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Remembering & Honoring Private Bobbie Dee Phelps

By Jim Johnson


On September 5th, 2015 Phelps Street in Gleason, Tennessee was formally dedicated as "PVT Bobbie Dee Phelps Memorial Way" as part of the 2015 Tater Town Special program. This dedication was to honor the memory of Private Bobbie Dee Phelps, who was attached to the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, of the US Army, who was killed in action in Korea on April 29th, 1951.


The dedication ceremony of "PVT Bobbie Dee Phelps Memorial Way" began with thoughtful opening comments by Gleason Mayor, Diane Poole and were followed by a heartfelt presentation by Mr. Jim Phelps, who commented on the circumstances surrounding Bobbie Dee Phelps making the ultimate sacrifice for his country - much of which is presented here.


In  his comments Mr. Phelps noted that that Bobbie's Grandfather, Elvis Jackson Phelps, built the very first house on Phelps Street, where Bobby Phelps was born - "the yellow house located just down the street on the left" - (the old Roy Hodges home at 223 Phelps Street).



Mr. Phelps indicated that Bobbie completed high school at Gleason School and moved to Michigan after graduation.


He went on to say that Bobbie was drafted into the army on October 22, 1950. After completing his basic training he was sent to Korea, arriving there on April 13th, 1951. He was attached to the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.


According to  the Unit's history, on April 22nd, nine days after he arrived in Korea, 21 Chinese and 9 North Korean divisions attacked our American troops, with the main objective being the capture of Seoul, South Korea. On the seventh day of that battle, Bobbie and 12 other members of his unit were killed by mortar rounds - on the 16th day in Korea.


Mr. Phelps related that, while our "Killed in Action Service Members" are usually home within a week, that was not the case back then, noting that it took six months for Bobbie's body to be returned home.


Sadly, before Bobbie was returned home, his brother, Ted, who was also in the Army, received orders to go to Korea.


Mr. Phelps noted that now the family, grieving the loss of one son and not yet having the opportunity to bury him, now had another son headed to the same war. Mr. Phelps stated that, despite his grandmother writing letters and calling every congressman who would listen, since his dad was not a sole surviving son, he would have to go! As a result, in October 1951, Ted (Mr. Jim Phelps' father) arrived in Korea - but he would only spend 24 hours there.


On the day of arrival, Bobbie's brother Ted was told that he would be returning home. Not because of the letters that had been written on his behalf but because Bobbie's body was now ready to be returned home, six months months after he died, and Ted was to be the one to escort his brother back. That is what Ted did! He arrived back in Gleason with Bobbie's body, attended the funeral and then, consistent with his orders, returned to Korea.


Mr. Phelps went on to say that "within about a seven-month period, my Grandparents have had to send one child to war, have that child die in that war, watch another leave for the same war, had them both return home, buried one and had to watch the other son return to war a second time. - The stress must have been incredible!"


According to Mr. Phelps, Bobbie's name is presently listed on two war memorials. One is in Weakley County, where he grew up. The other is on the Ingram County War Memorial in Michigan where he lived when he was drafted.


It is clear that PVT Bobbie Dee Phelps, by serving and making the ultimate sacrifice for his country, is truly deserving of having this street, where he was born, named "PVT Bobbie Dee Phelps Memorial Way" in honor of him.

Addendum to the Above Story

Four years after Bobbie Phelps death in Korea, his mother Mrs. Rex Phelps (affectionately known as Mama Phelps by the family), wrote a letter “To All Mothers and Wives Everywhere” that was published in the newspaper.

Although she was a lifelong Democrat she explains, as a Gold Star Mother, why she had decided to vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower for a second term in 1956.

 Click Here to View Her Letter


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