Walter Phillip Jordan, Jr.
Phil Jordan was born in 1927 and raised in Phoenix, AZ. In 1941, he attempted to enlist in the US Navy when he was fourteen years old. “I wanted to go into the Navy to kill Japs for sinking the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, but they didn’t want me.” Phil grew frustrated at not being accepted because of his age so he ran away to San Francisco and helped build ships.
With eighteen shipyards churning out destroyer escorts, over 200 DE’s were operating in the Pacific by the end of the war, providing anti-submarine cover for the larger ships as well as delivering mail and supplies to the ground troops.
When Phil returned home his father signed permission for him to join the Navy in April 1944. He spent nineteen weeks training in Los Angeles, CA.
At seventeen, he was the youngest on-board the Campbell. Phil served as a Radioman 3/c or a “Sparks.” His Sonar Operator friends were dubbed “Scope Dopes.”
Phil remembers, “I was assigned to the ‘Lucky Campbell’ – so called because no one on board had died in combat. We were also fortunate because our ship had its own ice cream machine, one of two destroyer escorts in the entire navy to do so.”
“Because of the Campbell’s draft (just 11 feet), we could work in areas much closer to the shoreline than the full-sized destroyers, drawing fire from the Japanese emplacements on the beach so they would expose their positions for our guns and other guns from ships further out at sea,” he says. “During one of those runs we witnessed the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima.
Sadly, Phil’s father passed away while Phil was overseas in Okinawa. The ship was so isolated no one knew where it was to get a message to him. Not only was it a horrible shock, it was seventy-eight days later that Phil found out about his father’s death.
After the war was declared over and while waiting to be discharged, Phil brought his cocker spaniel, Nicky, onboard the ship.
Upon his official discharge, Phil Jordan returned to Phoenix to support his widowed mother. Most of the jobs went to married men with responsibilities so Phil re-enlisted and became an Army paratrooper. He served in the elite Airborne from 1947 to 1950, which included a tour in Afghanistan.
When his army enlistment was up, Phil returned to Phoenix and became the second motorcycle deputy for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. From that first position in his early twenties, Phil Jordan went on to a law enforcement career that spanned nearly 30 years … including 11 years as a federal law enforcement officer on the Apache Indian reservation and several years with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, where his final four years were as sheriff.
During Phil’s time in the navy, the Campbell crew earned four (4) bronze stars for their support in the Philippine Liberation, battles of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the final coastal raids prior to the planned invasion of Japan. Additionally, Phil was awarded the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge for acts and services of exceptional gallantry and heroism rendered to the Philippines and its people during World War II by the Office of Veterans Affairs, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Department of National Defense. The award was presented to him in 1967.
In July 1986, Phil received the Philippine Liberation Medal in recognition of the military services during World War II and pursuant to Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G-131-053.
Phil was active with the Destroyer Escort Association and attended crew reunions. He hosted the 2000 one in Apache Junction, AZ.
Recurring episodes of PTSD took a toll on Phil. It wasn’t until 1998 that he was diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He credits fishing and writing poetry as life-changing events.
In January 2017, Phil gave an interview about his time in the Navy, Army, law enforcement, and PTSD to the Joe Foss American Legion Post 97 for their newsletter.
“When we were in the military back then, you did your job and you went home. You didn’t talk much about what you saw or did over there,” he says. “I think we should have said more and talked more about our combat experiences. All these things in life have been a learning experience.” The after-action reports in naval archives leave out most of the details of raining firepower down on the enemy and engaging with enemy fighter pilots and submarines as the Allied forces closed in on Japan.”
His time spent fishing the waters in and around his home state of Arizona brought Phil a deep and abiding sense of tranquility. Along with his love of poetry (he composed 71 poems) Jordan achieved a peaceful acceptance of his times in naval combat and an eventful career as one of Arizona’s most fabled law enforcement officers.
Phil Jordan died at his home on July 12, 2018.