Chester Richard Phillips

chesterphillipsfilmWhen Captain America and Black Widow visit the place in which S.H.I.E.L.D. was born, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they find the portraits of the three founders of the intelligence agency: Howard StarkPeggy Carter and Chester Phillips, the latter portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones. In The First Avenger, he was the supervisor officer from the Strategic Scientific Research in charge with the secret project that would have led to the creation of Captain America. In the movie, he’s dubious and grumpy, often criticizing Abraham Erskine‘s choice of Steve Rogers: in the comics, it’s quite the opposite, being him the one who choses Rogers and fights with his superiors to include him in the project. At the end, he participates to the final assault to HYDRA‘s base, leading his men to the definitive victory. Let’s see together who he is in the comics.

Chester Richard Phillips was a veteran from World War I, an officer of the United States Army who rapidly climbed the hierarchical ledger after distinguishing himself for acts of heroism. When World War II began in Europe, old but estimated General Phillips was chosen as a personal advisor of President Franklin Delano Roosvelt: with his experience and strong morals, Phillips advised the President for the best path to follow in the events of the War, and when America was forced to intervene by Japan‘s attack, he convinced Roosvelt of the necessity of creating a human symbol to unite and inspire the troops, and overall to counterbalance the spreading terror the masked madman Red Skull was seeding in Europe. Already the liaison of the scientific projects linked to the chesterphillipscomics1military effort, Phillips was assigned with the supervision of Operation Rebirth, a secret project aimed to use the work of a German exiled scientist, Abraham Erskine, to create a “super soldier”, able to lead the troops abroad. From the very beginning, it became crystal clear that Phillips’ priorities and ideas were different from the ones of the other officers supervising the project: in particular, he clashed with General Maxfield Saunders, a belligerant and dull man who wanted his protege, Clinton McIntyre, a violent soldier both Phillips and Erskine believe to be unfit for the process, to be the super soldier. Saunders stole a sample of the prototype Super-Soldier Serum, injecting it to McIntyre without authorization: the experiment was tragic, as McIntyre (apparently) died in result. Phillips, deeply angered, had Saunders arrested, and took full command of Operation Rebirth.

After a long search, Phillips ended up chosing Steve Rogers as the perfect candidate: the boy was skinny and weak, a 4-F army reject, but the General saw in the boy a strong spirit and a true patriotism, the will of protecting people rather than of fighting enemies. With Erskine’s full approval, Phillips convinced his superiors to give Rogers a chance, and the boy was transformed by the Super-Soldier Serum into Captain America, a muscled freedom fighter who would have become a symbol of hope for all the enemies of the Axis. General Phillips followed the first steps of Steve Rogers as Captain America, and personally supervisioned his training, becoming some sort of father chesterphillipscomics2figure for him, caring that the moral temper of the boy wasn’t sacrificed to his military preparation. Finally, when the Super Soldier was ready for war, Phillips himself followed him as his commanding officer, taking pride in seeing what kind of man young Rogers was becoming, even in the worst scenario imaginable. When, during a battle with Baron Zemo, Captain America went missing near the Arctic Sea, Phillips borrowed a naval destroyer to search for him or his corpse, but with no result. Saddened by the loss of the man he had learnt to consider like a son, he retired from the Army, dying of old age some years later.

General Chester Phillips is a true patriot, a man who fights for what’s right but only does it because he dreams of a world in which war is not required anymore. Led by strong values and a rock-like moral, Phillips doesn’t mind facing his own colleagues, or even the President, if he thinks they’re taking wrong paths. Being a military officer, he’s well trained in both armed and unarmed combat, but the age has made him much weaker than in the past. Old-fashioned yet projected to the future, Phillips is the right man in the right place, one of Captain America’s mentors and life models.

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1 Comment

  1. […] time after time, office after office, trying to enlist. His spirit attracted the attention of General Chester Phillips, an old, idealistic officer who offered him a chance to prove himself: Operation Rebirth, a secret […]


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