CLAIRE PHILLIPS MEMORIAL
RECOGNIZING AN OREGON HERO
Claire Phillips follows in the Oregon tradition of women who truly fly on their own wings.
Gov. Kate Brown cut the ribbon to unveil the Claire Phillips Memorial on Sept. 19, 2017. Next time you visit the Capitol, you can find the memorial to learn more about Phillips – an Oregon hero – on the northwest corner of the grounds near the World War II memorial.
The Claire Phillips Memorial recognizes a stage actress and singer for her heroism as a spy and humanitarian during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. Phillips, a stage actress and singer who grew up in Portland, ran a nightclub for enemy personnel in occupied Manila. She secretly used the profits to buy and smuggle food and medicine to starving American soldiers in Japanese prisons. Convicted of espionage and sentenced to die, Army Rangers rescued her during Manila’s 1945 liberation.
General Mark Clark decorated Phillips with the Medal of Freedom in 1948. Later, Oregon Gov. Douglas McKay and Portland Mayor Dorothy McCullough Lee honored her. Her wartime memoir, Manila Espionage, became the basis for the Hollywood feature film, I Was An American Spy.
Claire Phillips follows in this Oregon tradition of women who truly fly on their own wings.
Finding herself in extraordinary circumstances– behind enemy lines, just as the United States enters World War II– Claire Phillips mustered an incredible amount of resolve to serve her country and support the American war effort.
She was not a woman to surrender or be silenced, nor should she be forgotten. After a remarkable escape from six months of solitary confinement, Claire’s heroism was first formally recognized in 1948 when she was awarded the Medal of Freedom for her, “inspiring bravery and devotion to the cause of freedom.”
I’d like to thank the Oregon Capitol Foundation for honoring the contributions of Claire Phillips today with this memorial. Thanks to the efforts of Joan Plank, Sig Unander, as well as Nancy Long and the Claire Phillips family, new generations of Oregonians will learn of Claire Phillips’ bravery and courage, and find inspiration in her fearlessness.