Many fathers would love to see their sons follow in their footsteps. In the Phillips family, it became a reality. From the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia archives, we bring you two images of veterans of different wars, one generation apart.
Philadelphia’s Greek-American veterans, Staff Sgt. Alexander Phillips (Philippou), and his son, Billy Phillips (Vasilis Philippou) served in WWII and Vietnam. Alexander Phillips served with the 407th Bomb Squadron, 92nd Bomb Group, 8th Army Air Force. He served as a tail gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying thirteen missions over France and Germany. His plane was shot up over Frankfurt, Germany on February 4, 1944, but crash-landed on English soil. From the wounds incurred in that crash, he was awarded the Purple Heart. He was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft.
Billy Phillips was stationed in Danang, Vietnam, from August 1968 to September 1969. He was assigned to the 282nd Assault Helicopter Company as a door gunner. He flew on Huey helicopters troop carriers and gunships. He was shot down twice, once he crashed in a rice paddy. His pilot and co-pilot were killed, and he was wounded in the face and neck from flying plexiglass. He was on the ground for two days before the U.S. Marines could rescue him and his crew chief. The second time he was shot down during a defoliation mission, his ship being downed from ground fire. He walked away from that one, but his ship was a total loss, which had crashed and burned.
“I was one of a handful of Greek-American volunteers from the area that joined the Army to serve in Vietnam,” recalls Phillips. “My father was a World War II veteran, and many of my relatives served. When the country went to war, and I finished high school, I signed up as soon as I could. We thought differently back then. Patriotism was perceived differently back then,” said Phillips. Upon his return to the States, Billy Phillips joined the Philadelphia Police Department.
Like his father before him, Billy Phillips too joined the VFW Post #6633 – Eleftheria, after returning from his service in Vietnam. It is the only Greek-American veterans post in North America. Today, Phillips is still an active member of the VFW post and is retired from the police force.
Billy Phillips is also featured in the Greek American Heritage Society’s Philadelphia Interview Series. You can see his interview here.