Wesley Phelps was born on June 12, 1923 in Neafus, Kentucky. After graduating from high school in 1942, he began studying the trade of radio equipment repair. That career wasn’t to be as he was called by his nation for World War II service and inducted into the United States Marine Corps Reserve on April 9, 1943.
By December of that same year, he was on active service with the Marine Corps and en route to fight with the 1st Marine Division on Cape Gloucester. After that campaign, Phelps and the division recovered and re-equipped for the attack on Peleliu.
On October 4, 1944, Phelps, as a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, smothered the detonation of a Japanese grenade on Peleliu with his own body and was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, during a savage hostile counterattack on the night of 4 October 1944. Stationed with another marine in an advanced position when a Japanese handgrenade landed in his foxhole Pfc. Phelps instantly shouted a warning to his comrade and rolled over on the deadly bomb, absorbing with his own body the full, shattering Impact of the exploding charge. Courageous and indomitable, Pfc. Phelps fearlessly gave his life that another might be spared serious injury, and his great valor and heroic devotion to duty in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Phelps was temporarily buried in a cemetery on Peleliu before his remains were repatriated to the United States and laid to rest in the Rosine Cemetery, Rosine, Kentucky.
No ship of the United States Navy as ever been named for this heroic Naval Service brother, unlike so many other Marine Medal of Honor recipients. This is a good time to point out again that we are going to have a USS Gabrielle Giffords though.