser” from Jackson, Mississippi and me.

Bill Phillips in uniformThe Reverend was the first black person I had ever known who became my best friend. I served as air crewmen until November of 1974 when a Maintenance Chief discovered in my service record that I couldn’t swim. I remember asking him if that was important and he said only if the plane crashes.

I asked and received my discharge in Seattle, Washington in December of 1974 and look back fondly on the great times and fellowship only a war can bring.

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