Philip Frankfort — another WWII hero

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016

by Bob Holt

“We knew D-Day was a BIG DEAL, and it proved to be so. Anyone involved in that operation will never forget it.” Those words were spoken by Franklin native and WWII fighter pilot Philip Franklin. Now 97, he lives in Franklin with his wife, Rae, also a native of the Franklin area.

After graduating from Franklin High School in 1936, he matriculated to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech) earning an engineering degree in 1940. A member of the Corps of Cadets, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry branch of the U.S. Army. After a year serving in the infantry on the coast of North Carolina and knowing that the United States entry into WWII was imminent, Philip requested and was accepted into flight training. He journeyed to Shaw Field in Sumter, South Carolina, for aviation courses and flying proficiency related to cross-country, formation flying, instrument and night flying as well as acrobatics. Training concentrated on opposing pilots such as the Japanese flying “Zeros” and the German Luftwaffe.

Once training was completed and certified, Philip headed to England to join the US 9th Air Corps. He was initially assigned a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter/bomber and later a P-51 Mustang. He preferred the P-51 because it had more gasoline capacity for longer missions. Most of his flights were escort roles for large U.S. bombers.

Again speaking of D-Day, Philip indicated the pilots just knew they would encounter German resistance as they flew over the ground action into France and later Germany. Fortunately to their surprise, the Luftwaffe was not very active at that time. The U.S. Air Corps’ and Great Britain’s Royal Air Force aircraft had special paint schemes for D-Day so that they could easily identify each other.

Rae was home taking care of their two daughters, Courtney and Peggy, while Philip was overseas. Her courageous support to her family was a source of strength for them all.

After the war, Philip joined Camp Manufacturing Company (later Union Camp). The family increased by two with the addition of twin boys “Flip” and Mac. Philip and Rae left Franklin for awhile when Philip joined other pulp and paper companies living in Arizona and Savannah. He and Rae always knew they would return to Franklin because “this is home.”

On a personal note, I grew up diagonally across the street from the Frankfort home. Since they had the biggest yard and a covered porch on three sides of their home, the neighborhood kids hung out there. Rae always had an ample supply of Kool-Aid (with real sugar), and we frequently watched the Howdy Doody show most afternoons in their living room.

Philip and Rae Frankfort epitomize truly the “Greatest Generation!”

ROBERT N. “BOB” HOLT a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, N.C. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech, and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His e-mail address is