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TBF Pilot Honored at Film Premiere

TBF Pilot Honored at Film Premiere

John Mollison and Ben Phillips, Jr. 


On Friday, June 15th, John Mollison, aviation artist and producer of the award-winning documentary South Dakota Warrior presented Boerne, Texas veteran, Ben Phillips, Jr., with a custom drawing of the TBF-1C “Avenger” he flew during WWII. What makes Bens TBF unique is that it was the last one to be made by Grumman before production was handed off to General Motors during WWII.


“The drawing is more than a depiction of an airplane.” stated Mollison. “It’s symbolic of a man’s service, a nation’s commitment and of course, a war that created the world we live in today. But I feel the most important aspect of it is the reminder to the rest of us that our nation is built on the service of individuals, like Ben.”


TBF (BuNo-Serial Number 48123)

by: John Mollison



Ben Phillips, Jr. grew up in Loveland, Texas. He was attending Texas Tech when the war broke out and joined the Navy V-5 Flight Training Program, a program designed in 1935 to increase the number of potential aviators within the Navy.  After a series of tests he was sworn in at a Seaman Second Class and later an Aviation Cadet. He reported to duty for training in July of 1942. On March 3, 1943, Ben was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and assigned to Marine Squadron VMTB-134.


He first saw action on November 21, 1943 bombing Japanese targets on the island of Bougainville. In April of 1944, Ben climbed inside TBF (BuNo-Serial Number 48123) after the pilot of that plane wasn’t able to fly. He quickly realized this plane was special after seeing the cockpit full of signatures and well wishes from employees of the factory where the TBF was the last to roll off the line.


Ben received the Distinguished Flying Cross for action in the Solomon Islands. He left the service on October 30, 1945, and never flew again.


The National Museum of the Pacific War is a Texas Historical Commission property supported, operated, and managed by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation

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