- "General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons, but they are won by men. We are going to win this war because we have the best men. And because they are going to get better. Much better. The Strategic Scientific Reserve is an Allied effort made up of the best minds in the free world. Our goal is to create the best army in history. But every army starts with one man. At the end of this week, we will choose that man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldiers. And they will personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell."
- ―Chester Phillips
Colonel Chester Phillips was an officer of the United States Army, the first and only director of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, Steve Rogers' commanding officer, a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. During World War II, Philips was a key factor in the creation of the world's first Super Soldier and the defeat of HYDRA.
Recruiting Howard Stark
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Training Steve Rogers
- "You're not seriously thinking of picking Rogers are you?"
"I am more than just thinking about it, he is the clear choice."
"When you brought a ninety pounds asthmatic onto my army base, I let it slide. I thought, what the hell? Maybe he’ll be useful to you, like a gerbil. I never thought you’d pick him. Stick a needle in that kids arm and it’s gonna go right through him. Look at that? He’s making me cry."
- ―Chester Phillips and Abraham Erskine
Colonel Chester Phillips was the officer in command of the secret project in the Strategic Scientific Reserve aimed to create a series of super soldiers for the US Army. He was the chief of the training camp in which the candidates were trained. Arriving at the camp, Phillips found Peggy Carter was already hitting one of the recruits for stepping out of line. Phillips gave a speech of the candidates about how they would create the best soldier to defeat HYDRA.
Eventually Abraham Erskine presented Steve Rogers as a potential candidate for Project Rebirth, but Rogers' frail physique led Phillips to view him as unsuitable, at one point suggesting Gilmore Hodge, a physically superior soldier but also a bully. To prove his own theory correct, Phillips threw a fake grenade at the soldiers, but Rogers was the one who attempted to shield the blast while the other soldiers ran for cover. Phillips then reluctantly acquiesced.
- "You’re an experiment. You’re going to Alamogordo."
"The serum worked."
"I asked for an army and all I got was you. You are not enough."
- ―Chester Phillips and Steve Rogers
Phillips travelled to Brooklyn in New York City to witness Project Rebirth, while there he spoke to Senator Brandt and was introduced to a man who introduced himself as Fred Clemson. Taking their seats, Phillips and the other attendees listened as Abraham Erskine gave a speech while Steve Rogers took his place within the Vita-Ray Chamber.
Rogers was then and was injected with the Super Soldier Serum and his body absorbed the Vita Radiation. As Phillips watched, Rogers was transformed successfully by Erskine's serum, causing much celebration between the witnesses including Phillips. But Erskine was assassinated by Clemson, who was in fact a HYDRA agent named Heinz Kruger. Kruger was caught by Rogers but committed suicide with a cyanide pill before he could be questioned.
While Howard Stark experimented on Kruger's submersible vehicle and Agent Peggy Carter took the last drops of the Super Soldier Serum from Rogers' blood, Phillips decided to leave the untrained Rogers behind and to continue the war without him. Rogers tried to argue his case but Phillips made it clear that he had wanted an army from Erskine's work and was disappointed that only one super soldier was created, claiming Rogers was not good enough.
On the Front Lines
- "Are you planning a rescue mission?."
"Yeah, it's called winning the war."
- ―Steve Rogers and Chester Phillips
Months later, several companies of men from in the 107th Infantry disappeared behind enemy lines, while Steve Rogers was in the area as part of his own USO tour. Upon discovering that one of the missing soldiers was his friend, Bucky Barnes, Rogers pleaded with Phillips to stage a rescue attempt. Phillips, though regretful for his soldiers' fate, refused, planning to bomb the facility instead of risking more lives. A frustrated Rogers defied Phillips' order and went on the mission with the help of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark.
When Phillips received a new report that the HYDRA base had been destroyed and no survivors had yet been found, he wrote a letter to Washington, D.C. telling them that Captain Rogers was believed to be killed in action. Furious at this outcome, Phillips took his frustration out on Agent Carter, noting that he could not blame his incident on Stark as he was too rich to be held accountable, but Carter insisted that her faith in Rogers was what made her decision.
