BRANNON, PHILLIP ARTHUR
BRANNON, PHILLIP ARTHUR
Rank / Branch:
LCPL E-3, USMC
FIRST MARINE DIVISION
Date of Birth:
HOSTILE, SMALL ARMS
Awards & Decorations:
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list by County
PHILLIP ARTHUR BRANNON, LANCE CORPORAL, USMC, ODESSA, ECTOR COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart with Gold Star (2 awards); National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign, Vietnam Service
Phillip was the oldest son born to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Brannon, formerly of Odessa. Phillip was born in Tracy, California and at the time his father was a member of the First Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Ord and he had served with distinction in the South Pacific during World War II. When Phillip's father was discharged in 1948, the family moved to Oklahoma, there his sister Pam was born. Mark, a brother was born in 1956 in Oklahoma and just after the family moved to Odessa another sister, Cynthia was born in 1960. In Odessa, Mr. Brannon operated Brannon's Garage in the 3500 block of the Andrews Highway.
Phillip attended Odessa schools and last attended Permian High School in the spring of 1964. Phillip had a tough time in school. Under today's standards, Phillip would probably have been diagnosed with a learning disability, however, Phillip was bright and he, like his father, was mechanically gifted. By the time Phillip got to high school, he was two grades behind his peers. He was frustrated with school, attended classes with less and less frequency. By the time he was a sophomore, Phillip approached his father with the idea of entering the Marine Corp. So with the beginning of the 1964 fall semester, at age 17, Phillip dropped out. His father was not too keen on the idea of Phillip's enlistment, but at the same time he saw some advantages to it. In 1964, the U.S. had advisors in Vietnam, a war of full measure was not yet a reality.
Phillip was well liked by everyone because he was quick with a joke and was quick witted. He enjoyed playing practical jokes and he could take what he dished out. He enjoyed outdoor things, he enjoyed tinkering around with things, and he liked hunting and fishing. He was reported to be a crack shot. When Phillip entered the Marines, he was tall at 6 feet 2 inches tall, but the Marine Corp helped Phillip to become a full man as Phillip grew to 6 feet 4 inches tall, the same height as his father.
Phillip reported for recruit training at San Diego and then to Camp Pendleton for ITR. He was an 0300 Marine, infantryman. After additional stateside assignments and other training, Phillip's unit deployed to Okinawa and then into Vietnam in August 1965. Phillip was assigned to C Company, First Battaltion, 7th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division.
In February 1966, Phillip received shrapnel wounds to his back from an explosive device while on patrol and thus earned his first purple heart. He was hospitalized for two weeks at DaNang. He returned to duty in March 1966. In June 1966, Phillip volunteered and was selected to be a member of an experimental program called CAP. This program was an attempt to help win the hearts and minds of the local population. Fifteen Marines from Phillip's company were selected for this duty based upon their performance in the field and their military merit. These marines were then assigned to provide security, training and civic action support to a local village in the First Battalion's Area of Operation (AO). These fifteen (15) marines built living quarters near a village in order to be separate, but close enough to provide security and a presence.
The marines would patrol primarily at night, set ambushes and would engage any enemy found. They also developed intelligence and would pass it up the chain of command. The squad would usually split duties with half out on patrol and listening post duty and the other half able to act as a reactionary force in case they were needed. Due to Phillip's personality, good nature, humor and his constant smile, he was soon considered to be a favorite to the locals. Phillip spent what little free time he had with them, learning their language, their customs and and he taught them about the U.S. During the first three months, the marine patrols ran into hostile forces on many occasions and would engage them in ambush and firefights. Phillip was considered to be the best marksman among the squad. Being 6 feet 4 inches tall, Phillip stood out.
In September 1966, Phillip was nearing the completion of his tour in Vietnam and had written his family that he would be home before the end of the month. On September 15, 1966, things seemed to be normal, half the squad was out on patrol and listening post and the other six marines remained in the compound to rest and perform maintenance on weapons. The marines had christened the small compound as Fort Page in honor of the first casuality of the group when they first organized in June 1966. Around 11 P.M. the marines not on patrol were in their living quarters, cleaning weapons, writing letters, talking and playing cards. It was nearing sack time and LCP Robert Thielepape, a fellow marine also from Texas was outside, snuggled in a sandbag with a poncho wrapped around him. Inside the compound, were local militiamen, called PFs. Suddenly LCP Theilapape heard the first volley of rifle grenades and rockets coming into the post. Before he could alert the other marines, all hell broke loose, the compound was being overrun by V.C. sappers. LCP Thielepape was able to get to the 50 caliber machine gun in the center of the compound and also able to get a radio alarm out to the company about 1/2 mile away. He began to fire at the sapppers and in the process, he was knocked unconscious by a grenade that was thrown in his general direction. Meanwhile, when the action started the other marines started to come out of the sleeping quarters. The first marine out of the door, was shot dead, before he cleared the door. Another marine made it out when he realized he had left his weapon in the sleeping quarters and as he ran back, he was cut down. Phillip Brannon came out shooting and was able to lay down supressive fire as he crossed the compound. Suddenly about midway, he took several bullets in the shoulder and head. The tall marine from Texas who loved to laugh died as he fell.
In the melee, five of the six marines in the camp died in the hail of gun fire and from satchel charges and grenades thrown at them. Also to die were six PFs. When the carnage was over, Robert H. Thielepape was the sole survivor of those who were in the compound that night. He had sustained several wounds to include severe head and body trauma. LCP Thielepape was decorated with a Bronze Star "V" and a Purple Heart and the Squad Leader, Sgt. Joseph H. Sullivan of Dillon, South Carolina was awarded a posthumous Silver Star. No other decorations were awarded.
The events concerning this squad of marines has been chronicled in the book, The Village by B.F. West, Cpt, USMC. The book was dedicated to Phillip's mother by name and also to the other mothers of the fallen marines. Of the original 15 marines who served with this CAP squad, seven died in combat while serving as members of this CAP unit, all members were wounded at one time or another.
LCP Thielepape was able to complete his tour and come home in 1967 and in a visit to Phillip's family in Odessa, Robert met his future wife, a first cousin to Phillip. They fell in love and married. He and his wife now live in Farmington, New Mexico where is the general manager of a credit union. Bing West, the author of the book was Phillip's commanding officer at the time is an active war correspondent, military consultant and has written about the Gulf War and as well as the Second Gulf War in Iraq.
Phillip was originally buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Odessa with full military honors, but when his family left Odessa in 1972, Phillips body was moved to Holdenville, Oklahoma to a family plot. Phillip's parents are now both deceased, his mother in 1994 and his father in 1997. Pam, Phillip's younger sister also passed away in 1997 from kidney cancer. They are buried next to Phillip. Phillip is survived by his brother Mark who lives in Holdenville, Oklahoma and by his sister, Cynthia. She also lives in Oklahoma.
Mark Brannon indicated that his mother was very active in Odessa in supporting the troops in Vietnam and she helped in sending parcels to soldiers, sailors, airman and marines from the community long after Phillip's death.
Phillip-Tinted from "The Village" by Bing West, CPT, USMC Retired
Holdenville, Oklahoma City Cemetery
Military Marker-L/CPL Phillip A. Brannon