Earl Hancock Ellis
|Earl Hancock Ellis|
December 19, 1880|
May 12, 1923
Palau, Caroline Islands
|Place of burial||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1900–1923|
World War I
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Croix de guerre
Lieutenant Colonel Earl Hancock "Pete" Ellis (December 19, 1880 – May 12, 1923) was a United States Marine Corps Intelligence Officer, and author of , which became the basis for the American campaign of amphibious assault that defeated the Japanese in World War II. Ellis' prophetic study helped establish his reputation at the forefront of naval theorists and strategist of the era in amphibious warfare, foreseeing the imminent attack from Japan leading to the island-hopping campaigns in the Central Pacific. Earl Ellis became the Marine Corps' first spy, and his mysterious death became the subject of controversy.
- Early life 1
- Start of career 2
- World War I 3
- Post-World War I 4
- Undercover mission in the Central Pacific 5
- Ellis' death 6
- Notes 7
- References 8
- Further reading 9
- External links 10
Lieutenant Colonel Ellis was born on December 19, 1880 in Philippines.
Start of career
Ellis began his career in the United States Marine Corps by enlisting on September 3, 1900 as a Private in Chicago, Illinois. He arrived at the Washington Navy Yard days later to begin his initial entry training. During this course, he learned about the Marine Corps from veterans, many from the American Civil War era. In February 1901 he was promoted to corporal.
A year later, Ellis's parents questioned Congressman Chester I. Long of nearby Medicine Lodge about a possible commission for Ellis. Long followed up with Marine Corps Commandant Charles Heywood. The Marine Corps enabled a select number of noncommissioned officers to compete to become officers, and as a corporal, Ellis qualified. He was tutored by an Army Colonel, performed well on the written examination, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on December 21, 1901.
He reported to Colonel Percival C. Pope, Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston on January 11, 1902, to receive his initial training as an officer. on January 11, 1902. At Charlestown new officers were taught how to perform inspections of Marines and other tasks required of junior officers. On March 1, 1902, he was given orders to report to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. to receive orders for an assignment in the western Pacific. He departed on a troop train to San Francisco, California, on April 1, 1902, to board a steamboat named the Sheridan. On 13 April he arrived in Manila, Philippines, on a naval base along the Cavite Peninsula and was assigned as adjutant for the 1st Regiment. During this period, the boredom and monotony of routine duty began to have a negative effect on him.
- "I think that this is the laziest life that a man could find—there is not a blamed thing to do except lay around, sleep and go 'bug house'. But the same, I am helping to bear the 'White Man's Burden'."
Ellis had maintained a good relationship with the commander of the 1st Regiment and in January 1903 was assigned aboard the battleship Kentucky, the fleet flagship of the major at the time. On May 25, 1904, Ellis was directed to report to the Commandant on June 12, 1904 to serve on the staff at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. In September he was transferred to Mare Island, California, where he served as quartermaster until December 31, 1905.
In 1906 and 1907 Ellis was on temporary duty as a recruiting officer, serving in Oakland, California, during the summer of 1906 and in Des Moines, Iowa, from July 31, 1906, to April 19, 1907. He then returned to Mare Island, where he served until November 18, 1907, when he was ordered to Olongapo, Philippines, as the adjutant of the 2nd Regiment, which was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel "Hiking Hiram" Bearss.
On February 14, 1908, Ellis was assigned as executive officer of the 2nd Regiment's Company E. In May 1908 he was promoted to Captain. When Major John A. Lejeune arrived in Olongapo to assuming command of the brigade which included the 2nd Regiment, he selected Ellis to command the 2nd Regiment's Company F, and he served from July 1 to September 30, 1908. He performed special duty assignments involving disputes about land claims among the local Filipinos until resuming command Company F from January, 1 through May 31, 1909. He then commanded Company E and directed fortification and management of the local post exchange located on Grande Island. During this period, he supposedly shot the glasses off a table to lighten the mood of a 'boring' dinner while visiting a Navy chaplain. He returned to Olongapo in the spring of 1910 and resumed duties as the 2nd Regiment's adjutant, serving until returning to the United States in January 1911.
Earl Ellis reported to the Barracks at the Culebra of Puerto Rico.
- "The Advance Base Outfit appears to be in efficient condition and it is believed that if called upon for use it would be found thoroughly satisfactory. This condition is mainly due to the excellent work of Captain Earl H. Ellis."
On February 9, 1914, Ellis and the Advance Base Force embarked to New Orleans for a possible deployment to Mexico in case of tensions in the area. At this point, George Barnett was to succeed William Biddle as Commandant as Captain Ellis had orders for special assignment as a member of a special committee established by the Joint Army-Navy Board to study the defense of Guam. Since World War I has started in Europe, both German and Japanese warships have been sighted in the nearby Mariana Islands, there was a concern for the security of Guam. He reported on March 3 to governor-designate Captain William J. Maxwell. Earl Ellis was assigned as the secretary and aide-de-camp, including duties as the chief of police, registrar of the civil government, and Intelligence Officer. It was during this period that Earl Ellis's health began to deteriorate. Medical Records have shown that it was due to uncontrollable alcohol abuse.
