“When that’s coming close and there’s nothing to do but go forward... you say in your prayers, ‘Just let me make it. Just let me make it.’
And you promise Him everything.”
A Story from the European Front
-An oral history of Julian Philips

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Mr. Julian Philips, a native Houstonian, joined the Texas National Guard and committed himself to two years of service when he was just 16 years old. In 1940, when the U.S. began preparations for entry into World War II, Mr. Philips’s unit of the National Guard was mobilized for federal service—he was only eighteen at the time. After a year of federal service and following the dramatic events in Europe, Mr. Philips realized that his scheduled release from the National Guard was not likely and that “serious business” lay ahead.

Certain that he would have to remain in the service if the war intensified, Mr. Philips thought he should pursue a career as an officer. He enrolled in Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in November 1942. As the U.S. military mobilized on the European front, Lt. Philips was sent to Casablanca, Algeria as a replacement officer. Eventually, Mr. Philips rejoined his old company, the 36th division of the G Company of the 143rd, and became commanding officer of the first platoon sent to Italy, a group mostly composed of Houstonians. With his old friends, Mr. Philips first experienced combat just outside of Naples.

During his first months in combat, Mr. Philips faced battle with a brazen attitude thinking, “they [can’t] kill me.” However, after living through more combat and seeing the masses of injured and killed who were soldiers just like him, Mr. Philips started to acknowledge his own mortality. He recalls the intense fear and anxiety that would overcome him as enemy soldiers crept toward his line. “When that’s coming close, and there’s nothing to do but go forward . . . you say in your prayers, ‘Just let me make it. Just let me make it.’ And you promise Him everything.” Like many others, Mr. Philips relied on his faith to carry him through battle and give him the strength to do what his country asked of him.

However great, Mr. Philips’s fear seldom overcame his tremendous courage. In one remarkable tale of bravery, Mr. Philips recounts the events that transpired when several men and their captain were separated from the rest of the company. Many of the men were wounded before they could radio for help. The company’s Battalion Commander wanted to postpone a rescue mission for the twelve hours until nightfall because of the heavy enemy fire in the area. Mr. Philips promptly spoke up and volunteered to immediately rescue them, thus saving the stranded and wounded soldiers. He personally carried the Captain, who weighed 179 pounds, to safety, “falling and sliding down the mountain” but “without stopping.” According to Mr. Philips, the Captain lived a long and prosperous life. He died in March 2000.

When World War II came to a close in 1945, Mr. Philips had garnered more than enough service points to return home and “was on the first ship to come back to the States.” He fondly recalls the day his ship pulled into New York Harbor and the homecoming celebration there. The returning troops were greeted by tugboats spraying plumes of brilliantly colored water and on the docks lining the harbor were jubilant crowds and bands playing. “I don’t guess there was a dry eye on the ship,” he remembers. “We were all so happy to come back alive. It was a real homecoming.”

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