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Ralph, friends who want to stay friends don't discuss religion or politics, and in my case you can add the war to that.
~ Cole to Ralph.
Goodbye...
~ Cole, moments before his death.

Cole Phelps is a soldier and a detective, and the main protagonist of the 2011 game L.A Noire. After serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, Phelps returned home and joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He quickly proved himself to be an excellent police officer, managing to become a detective at a young age. In Los Angeles, Phelps is often tasked with solving crimes from the desks of patrol, traffic, homicide, vice, and arson.

He was voiced by Aaron Staton.

History

Early Life

Phelps was born in San Francisco, where both his father and grandfather ran a shipping company. He attended Stanford University. He married a woman named Marie and had two daughters with her.

Military Career

Cole joined the the US Marines with Jack Kelso and Hank Williams where they trained to become commanding officers. However, Cole was an arrogant man and became unpopular amongst the group, as well as for his respect towards the Japanese, believing their actions were justified.

During the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill, when it was time to push through enemy lines, his battalion and C.O. were killed. As a result, Cole wanted to fall back despite the protest of his close friend, Hank Merrill. Shortly afterwards, he witnessed Hank get blown to pieces by an explosion after they took cover in a foxhole. Cole went into shock. The next morning he was found by other USMC servicemen, covered in soot, lying next to Merrill's remains. As the sole survivor, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and received the Silver Star, the third highest commendation he could achieve. Cole would be forever haunted by his experience and guilt-ridden for being honoured for his "lack of courage."

Near the end of his service, he was dispatched (along with many other troops) to clear out settlements and caves for any signs of enemy forces during the battle of Sugar Loaf. Cole, being under strict orders, wanted to clear out every sign of the enemy in the caves and villages - though he fell behind other squads.

Cole's meticulous attention to detail and insistence on clearing out each and every cave eventually caught up with him, his squad fell far behind other units, and Cole rushed his men, leading them into an ambush. This is contrasted with Kelso's approach, where he ordered Cole's squad to carefully approach a cave complex and simply seal the entrance, trapping any and all Japanese, whether civilian or soldiers, within. Ira Hogeboom, armed with a flamethrower and following Cole's orders, surged forward past the ambush and set the cave ablaze, only afterwards does Cole and his unit realize the cave was filled with civilians, specifically women and children, who while badly burned, remained alive and in agonizing pain.

Cole's unit, scared and distraught about what had happened, looked to Phelps for an answer as the badly injured women and children writhed in agony around them. Panicking, Cole ordered his men to end the victims' suffering and execute the burned women and children. Protesting loudly, and finally pushed to the breaking point by Cole's orders, Courtney Sheldon shot Cole in the back, taking out his frustration and anger at Cole's hypocrisy. Kelso arrived, taking command of the situation and ordering the Marines out of the cave, ordering them to never speak of the incident again.

After receiving treatment for his wound at an army hospital, Phelps was honourably discharged from the Marine Corps. He returned home to Los Angeles before the end of the war and joined the LAPD shortly thereafter.

Police Career

After the war ended, Cole was wrapped in guilt and regret about his actions in the war. And joined the police force as a way to make himself feel better, as well as keeping the streets safe. Cole's military experience and strong eye for case solving quickly got him promoted towards a traffic detective and was partnered with Stefan Bekowsky, who despite a rough start quickly grew to respect and befriend the man.

After several successful cases Cole was promoted to Homicide and his new partner was Rusty Galloway a grumpy and somewhat misogynistic man who also began to slowly respect and befriend Cole. The duo investigate a series of grizzly murders towards women, which Phelps begins to believe is secretly the work of a serial killer. But not just anyone, the infamous Black Dahlia themselves. Eventually he is proven correct and they eventually find the man himself, Garett Mason, a bartender Cole and Rusty briefly interacted with. Garett attacks them and is killed by Cole in self defence, but Captain Donnelly does not reveal this to the public, instead just silently releasing the other suspects.

Next he's promoted to Vice, and is partnered with Roy Earle. A corrupt officer with racist and misogynistic views, and refusal to take his job seriously. He even betrays Cole after he has a secret affair with a German singer who was far closer to knowing what Cole has been going though, than Marie. Phelps returned home to Marie, however she refused to listen. Feeling angry, betrayed, and humiliated, she kicked him out. Marie confirmed her father hired an attorney, confirming their divorce. With his affair publicized, turning him into a disgraced cop, Phelps turned to and stayed with Elsa.

His reputation tarnished, Cole once more believed he has to try redeeming himself, and despite already being one of the few non corrupt officers in L.A. he no longer wanted to solve cases for personal gain, but simply cause it was the right thing to do.

Eventually he has Jack Kelso, who works as a investigator, join forces with him. And the two begin taking down a corrupt business which even most of the police are involved in. And they discover Ira is involved in this as well, and that he lost his mind.

