Oral History

Orland Phillips Interview

Interviewee: Orland Phillips
Interviewee: Leora Phillips
Interviewer: Alexander Williams
Interviewer: Melinda Wagner
Indian Valley, Guam, Leyte, Manila, Philippines, Pearl Harbor, Jackson County, West Virginia, Hollywood, Radford Arsenal, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Prices Fork, McCoy, Radford, Guadalcanal, Malibu River, Jim Turner Construction, New Guinea, Indian Valley Presbyterian Church, John Blair, San Francisco, Fiji Islands

Various oral history recording media, resource material, and text.

  • 95 minute mp3 audio
  • mp4 digital video
  • 26 page transcript
  • candid photos
  • catalog record
  • period photographs, South Pacific scans
  • eight-minute m4v interview short film, “Wartime Choices”
  • published WWII DVD set, “From the Front Porch to the Front Lines”

A WWII-era oral history with Orland Phillips, conducted by Radford University mentor, Alexander Williams at the Hotel Floyd.  Mr. Phillips was drafted prior to Pearl Harbor and spent four years and seven months as a WWII, U.S. Army machinist.  He describes how they set up mobile shops with welding trucks following behind the armies.  As units came off the front lines, the machinists repaired equipment and fabricated new pieces as needed. His unit also served on Emeru Island, New Guinea and Leyte, enduring the rainy season and nightly air raids.  Phillips was on a ship in Manila Harbor when word came of the first atomic bomb.  After the war, newly married, he settled in Indian Valley and utilized the skills he learned over the following seventy-five years.  He describes a number of jobs he worked including starting his own “on-the-road” welding business.

machinist, field shop, Liberty ship, rifles, pistols, binoculars, eyeglasses, watches, artillery, lathe, drill press, shaper, metalworking, steel, brass, bronze, welding, tarpaulins, Indiana Army truck, babbit, bearings, bakery, one-man sub, 127 camera, radio, banyan tree, air raid, airplane, Japanese, klaxon horn, jungle, gas attacks, Liberty ship, measles, machine gun, milk, ice cream, milkshakes, Chevrolet, snow bank, dozer, natives, bula, guitar, fiddle, Island Mail, foxhole, coconut trees, tracer, souvenir, 35-millimeter negatives, Plymouth, basket, G.I. coveralls, bracelet, rosewood, Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco, war club, bamboo, bomber, hookworm, Spam, battleship Missouri, Harley Davidson motorcycle, bridge girders, x-ray, fish, sea turtle, canoes, photography, cattle, Jeep, junkyard, iced tea, woodworking, postcard, cats eye, malaria, Atabrine, camera club
Bio Sketch

Orland Phillips (1919-2023) was born in Jackson County, West Virginia, and after completing eighth grade he began working full time.  At age 21, he was enrolled at the Naval Ordnance Plant when drafted into World War II service, April, 1941.  “I was in there before the war started and there when it was done,” he said.  Returning from service, Orland married  Leora Marshall and settled in Indian Valley where the couple reared their four daughters.  Orland maintained a machine shop and woodworking shop well into his nineties, building on the same skills he learned during wartime service.  A self-proclaimed “camera nut” after joining a camera club in 1939, Mr. Phillips took many photographs and developed the negatives both overseas and at home.  In the audio clip linked on this page, Orland recalls some of his wartime photographic adventures.  During 2022, with widespread acclaim, Orland received close to 2300 birthday cards upon reaching the age of 103.


The WWII-era interview series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university-public school partnership with Radford University Anthropology professor Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner. The interview with Mr. and Mrs. Phillips was conducted by Radford University student Alexander Williams, with assistance from Kathleen Ingoldsby, staff, Old Church Gallery, and Joe Klein, Floyd Co. High School, New River Community Services liason. Filming was done by Floyd County High School student Matthew Bailey. Orland Phillips’s WWII-era interview was conducted by members of the Roots with Wings project at Floyd County High School. The nine-year WWII series, 2007-2015, was compiled into a DVD set and biographical booklet with thirty-eight student films. Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.