On August 27, 1915, he had orders to return to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. for duty as one of the three Colonel John A. Lejeune (who became the assistant to Major General Barnett) had assigned as his ad hoc staff. It was at this moment that Lejeune founded the Marine Corps Association and the first publication of the Marine Corps Gazette. By August 29, 1916, Ellis was promoted to major, a week before United States' involvement in World War I. Commandant Barnett persuaded Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels for the participation of his Marines of 5th Marines to join General John J. Pershing in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).
World War I
Despite Major Earl Ellis's request for France, he was assigned to assist in the establishment of the new installation, Marine Corps Base Quantico on May 14, 1917. He later served as an instructor in a school for Commissioned Officers, which became the Officer Candidate School. Originally, new Commissioned Officers were attending the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. However, Commandant Barnett was curious of the formation of the AEF and sent Ellis as a liaison to France to observe and report back to him. Ellis embarked on the Von Steuben on October 25, 1917 returning shortly after the first of the year.
The War Department afterward directed the 6th Marines to France and assemble with 5th Marines, along with a small to form as the 4th Brigade (Marine), 2nd Division, AEF. By May 23, 1918, Col. Lejeune received orders to France, taking Earl Ellis along with him, detaching from Quantico. Lejeune was assigned to the 64th Brigade, 32nd Division with Ellis attended his adjutant, then eventually to a French division that was built-up between the Swiss border and the Rhône. As Lejeune assumed command of the 4th Brigade on July 25, 1918, Ellis became the brigade adjutant, in charge of preparing and supervising production of plans and operations orders. During this time Ellis also served as the 2nd Division's inspector.
Ellis was responsible in the planning of the St. Mihiel (Champagne) Offensive (12–16 September 1918) and in the Meuse-Argonne (Champagne) Offensive from 29 September to 10 October 1918) including the attack on and capture of Blanc Mont, and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from 31 October to 11 November 1918. For these heroic efforts by the 5th and 6th Marines, the French bestowed them a third Croix de guerre entitling the brigade to wear the fourragére. After Lejeune succeeded to command of a division, Ellis's reputation as a strategist and planner led his brigade commander, Brigadier General Wendell Cushing Neville to recommended Ellis for an accelerated promotion to Colonel. Ellis did not receive the promotion, but was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and Navy Cross, which he received on November 11, 1920. In addition, France awarded him the Croix de guerre and Légion d'honneur (Grade of Chevalier).
Ellis' French Croix de guerre with Gold Star citation read:
- "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 high energy, the operations that this Brigade (Fourth Brigade, Second Division) took part in, have always been successful."
- "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."
By November 11, 1918, the 4th Marine Brigade recuperated; on November, 17, the 2nd Division, AEF marched north to begin occupation duty, reaching German territory by November, 25, and eventually reaching the Rhine on December 10, 1918. For the remainder of the occupation, the 4th Marine Brigade stayed along the Rhine. As the 5th Regiment's commander, Logan Feland was promoted to Brigadier General, Col. Harold Snyder assumed command; Ellis was appointed as regimental executive officer. On July, 1, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. By August 1919, the 4th Marine Brigade embarked back home to the United States with Earl Ellis returning to Quantico. On August 3, 1919, Commandant Barnett instructed him to report to a Marine regiment that was stationed near Galveston, Texas on an intelligence-gathering mission by the decree of the Office of Naval Intelligence, concerning the fear of Germany's seizing of Mexico's oil fields.
Post-World War I
He returned to Quantico and stood detached from the 5th Marines as of November 25, 1919 for duty at Headquarters Marine Corps. On New Year's Day, he was admitted into the United States Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C., diagnosed with depression, exhibiting delirium tremens and neurasthenia, symptoms that arose from his abuse of alcohol. He remained on convalescent leave until April 17, 1920, he stood discharged from the hospital and was to report to Brigadier General Logan Feland in the Dominican Republic for intelligence-gathering. He embarked on a troop transport ship Kittery from Charleston, South Carolina on April, 20; he reported to BGen. Feland on May 10, 1920. He contributed in forming the Guardia Nacional in Santo Domingo, in which the Marines had attempted since their occupation in 1916; BGen. Feland lauded Ellis's performance:
- "The effect of his [Ellis's] thorough knowledge of intelligence duties and of his hard work in training his subordinates became apparent almost at once. The intelligence reports, which had been a mass of unrelated and generally unimportant scraps of information, became well-compiled and well-digested reports of the condition in Santo Domingo."
