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Honoring Service: Fallen Veteran Philip A. Oldham, World War II

Our reporting on local veterans is a collaboration with RyeVets.org to highlight those from Rye who have served our country across times of war and peace. There are over 2,100 veterans from the City of Rye. Learn more about how you can help research and write biographies of those that have served.

Honoring Service - 08 - 2021- Philip A Oldham
Philip A. Oldham

Philip A. Oldham was born in Connecticut on December 15, 1913. He was the son of George C. Oldham and Amelie Oldham. His father was born in India and his mother was born in France. He had one older brother, Peter, and six younger sisters named Faith, Hope, Isabel, Eloise, Irene and Libby. Theye lived at 32 Meadow Place in Rye and were members of the Presbyterian Church. Philip was a Rye High School Graduate, Class of 1932. He served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

Date of Birth: 15 Dec 1913
Died On: 9 July 1943
Street Address: 32 Meadow Place
Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Philip A. Oldham was a Second Lieutenant of the First Raider Battalion, First Marine Raider Regiment. The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct amphibious light infantry warfare, particularly in landing in rubber boats and operating behind the lines. Edsonn’s Raiders of 1st Marine Raiders Battalion are said to be the first United States special operations forces to form and see combat in World War II. The Battle of Enogai was a battle between United States and Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces on 10-11 July 1943 during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War. In the battle, U. S. Marine Raiders, supported by two United States Army infantry battalions, attacked and destroyed a Japanese garrison guarding the small port of Enogai on the Dragons Peninsula on New Georgia.

At 1100 on 7/9/1943, Lieutenant Oldham was at the head of the column and sighted Leland Lagoon, turned right, and began cautiously to advance along the ridge toward Enogai. Continuing onward, by about 1500 the column had advanced to within 750 yards of Enogai, still undetected, and the Raiders began to get that indescribably upbeat feeling of an impending complete surprise over the enemy. Shortly, however, the good feelings vanished, as they heard the chatter of two Japanese light machine guns opening fire on the lead company.

Second Lieutenant Philip A. Oldhams 3rd Platoon had encountered an enemy strong point comprising a well dug-in rifle platoon and two machine guns. In the first burst of fire, four men were wounded, two critically, and one, Private, first class, Martin Flaum, was killed. Oldham, a veteran of Guadalcanal and one of those commissioned recently, crawled within a few yards of the nest and tossed his grenades. He was killed as he sought to rejoin his men. His feat, however, removed the last serious obstacle to Enogai and the Marines rushed in.

Oldhams Raiders had been well trained and, notwithstanding the loss of their commander and platoon sergeant, reacted like the professionals they were. Quickly deploying to the right and left of the survivors of the point squad, they responded in kind with their rifles and automatic weapons, and soon a steady roar of firing punctuated by the explosions of grenades could be heard from both sides as they destroyed the Japanese garrison.

Philip A. Oldham would be awarded the Silver Star, Rye High School Graduate, class of 1932

The citation follows: Philip A. Oldham, Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Reserve, for gallantry in action at Enogai, New Georgia, Solomon Island, on 9 July 1943. Rather than call for volunteers to attack three machine guns that were blocking an advance on an enemy position with vicious cross-fire, he crawled forward alone and wiped out one of the guns and its crew. Lieutenant Oldhams bold act drew fire immediately and he was killed by a burst from another gun. his courage and self-sacrifice so infused his men with fierce determination that within a half hour after his death all of the guns retarding the advance had been knocked out of action. Mr. and Mrs. Oldham also received the Presidential Citation carrying three stars representing the major engagements in which Lieutenant Oldham participated.

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