(Sunday, December 21, 1975)
at Pearl Harbor
Rear Adm. John S.
Phillips, 80, Dies
Rear Admiral John S. Phillips, whose
exploits during World War II included safely sailing his
heavily loaded tanker clear of Pearl Harbor when the Japanese
attacked, died Wednesday at Bethesda Naval Medical Center after
a brief illness. He was 80 and lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Adm. Phillips, a native of Alexandria,
attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and was a graduate
of the Class of 1918, which actually graduated in 1917 to speed
the young ensigns into battle during World War I.
Between the two wars, Adm. Phillips served
in various posts around the country. On Dec. 7, 1941, he was
stationed aboard the naval oiler Neosho at Pearl Harbor.
During the Japanese attack against the naval base, Adm.
Phillips, then a commander, ordered his ship to clear the harbor
to remove the Neosho as a serious hazard. They steamed safely
clear under a hail of bullets and bombs. Adm. Phillips received
the Navy Cross for his heroism.
In May, 1942, Adm. Phillips and the Neosho
were part of the American fleet that turned back the Japanese
advance toward Australia during the Battle of Coral Sea. The
Neosho's luck ran out during the battle -- on May 7, the tanker
was struck by seven bombs and soon sank, taking more than half
its crew with it. Adm. Phillips and the survivors escaped in
the ship's boats.
They bobbed for four days in the open
sea. On May 11, a Canadian aircraft participating in the search
flew overhead, signaling: "Do you need help?" Adm. Phillips
signaled his response: "What do you think?"
Adm. Phillips later served in naval
intelligence and taught naval courses at the university level.
He retired in 1947 and settled in Arlington, where he pursued
his interest in golf. He and his wife moved to Fort Lauderdale
in the late 1950s.
Adm. Phillips is survived by his wife,
Nancy, of the home in Fort Lauderdale.
The Washington Star (Sunday, December 21, 1975)
Phillips Dies; Saved Pearl Harbor Ship
Rear Adm. John S.
Phillips, 80, who saved his ship during the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor only to lose it during the battle of the Coral Sea,
died Wednesday after a brief illness in Bethesda Naval Hospital.
He had lived in Four Lauderdale, Fla., since leaving the District
On Dec. 7, 1941,
Phillips, then a captain, was commanding an oil tanker, the
Neosho, in Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese attacked, he moved his
ship from the harbor, avoiding a serious fire. He received the
Navy Cross for his action.
Six months later,
his ship was attacked by Japanese planes during the battle of the
Coral Sea. "We figured we were so far behind the battle area that
nothing could possibly happen to us," Phillips recalled. "We were
protected by one destroyer and were just cruising along waiting to
refuel the ships in the battle."
"But all of a
sudden, we were discovered by Japanese planes. That was it. In a
few hours the destroyer was sunk with the loss of almost 300 men.
My ship was not sunk but it was a derelict. My losses in men were
almost as great as the destroyer's."
he believed his ship was one of the first to be hit by kamikaze
planes. He floated in an open boat for four days before being
Before the war, he
served two tours as professor of Naval Science and Tactics at the
Naval Academy and Northwestern University.
retired from the intelligence division of naval operations in
1947, he moved to Arlington, where he resumed his truncated golf
career at the Army Navy Country Club.
An avid golfer since
he was 15, Phillips studied the game from all angles and was
an acknowledged expert on building and keeping greens. He was
honorary member of the Golf Course Superintendents of America.
In 1955, he was
elected president of the D.C. Golf Association, and the Northern
Virginia representative of the Virginia Golf Association. He also
was named to the tournament committee of the U.S. Golf
Association's national seniors championship.
He leaves his wife,
Services will be
held at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow at Ft. Myer Chapel. Burial will be in