Theodore (Ted) Phillips (Turtle Clan) is one of many Oneida veterans who served in World War II and in the Korean Conflict.
His son, Randy, remembers him for his “Indian” sense of humor, always smiling and laughing. Randy, education assistant manager for the Oneida Indian Nation, said his dad, along with other veterans of that era, didn’t think of themselves as heroes.
“They never thought that way,” Randy said of the term ‘Greatest Generation’ often used to describe World War II vets. “They never do. They don’t see themselves that way. I wish I had another hour to say again, ‘OK, dad, tell me what happened here.’ Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
And in an effort to remember Ted, as well as the many Oneida war vets since the American Revolution, Oneida Heritage in Sherrill is highlighting the Nation’s role as First Allies. Here, elements of Ted’s military service are on display. Ted served as a staff sergeant in the Army during World War II and the Korean Conflict.
“It’s certainly an honor for me to know his uniform is on display, but I know there are plenty of Oneida who served in the war,” said Randy. “I know he would say, ‘I didn’t do anything special.’ But it’s important to remember what they (veterans) did and why they fought. His service changed him. He was much more humble, much more appreciative of the simple things in life.”
Oneida as First Allies
Oneida Heritage allows the Nation to cast a light on its rich history and culture. This new venture provides rental and sales of period artillery, clothing, traditional encampment materials and more.
“What we want to do through the store is to recognize our commitment to the Revolutionary War and in wars since,” explained Ron Patterson (Wolf Clan), heritage rental and sales manager. Materials available for rent, which are restored replicas, come from the former First Allies Living History program’s robust arsenal of pieces from the Revolutionary War through World War II.
“It’s our place to tell our story but we are not just going to limit ourselves with the retail side of the store,” Ron added, saying the store will feature hand-made bows and arrows, lacrosse sticks, and artwork created by Oneida.
Dale Rood (Turtle Clan Councilmember), studio operations director at Four Directions and Ted’s nephew, echoed Ron’s comments. “We still have some plans for this location that are going to be unique. It’s going to add to the variety of the location. We have a very narrow focus and it is based on the wars we’ve participated in. What I like about Oneida Heritage is, really, it gives us a way to focus on different veterans. We have been participating in wars and conflicts since the creation of this country. Now we’re honoring some of these veterans.
“There’s a lot of Oneidas who have done things, who are amazing. Ted really had an amazing life. As a medic, I can’t imagine the things he had seen. He had helped liberate the concentration camps. They (the veterans) did it because it was their duty to do it. They never considered themselves heros.”
More on Ted Phillips*
Ted, the son of Herbert and Evelyn Phillips of Marble Hill, was born in April 1925. Known as “Bubbie” by the family, Ted was the oldest of 10 children. He entered military service in 1943 and was assigned to the 598th motor ambulance company. After training stateside he arrived in Europe in 1944, entering the war at Utah beach.
Ted and his company traveled across England, France, Luxemburg, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. As a driver, Ted often completed assignments, in “black out” mode meaning he would drive the ambulance truck at night without headlights on.
During his time in Europe his unit was credited with transporting more than 20,000 casualties. His company received citations and awards including the Battle of Northern France, Battle of the Ardennes, Battle of the Rhineland and the Battle of Central Europe. His claim to fame was he had the opportunity to see Gen. George Patton as he toured the troops.
Ted did meet and marry Josephine Lutz of Germany. He returned to the states where he opened his own trucking business (which was interrupted when he was called up to serve in the Korean conflict).
Life after the war found Ted and his fellow veterans often talking about the everyday, simple things. However he did experience some disturbing sites as his unit was one that helped liberate a concentration camp at Dacheau, Germany.
But for Randy, what he remembers most of his dad who passed in 2001, is his sense of humor.
“When I think of my dad I see him smiling or laughing,” Randy said. “That’s what I remember. I hope to pass that along to my kids. That they have a good sense of humor too.”
Oneida Heritage, located on Route 5 in Sherrill, is open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
*Ted Phillips military history was compiled by Randy and based on a ledger kept by the 598th motor ambulance company. Randy agreed to share it with The Oneida.