Cultivating A Warrior Spirit At West Point: From Dak To To The Physics Department

Phil Mallory


Phil Mallory grew up in an Army family moving around the country. His dad, an Army doctor, served in an evacuation hospital in North Africa and later in Italy. Phil was inspired to attend West Point after meeting a variety of service members in the late ‘40s visiting his parents’ house at the Walter Reed Medical Center. While he had no idea what to expect at West Point, he survived Beast Barracks and did well academically as a cadet. He played all four years on the soccer team and was on the swim team his Plebe year. After a series of challenges in the commissioning physical process related to his hearing, he ended up in the Armor branch. He was assigned to a tank battalion in Germany, arriving a few months after the construction of the Berlin Wall. He later deployed to Vietnam, where he commanded a rifle company in the 1st Cavalry Division. During the Battle of Dak To, a mortar round detonated within ten feet of him, throwing him against a Huey helicopter that had just landed. He ended up with two broken arms and two broken legs, as well as significant blood loss. After evacuation from the battlefield, he spent a total of nine months in different hospitals from Vietnam to Japan to Walter Reed, where his dad was the hospital commander at the time. After recovering from his injuries, Phil attended graduate school at University of California Davis for physics, in preparation for an instructor assignment in the Physics Department at West Point. In this interview Phil talks at length about his experiences growing up in an Army family, as a cadet, and then as a junior officer. The interview includes an extensive discussion of his experiences in the Battle of Dak To and his subsequent recovery. Phil concludes with some thoughts about how West Point instilled a “warrior spirit” in him.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Leadership Teamwork Military Techniques Returning from War Military Family Injuries Army Athletics USMA 1961
interviewer Rick Black
date 28 January 2022


name Phil Mallory
institution USMA
graduation year 1961
service Armor
unit 34th Armor; 32nd Armor; 24th Division; 1st Cavalry Division; 1st Armored Division; 2nd Armored Division
specialty West Point Department of Physics
service dates 1961 1991