BLUFFDALE, Utah – Almost 3,000 U.S. aviation service members were killed in air combat during World War II. Among that group was Army Air Corps Sgt. Elvin L. Phillips from Salt Lake City, a B-24 Liberator gunner assigned to the 66th Bombardment Squadron Group, 8th Air Force, whose unidentified remains were buried in foreign soil for 79 years. Positively identified in March of this year, Phillips’ remains have made it back home to Utah.
Soldiers and Airmen in the Utah National Guard Honor Guard conducted funeral honors for Phillips at Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale Oct. 11. Family, friends, other service members and first responders attended.
One of Phillips’ nephews, Frank Moe, said he was 6 years old in San Francisco when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
“I can remember it because everyone was so upset,” said Moe. “A couple of days later, Elvin came back from Salt Lake City [to San Francisco] to say goodbye to his parents. He joined the Army Air Corps, and the rest is history.”
Grant Phillips, another nephew, was also in attendance. Grant’s father (Elvin’s brother) died a few years ago. Grant said it would have meant a lot to him to see Sgt. Phillips’ remains make it home.
“He researched the battle, and he knew all the whereabouts and how everything got screwed up and how he died and all that,” Grant said.
Grant also said his father was instrumental in having Elvin’s remains buried in Utah.
“My father was really involved in trying to get his remains back to Salt Lake because he’s an original Salt Lake guy,” he said.
Maj. Tim Clayson, a chaplain with the Utah Army National Guard, gave a speech during the funeral expressing his sentiments.
“The loss of this young man left his family devastated and breathless. But at the same time, it exposes true any notion that any of us is truly alone,” said Clayson. “The recovery of Sgt. Phillips has brought a gathering of family and friends, old and new, to mourn the killing of this young hero.”