He served with the Fourth Brigade (Marine) in France from April to 11 December 1920. During the fall of 1920, Ellis and BGen Feland stood detached from their Caribbean duty and returned to Washington, D.C. reporting on December 11, 1920 to Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune. Lejeune entrusted Ellis to head the intelligence section of the newly established Division of Operations and Training (DOT) at the Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), officially holding his billet on December 23, 1920. In his tenure, he had prepared an essay regarding the details of military and civil operations that are required in eradicating the subversion and insurgency, titled "Bush Brigades"'. Although it was printed, it was considered controversial due to the incidences pertaining to Major General Littleton Waller's execution of 11 Filipino porters that occurred just before Ellis was posted in Cavite, and in Les Cayes when Marines killed ten peasants in Haiti. Thus, "Bush Brigades" was never officially published due to the sake of tarnishing the U.S. and President Warren G. Harding.
It was towards the end of 1920 that Major General John A. Lejeune and his senior officers of his staff focused on war planning in the event of any hostilities that may occur in the Pacific against Imperial Japan, revising War Plan Orange; which implemented the study of the Marine Corps' role in amphibious operations. Ellis produced the prophetic document, "Operation Plan 712 - Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia", which underlined that in the event of hostilities with Japan, advanced bases would be required to support the fleet. The Territory of Hawaii constituted the 'only' support for the United States Navy due to the lack of facilities in the Philippines and Guam. Japan had already occupied the Marshall, Caroline, and the Palau Islands, which flanked the U.S. lines of communications in the region by more than 2,300 miles. Ellis's conclusion in his document predicted that Japan would initiate the war, and furthermore indicated that Japan would stay near their own territorial waters until encountered by the U.S. fleet. He also added that great losses to the Marine forces would occur during the amphibious assault in what he termed the "ship-shore belt". He advised the war planners to avoid 'blue-water' transfers, to form task forces prior to leaving base ports, and not to divide units up among several transports.
- ... a major fleet action would decide the war in the Pacific; the U.S. fleet would be 25 percent superior to that of the enemy; the enemy would hold his main fleet within his defense line; fleet unites must be husbanded; preliminary activities of the U.S fleet must be accomplished with a minimum of assets; Marine Corps forces must be self-sustaining; long, drawn-out operations must be avoided to afford the greatest protection to the fleet; sea objectives must include a fleet anchorage.
Undercover mission in the Central Pacific
On April 9, 1921, Ellis submitted a pro forma request to the Commandant to conduct a clandestine reconnaissance mission to the Central Pacific to examine the Marshall and Caroline Islands. He requested that he will have to obtain an 'undated resignation', to travel as a civilian, and whatever may deem necessary to ensure that the United States will not become embarrassed by such operations, if he were to be apprehended as a spy. However, shortly after, he suffered another occurrence of neurasthenia and eventually recovered. On May 4, 1921, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Jr approved the request as the acting Secretary of the Navy, Ellis stood detached from the hospital the same day, reporting to the Commandant at Headquarters Marine Corps.
The request came about when Ellis first submitted it to his 'first' of his chain-of-command, Brigadier General Logan Feland, whose approval was sine qua non before it even reached the desks of Major Generals Asst. Commandant Wendell C. Neville and Commandant John A. Lejeune. The submittal corresponded ostensibly that he were to travel to Europe on a 3-month leave. Such approval had to be sought out by the higher echelon of Headquarters Marine Corps by the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Veazie Pratt, who in turn brought the matter to the Office of Naval Intelligence. To cover the identify of having an Intelligence Officer abroad on such a mission, Ellis turned to John A. Hughes, who was commissioned among the ranks with Ellis back in 1902. Hughes was medically retired in 1920 due to injuries sustained in combat and joined his father's business in the import-export business, Hughes Trading Company. Ellis became a representative of the company to suit the convenience of his mission. After a brief visit home in Kansas, he traveled to San Francisco on May 28, 1921 inbound to New Zealand] and Australia via American President Lines, arriving on September 28, 1921.
Subsequently, he was hospitalized in Manila, Philippines due to acute nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. After his discharge from the hospital, he departed to Yokohama, Japan to arrange a visa and authorization to travel to the mandated islands of the Carolines and the Marshalls, following a request he had sent to the Japanese Consulate at the Japanese Foreign Office in Tokyo, Japan. As Ellis's drinking habits continued to grow, he had impulsively disclosed to civilians his apparently classified mission, to include the physicians when he was hospitalized again on September 1, 1922 while his debilitating illness of neurasthenia recurred. Orders by the local naval attaché were issued to Ellis to return home on the next available transport back to the states. He deliberately ignored them and cabled for a draft of one thousand dollars and departed to Saipan.
