Henry `Ed' Phipps

[ Age 93 ] Pilot was a submarine spotter during World War II.

November 18, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

Henry "Ed" Phipps, a retired production manager of an oil burner business who was a civilian submarine chaser off the beaches of Ocean City, Delaware and New Jersey during World War II, died of an aneurysm Nov. 9 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Cockeysville resident was 93.

Born Henry Edmond Phipps in Baltimore and raised on Melville Avenue in Waverly, he was a 1931 Polytechnic Institute graduate and received his air pilot's license in the 1930s after training at the old Logan Field in Dundalk.

According to a flyer's logbook Mr. Phipps kept, he made some of his first flights to Frederick and Chambersburg, Pa. He took his mother on her first flight in July 1940.

Mr. Phipps joined the Civil Air Patrol on the day the organization was formed - Dec. 1, 1941 - at a time when the federal government saw a need to have civilian aviation take a part in the anticipated war effort and help with air search and rescue missions. Mr. Phipps was a member of the Maryland Wing.

After the U.S. entered World War II, members of his organization performed quasi-military functions. In November 1942 he was assigned to the Civil Air's Coastal Patrol Base No. 2 at the old Rehoboth Beach, Del., airport. He lived nearby in Delaware. The civilian volunteers acted as spotters for German submarine activity along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Flying almost daily with an observer in a small single-engine plane, Mr. Phipps made numerous flights at low altitudes over the Atlantic. While Mr. Phipps never located a German U-boat, other members of his unit did, according to Roger N. Thiel, a historian based in Washington.

"He told me of a time that he encountered weather so bad he was forced to land at an alternative base on the lower Eastern Shore," said Mr. Thiel said. "He landed with no fuel showing on his indicator."

By August 1943, the U.S. military had recruited and trained enough pilots, and had enough aircraft to take over coastal surveillance. Mr. Phipps then became an aircraft engine inspector with the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River.

Mr. Phipps continued to fly and was based at the old Harbor Field in Dundalk. He flew until he was 90 and was named a CAP colonel this year. He was also awarded the group's Distinguished Service Medal.

"He was always happy when he talked about his time in the Air Patrol," said Bill Schell, the national curator of the Civil Air Patrol, who lives in Aberdeen. "He would go to squadron meetings and address the cadets. He was lucid and remembered the smallest details."

Mr. Phipps appeared in a History Channel This Week in History segment in November 2001. He also appeared at air meets and organized reunions for his Coastal Patrol Base for more than 20 years.

He joined General Automatic Products Corp. on Sinclair Lane in the 1930s, where he worked for 45 years, and later was a clerk in Baltimore County's Department of Planning and Zoning.

His wife of many years, the former Anita Thorn, who often accompanied him on flights, died in 1999.

Services will be held at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Maryland Masonic Home, 300 International Circle in Hunt Valley.

Survivors include two nephews, Thomas W. Phipps of Hunt Valley and James C. Phipps of Ocean City.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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