Lieutenant Colonel Earl H. Ellis



Lieutenant Colonel Earl "Pete" Hancock Ellis was a brilliant planner and a principal staff officer to General John A. Lejeune in World War I, who forecast the amphibious struggle for the Pacific more than 20 years prior to World War II. Believing war with Japan was inevitable, he traveled among the Japanese in the forbidden Caroline Islands and died there under mysterious circumstances, on 12 May 1923.

Earl "Pete" Ellis was born on 19 December 1880 at Iuka, Kansas, and began his career in the United States Marine Corps in 1900 as a private. On 6 December 1901, he became a second lieutenant. Early in 1902, he left the United States, and arrived on 13 April at Cavite, Philippine Islands. In the years preceding World War I, Captain Ellis was sent out on special terrain study and intelligence service in the West Indies and at the Naval Station in Guam. Upon his return from Guam, he served as Aide-de-Camp to Major General Commandant George Barnett. On 16 March 1917, he was detached from Headquarters and ordered to Quantico, Virginia.

On 25 October 1917, Major Ellis left Quantico for temporary foreign shore expeditionary service in Europe for the purpose of obtaining information concerning the methods of training troops. He sailed via the USS Von Steuben from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 29 September and arrived at Brest, France on 12 November. Major Ellis returned to the United States on 9 January 1918. On 12 February 1918, he was detached to duty in the Office of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C., and on 22 May, was detached to foreign shore expeditionary service in France on the staff of General John A. Lejeune. He arrived at Brest, France, on 8 June 1918.

From 18 June to 4 July, Major Ellis was assigned to duty with the 35th Division in the Wesserling Sector as an observer, and from 5 to 25 July served as Adjutant of the 64th Brigade of that division. He was attached to the 32d Division for several days during the operations of that Division in the Aisne-Marne Offensive, and during the German retreat from the Marne. On 8 August, he was detailed as Brigade Adjutant of the Fourth Marine Brigade in the Pont-a-Mousson Sector, north of Nancy, France. On 28 August, he was promoted to temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the rank to be effective as a 1 July. He participated in the St. Mihiel (Champagne) Offensive (12-16 September 1918) and in the Meuse-Argonne (Champagne) Offensive 29 September - 10 October 1918) including the attack on and capture of Blanc Mont, and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive 31 October to 11 November 1918).

On 17 November 1918, Ellis was among those who commenced the march to the Rhine River, crossed the Rhine on 13 December 1918, and into the Coblenz Bridgehead Area, Germany.

Lieutenant Colonel Ellis was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star, and was cited by the Marshall of France commanding French Armies of the East as follows:

"From the 2nd to the 10th of October, 1918, near Blanc Mont, Lieutenant Colonel Ellis has shown a high sense of duty. Thanks to his intelligence, his courage and hi energy, the operations that this Brigade (Fourth Brigade, Second Division) took part in, have always been successful."

He was awarded the decoration of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic, and the U.S. Army Citation Certificate by the Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Forces.

On 25 July 1919, Colonel Ellis sailed from Brest, France, aboard the USS George Washington, arrived at Hoboken, New Jersey, on 3 August 1919, and joined the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, on 9 August. In November, 1919, Colonel Ellis joined Headquarters Marine Corps, and shortly thereafter was sent to Santo Domingo as Brigade Intelligence Officer. Upon completion of his duty with the Second Marine Brigade, San Domingo (from April to 11 December 1920), Colonel Ellis again joined Headquarters Marine Corps. On 11 November 1920, he was awarded the Navy Cross by the President of the United States:

"For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service. As Adjutant, Fourth Brigade Marines, he displayed utter disregard of personal hardship and danger, energetic application and an unfailing devotion to the duties of his office. He has ever shown himself ready for any emergency, even when he has been without sleep or rest for several days and nights at a time. His keen analytical mind, quick grasp of intricate problems, resourcefulness, decision and readiness to take prompt action on important questions arising during the temporary absence of the Brigade Commander within the Brigade, have contributed largely to the success of the Brigade, rendered his services invaluable and won for him the high esteem and complete confidence of the Brigade Commander."

Colonel Ellis died at the age of 43 at Parao (Palau), Caroline Islands on 12 May 1923, and his remains were returned to the United States for burial. He had died at the moment when his last and greatest military-intelligence task was almost complete. For fifteen years he had studied the development of Japanese power in the Orient. He had come to certain conclusions and he had not been reticent about voicing them. Requesting to be sent out to Latin America and Japan on intelligence missions, Colonel Ellis was granted a leave of absence from Headquarters Marine Corps and in the next few years, he visited Australia, Philippine Islands, and Japan. He studied methods and formulated war plans for the Marine Corps in the event that the Japanese should strike.

In 1920 he foretold the course of the war in the Pacific and that Japan would strike the first blow with a great deal of success. He also reported what the success would be and planned the action necessary for Japan's defeat. Twenty-one years later, his prophecies became reality.

Marine Corps University