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PRLog: Judy Beal finds hero in SGT Milton P. Phillips

PRLog Press Release – July 9, 2008

Judy Beal, of Big Bear Lake, knew little of her cousin, SGT Milton P. Phillips, save that he was killed in World War 2, in the “North African area,” on December 4, 1943.

Beal had previously worked with William L. Beigel, a professional World War 2 researcher, regarding another relative. She had contacted Beigel, 50, of Torrance, CA, after seeing him on a PBS television program titled “Life and Times.” After discussing the situation with Beigel, she hired him to search for records for a relative named 2nd LT James A. Phillips. LT Phillips had been captured by the Japanese in the fall of the Philippines in 1942, and there the trail had grown cold.

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Lt. James A. Phillips. Captured by the Japanese and killed while aboard the Japanese “Hell Ship” Enoura Maru.

“My cousin, Beverley was in her early teens when our cousin James A. Phillips was leaving to go to the Philippines He came to say good bye to his Aunt Emma and his cousin Beverley. Aunt Emma said, “Oh, Jimmy, I don’t like to see you go. I fear something will happen to you.” He said, “I have to go, it is what I feel must be done and I’ll be all right. I gotta defend our nation!”

“He hugged them both and left,” recalls Judy.

Beigel, using various military and government archives, found that Phillips was killed on January 9, 1945. He was aboard the Enoura Maru, a Japanese vessel transporting American and Allied POWs from the Philippines to Japan. The Enoura Maru was one of the “Hell Ships,” Japanese cargo vessels where POWs being transported were faced with unspeakable conditions, including starvation, overcrowding, and severe punishment for the smallest of infractions. Tragically, the vessel was torpedoed by a US Navy submarine, that had no idea of the ship’s cargo.

After finding out about James Phillips, she asked Bill to find out what he could about Milton Phillips. Her family knew almost nothing about him.

As Beigel researched the project, he found that Milton Phillips was part of the 1st Special Service Force, also known as “The Devil’s Brigade.” The Devil’s Brigade was a joint American-Canadian force, made up of hand-picked men with an extensive background in outdoor activities, such as forest rangers, hunters, game wardens, and the like.

SGT Phillips was involved in the dramatic battle at Mount La Difensa in Italy. This mountain fortress was seemingly impregnable, but the Devil’s Brigade successfully took the target in four days of bitter fighting. The event was later made into a movie in 1968, entitled “The Devil’s Brigade. Phillips played a heroic role in the capture of the target, but was killed in action there by shell fragment wounds on December 4, 1943.

“I remembered these men as a very small child. I remember them playing games with me and always flying me around like an airplane. But now that I’m an adult and have read about what happened to them I realize what they gave up so that I could live a good life. They were strong men who fought for their country. They believed that the USA was a great country and worth fighting for. I’m proud of them and what others to know what they did! This is my tribute to them,” said Judy Beal.

Beal and Beigel recently spoke, and Beigel was hired to perform some additional work. Beal had yet another relative who died in the War. This one was 2nd LT Rex Phillips, who was killed in an aircraft training crash over Death Valley, CA, on August 1, 1944. Beigel will be assisting Beal in locating surviving family members of the 17 men who died in the two-aircraft midair collision.

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Professional World War 2 and Korean War Casualty Search will perform a full search of military records on any U.S. armed forces veteran from the Army, Air Corps, Navy or USMC who were World War 2 or Korean War casualties.