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Examiner
  • Veteran Salute: Philip Edward Padberg

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  • Philip was born in Fredericktown, Missouri, in 1920; his father was a miner and a farmer. Philip was the oldest child of three girls and two boys. Philip grew up knowing the difficult times of the 1930s. He told his children that every year he would receive an orange and a pair of overalls for Christmas.
    Philip graduated in 1938 and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.
    He was given an aptitude test and tested strongly in the area of electronics. He was sent to work in Boston Harbor on some of the earliest radar equipment.
    He was then sent to and graduated from Annapolis where he was trained in radar and sonar; they had just developed that technology and put it in some ships. Philip later transferred to the Merchant Marines. The Merchant Marines were sending supplies to England and the allies for the Land Lease Program.
    Philip went to sea to work on liberty ships; he was a radio operator and traveled from ship to ship. There are photos of him from all over the world. His children remember some of the treasures he brought back from his many destinations.
    Philip's brother, Ted, joined the Army and was trained in high altitude surveillance photography. In 1944 Ted was on the SS Paul Hamilton, a ship that carried high explosives and bombs. It was attacked in the Mediterranean Sea and all men aboard were killed. Philip had a letter in his belongings that he received from Teddy that was discovered after his brother was killed. Philip never could open that letter.
    Philip was still traveling around the world with the Merchant Marines. He was a radar officer and could spot the submarines and report their positions to the supporting ships. As the war wound down Philip continued as a radio operator, but got out of the Merchant Marines. The airlines needed radio operators and he became a radio operator for TWA in Boulder City, Nevada.
    In 1948 he traveled to Wichita, Kan., what was known then as the air capital of the world due to the number of planes it manufactured. He took a job at Beech Aircraft.
    Beech had airplanes that it sold to the Army for use in Vietnam. Philip found a way to make extra money because Beech needed someone to go to Vietnam and help manage those airplanes. Philip knew many languages and could speak Vietnamese. He took heat sensing radar to Vietnam. He could not go as a civilian, so he was given a commission. His job was to go from site to site and take the Agent Orange tanks out of the aircraft and replace that with heat sensing radar and teach others how to repair it while in the field. He was trying to have the Vietnamese take over and learn how to do this.
    Page 2 of 2 - Christmas, December 1968, Philip had sent home pictures of him standing in front of the aircraft, he had lost at least 50 pounds, and they could see that he wasn't well. He continued to lose weight at a rapid pace, strange things began happening to his body. The Army sent him back to where they could bring many doctors into see him, by this time it was decided to send him home. They didn't know it then, but it was the effects of Agent Orange that was causing his medical problems. At this time he was 48 years old.
    The Army called his mother to tell her when he would back on the ground in the United States, the family hardly recognized him when they saw him, and it was staggering to see what he looked like. His skin looked like like gray metal and the doctor said he didn't have long to live. He had lost over one hundred pounds. Every organ was failing. Philip did not live too long after that.
    Their father believed and expressed to them repeatedly that if we don't fight for freedom in Vietnam, then we will have to fight it on our own shores.
    Philip told his daughter Rebecca that this country was worth dying for. Philip passed away soon after that conversation.

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