Ira kills a corrupt doctor and kidnaps Elsa so Jack and Cole go into some tunnels to save her, and Jack mercy kills Ira.

In the end Cole ends up drowning when the tunnels overflow with water. It's left ambigious if he simply had no time to escape, or if he couldn't live with the guilt of seeing what his poor leadership has done to a fellow marine.

Personality

As a U.S. Marine Lieutenant in the Pacific during World War II, Cole was reckless and overconfident, which caused and ensured his long time rivalry with Jack Kelso. During the war, he was very strict about following and obeying military rules and regulations, unlike some of his fellow marines.

Cole’s actions were also ruinous. As a result, he saw a lot death and destruction during the war, from his act of cowardice on Sugar Loaf Hill to the atrocity in the cave, all of which impacted him emotionally and mentally. These events continued to haunt him through his life, and seemed to act as a catalyst for Cole to seek personal redemption in his career as a police officer. This also explained why Cole did not want to talk about his war experience with his partners.

As a police officer and later detective, Phelps demonstrated himself as highly intelligent, methodical and adaptable to a range of situations. Cole is driven to keeping the streets of LA clean and safe from murder, drugs and corruption. He has a strong sense of justice and dedication to protecting the people of LA, and lacks any political agenda. Whilst interviewing both suspects and witnesses, Phelps doesn't hesitate to use coercing if he isn't provided with an adequate amount of information. For example, when Howard Parnell remained tight-lipped regarding marijuana appearing in factory sealed soup cans, Phelps threatened to have half of the LAPD tear his factory apart to get the information he required.

Cole shows himself to be well educated and intelligent throughout the game, particularly through his knowledge of literature. He recognizes a poem left by a killer as Prometheus Unbound, stating his fondness for Percy Shelley. In addition to his knowledge of Percy Shelley, Phelps seems to admire Shakespeare, as he quotes lines from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet when holding a fake shrunken head in "The Fallen Idol". Furthermore, Phelps was able to learn and speak some Japanese during his time in the Okinawa campaign.

One of Cole’s most defining personal traits are that he is very open-minded and accepting, evident by his lack of sexist or racist views. During WWII, Cole saw both sides as equals and viewed the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor as justified, openly stating that he "respects the Japanese." He earned the disapproval of some, however, by expressing his respectful, almost sympathetic, view towards the enemy.

Cole’s humility mostly derives from experience on Sugar Loaf. Having been praised and awarded for an act of cowardice, Cole held a personal disdain for his glorified image. As a result, he is modest and strongly respects his peers and colleagues, despite their flaws, though Roy Earle is probably the only exception.

It is possible that Cole, like many returning soldiers, found it difficult to relate to his wife after he got back from the war. The stress and trauma of his experiences had changed Cole, causing a strain on his marriage with Marie while making him emotionally distant, causing him to seek comfort in the romance with Elsa. Despite his adultery, he still cared for Marie and their daughters and regrets the pain that he has caused his family.

Quotes

LAPD. You're under arrest.
~ Cole Phelps.
You f--k young boys, Valdez?
~ Cole to Juan Francesco Valdez during interrogation (determinant).
You're full of s**t, Jacob. The truth is you hated that b***h: You followed her and dragged her into the car and took her out to the Moors. She woke up, and you smashed her face in with a socket wrench. And then you stomped her... you stomped her because she was a drunken whore and she treated you like s**t. You stomped her for all the years you had to take it. You stomped her because you're such a weak f---ing sister, Jacob, and you wanted to erase all memory of it. Go on, try to deny it
~ Phelps to Jacob.
Courtney Sheldon was a corpsman, Roy. He served his country! He went out with a medical kit and an Army .45 and into places that made the Valley of Death look like a picnic. He was either naive enough or dumb enough to get involved in the Suburban Development Fund along with the mayor, the D.A., Monroe, and a certain crooked cop. He was involved in the morphine heist, but he has a puncture wound in his jugular, which makes this a murder case. He was a better man than you'll ever know! You say one more word about him and I will blow your F---ING HEAD OFF!
~ Cole to Roy on Courtney Sheldon.
Jose Ramos, you are under arrest on suspicion of supplying narcotics, resisting arrest, and malicious destruction of LAPD property.
~ Cole Phelps to Jose Ramos.
I'd like to think you would have had something more to say about getting shoved in a fridge, Herschel.
~ Phelps to Biggs.

Trivia

  • Cole Phelps is the third Rockstar protagonist to die in the conclusion of his game. The first being Daniel Lamb from Manhunt. And the second being John Marston from Red Dead Redemption.
  • Cole's voice actor, Aaron Staton is married to Connie Fletcher (the voice actress of his wife, Marie Phelps) in real life. They both have children as well (Cole has 2 daughters and Aaron has a son).
  • Cole can speak Japanese well, from his days in the war.
  • His death is similar to Charlton Heaton's character in the 1974 film Earthquake.
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