Before he could punish Carter for her part in the mission, they were interrupted when Captain Rogers returned successful in rescuing the men alone. While all the soldiers in the camp happily greeted Rogers along with the rescued Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan and hundreds of others, many of whom needed medical attention, Phillips allowed him to work in the field rather than court martialing him, and entrusted him with a special elite commando force, to take onto the front lines in order to take the fight to Red Skull's HYDRA forces.
With this new knowledge of HYDRA, learnt from the rescue mission inside the base, Captain America was able to provide Philips and the rest of the United States Armed Forces with important information on the whereabouts of key HYDRA bases. When Rogers choose to remain working rather than collect a medal from Senator Brandt, Philips joked that Rogers deserved a medal just for humiliating the Senator. When Rogers expressed his intention on going back to war, Philips said they were putting together a team of the best men, but Rogers was already putting together his own team, the Howling Commandos.
Questioning Arnim Zola
During one of his Howling Commandos missions, Captain America was able to capture the high ranking HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola, at the loss of his friend, James Barnes. Philips went to interrogate him and decided to confuse him by offering him a steak dinner, which was refused. Philips had, however, sent a radio message claiming Zola had given the SSR HYDRA secrets, the plan being that HYDRA would decode the message and view Zola as a traitor.
Zola revealed that Red Skull had the power to destroy the world due to a new weapon known as the Tesseract, and that he planned on targeting everywhere on earth. With this new information Phillips briefed Rogers and his team of Howling Commandos as well as Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, who noted that Schmidt's threats were very real. With few options, Rogers volunteered to allow himself to be captured and act as a distraction for them.
- "Cut off one head, two more shall..."
"Let's go find two more."
- ―HYDRA Soldier and Chester Phillips
Phillips interrogation of Arnim Zola was successful and with his help the Strategic Scientific Reserve located Johann Schmidt's last secret HYDRA base. While Captain America distracted the enemy, Phillips himself led the assault on the base, defeating a large number of HYDRA agents. Going in first, Phillips found a HYDRA soldier giving the HYDRA salute and shot him in the chest mid sentence before moving forward.
Eventually, Phillips helped Rogers in reaching the Red Skull's experimental plane riding Schmidt's special car. As they caught up to the plane, Rogers was pulled back by Peggy Carter who gave him a kiss goodbye, leading to Phillips making it clear that he would not be kissing him. Phillips managed to get Rogers onto the plane before ending on the edge of a ravine and seeing the plane flying away with Rogers and the Skull on board to have a final fight.
Later on, when Rogers relayed the news to Carter over the radio from Schmidt's plane that he was going to sacrifice himself to destroy Schmidt's weapons by crashing into the Arctic. When he saw the seriousness of the situation, he ordered Jim Morita out of the room to leave Carter to speak to Rogers alone. Phillips listened to Rogers' final words. When the radio went blank, Phillips, visibly saddened at his friend and comrade's apparent demise, walked away. After the war was won and the SSR files were being packed away, Phillips handed Rogers' file to Peggy Carter.
After the War
Phillips and Howard Stark chose Peggy Carter to run S.H.I.E.L.D. after her successful completion of the Zodiac assignment. He remained one of the most important and valued members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is known as one of the founders of the organization. Years after his eventual death, a picture of Phillips was hung in the Camp Lehigh base which was now being used by S.H.I.E.L.D..
Chester Phillips was an old fashioned soldier, a gruff and iron-forged man who firmly believed in classical war values. He was contrary to Abraham Erskine's choice for his Super Soldier Serum test subject, since he was accustomed to training "real" combatants, and did not see the value of a small and skinny man such as Rogers. Eventually he accepted Rogers as a soldier when he proved his bravery and worth by rescuing 400 prisoners of war.
Phillips was a good strategist and a trained soldier, and, despite his rank, he still took part in field missions.
- Winchester Model 1897: Chester Phillips carried this shotgun in combat, using it to kill a HYDRA soldier as soon as he entered the HYDRA Headquarters as part of the final move of the Strategic Scientific Reserve against Johann Schmidt.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt - Commander-in-Chief
- Strategic Scientific Reserve
- Howling Commandos - Subordinates
- Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
- In the comics, Phillps chose Steve Rogers personally for being the Super Soldier test subject, while General Saunders was contrary. In the movie, Phillips fills Saunders role as he opposes the choice until being convinced otherwise.