Roy Phillips shares WWII war experiences as POW
Roy Phillips (right), at home with his wife, Claudine.
Roy Phillips is a strong hard working man that served his country and loves his family. Born on November 9, 1921, Roy grew up as one of five boys a mile north of Olney. He was the only brother of the five called upon to serve his country during World War II. In 1942 Phillips was drafted and sent to Texas where he spent 17 weeks in infantry training. Once his training was completed Phillips worked in the mines in Utah.
In 1945 Phillips was called to battle and was sent to England aboard the U.S.S. Wakefield. While aboard the ship he learned he wasn’t cut out for life on the sea. He recalls suffering from seasickness during the entire trip. After not eating for nearly nine days from being sick a lieutenant approached him and informed Phillips he had to eat. Phillips politely replied, “I don’t think I can eat and throw up at the same time.”
After arriving in England in 1945 Phillips was sent to France where he was to serve as an infantryman on the frontline. He recalls arriving at the Belgium Bulge, or as many of you might know it the Battle of the Bulge, to bad weather. Three days of bad weather. Three days of weather that helped the Germans manage to push Phillips and the allied forces back five miles. During these days he remembers hearing the constant sound of large German artillery shells going off while shrapnel rained down around him. On the fourth day the weather cleared and Phillips remembers clearly, the sight of the allied planes that were able to finally take to the sky.
The break in the weather and the sight of the allied planes brought the allied troops back to life and as Roy said, “They took care of the them. I took care of them.” This renewed sense of energy was to be short lived however. While guarding two wounded soldiers that Phillips had bandaged, he set his gun down in order to get a cigarette for one of the wounded at their request. At this point German forces overtook the men and Phillips became a prisoner of war. A memory that he hasn’t been able to talk about until recent years and also one that still brings about nightmares.
January 16, 1945 Phillips was taken prisoner starting one of the toughest periods in his long life. He was first taken to Limburg, Germany and then forced to march nearly 120 miles to Stalag IX-B in Bad Orb, Germany. While imprisoned Phillips was treated very poorly, he slept on concrete, was fed potato soup that tasted more like warm water, had head and body lice and lost 60 pounds in 80 days. The horrors of life in prison camp finally came to an end when he was liberated on Easter Sunday 1945.
When Phillips arrived back at the United States he was awarded 30 days of leave in Hot Springs, Ark. After his stay in Hot Springs he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. where he guarded prisoners and AWOLs. He was stationed in Fort Leavenworth from May to Nov. of 1945. While in Kansas, Phillips met and married Claudine Ard, of Bowling Green. The two of them will celebrate their 68 anniversary on Aug. 19 of this year. Phillips was discharged on Thanksgiving Day 1945.
After Roy was discharged from the army he and his wife moved to Bowling Green and then Olney where he had many different jobs including shucking corn for local farmers and being a store clerk. Phillips went to barber college and then moved to Troy to become a barber. Unfortunately, his nerves would not allow him to have the steady hands that are required of a barber.
Roy and Claudine had two sons Roger and Gary Phillips. They lost their oldest son Roger after he lost a hard fought battle with colon cancer. Their youngest son Gary retired as a Captain from the Missouri State Highway Patrol after 20 years of service and now lives in Greenwood, Mo. Roy and Claudine also have six grandkids and 14 great grandkids.
Roy and Claudine now reside in Troy, where he worked as a rural route carrier for 20 years while hunting, fishing and pitching horseshoes in his time off. Roy has bad arthritis that can be traced back to the insufferable treatment he received as a prisoner. Wanting to prove he can’t be stopped Roy came back from a severe heart attack in 2001 after seven bypasses. However, after a broken hip Roy, now 92, has a difficult time getting around is looking forward to getting a hovaround, which will allow him to get out this summer. Roy and Claudine are very grateful for their wonderful neighbors that do what they can to help a wonderful man and his loving wife.