As he arrived to Saipan at the Tanapag Harbor, he checked into a hotel in Garapan with intentions that he was to stay for a while as he would scout the Mariana Islands, which at that time Japan was using as a central hub of their activities in Micronesia. All the while, the Office of Naval Intelligence tracked his whereabouts by the withdrawals Ellis made from a special bank account that they established to fund his covert objectives. His presence began to gain attention by the Japanese authorities who tailed his move from this moment on. A friend of Ellis, Kilili Sablan, whom he contacted upon his arrival to the island, suggested that he should check out of his hotel and live with his family. For the next three weeks traveling in and through Saipan, he produced detailed maps and charts. By December 3, 1922, he boarded the ship Matsuyama Maru to the islands of the Carolines, Marshalls, Yap, and the Palaus. He checked into a hotel in Koror then aboarded the Matsuyama Maru once again to Truk, although he was unable to survey this island due to the Japanese authorities denying foreigners passage. The Japanese authorities continued to remain suspicious of Ellis.
During a trip from Kusaie to Jaluit, Ellis became ill aboard the Matsuyama Maru and was again hospitalized. After his recovery in January 1923, he continued to survey the Marshalls, Kwajalein, Ponape, Celebes, and New Guinea. While staying on Koror, he met a Palauan woman named Metauie, who became his wife. By then, he had a coterie of native boys who would obtain his alcohol for him. One day, he looted the home of William Gibbons, a local friend who introduced him to Ellis's wife, in search of alcohol. The Japanese police resolved the problem by delivering two bottles of whiskey to the Marine to which he profusely drank; later the same day, Ellis died on May 12, 1923.
Lieutenant Colonel Ellis died under mysterious circumstances on the Japanese-held island of Palau in the Caroline Islands. In contemporary newspaper accounts and in later years, numerous conspiracy theorists alleged that Ellis was assassinated by Japanese military authorities; however, detractors of such theories note that Ellis was known to have a severe drinking problem and likely died from an alcohol-related illness such as cirrhosis of the liver. Ellis's official medical records indicate that not long before his death, he was admitted to a naval hospital for treatment of delirium tremens and hallucinations. Ellis had also tendered his undated resignation as a Marine officer shortly before leaving for Palau, in order that he might prevent embarrassment or undue suspicion from falling upon the United States or the Marine Corps should his mission be compromised. An alternate opinion, expressed by researcher Dirk Anthony Ballendorf, is that Ellis' resignation, along with the tremors and hallucinations, are attributable to depression and alcoholism. Ballendorf writes:
- "That the Japanese would have placed poison in his whiskey is unlikely since, for Ellis whiskey itself was poison enough."
Complicating the matter further, the agent sent to investigate the circumstances of Ellis' demise died in a freak accident, and with him expired the only outside eyewitness knowledge as to the state of Ellis's corpse before it was cremated. Chief Pharmacist Lawrence Zembsch—who had treated Ellis during his hospitalization—travelled on a Japanese steamer to Palau, where he stayed at the Japanese officer's barracks (Ellis had stayed with native Palauan nobility and married a young Palauan chefress). After talking to Japanese authorities who had dealings with Ellis (including the medical officer), Zembsch witnessed and photographed the exhumation of Ellis's body and its cremation, taking custody of the remains when this was completed. Zembsch suffered a nervous breakdown on the return voyage and was admitted to a hospital in Yokohama, which was soon after buried by falling rubble in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. Ellis' remains were returned to the United States and interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 54 Site 3082.
In the end, Ellis's maps and papers were confiscated by Japanese authorities. An inquiry undertaken at the behest of General Douglas MacArthur after the war found no trace of any of Ellis's effects, nor a report on Ellis's activities by the Japanese governor of the island. It is not clear how competently Ellis performed his map-making and analysis, given his demonstrated instability in the final months of his life. The Japanese had not yet begun fortifying Palau during his sojourn there, but had Ellis survived, it is surmised that he would have completed addenda to "Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia" that would have presumably provided military authorities with information on the potential military uses of the islands. In any case, Ellis's overall strategic concerns remain valid in the light of later events. Ellis is remembered today for his military intelligence work and for accurately predicting the bloody Pacific War two decades before it began. Ellis is listed on the Roll of Honor of the Marine Corps Intelligence Association Inc (MCIA Inc), which lists Intelligence Marines killed in the line of duty.
- Dirk A. Ballendorf & Merrill L. Bartlett, Pete Ellis: An Amphibious Warfare Prophet 1880–1923, 1997
- Entry 84, Registers of Promotions of Non-Commissioned Officers, RG 127, NARA
- Ellis to his mother, 3 Jun 1902; folder 6, container 1, Ellis MSS, MCHC.
- Entry 68, Press Copies of Military Histories of Service of Marine Corps Officers, 1904-1911
- Ellis's Fitness Reports; Entry 62, RG 125, FRG; Jul 31 – Dec 31, 1906 & Jan 1 – Apr 19, 1907
- CMC to Ellis, Dec 8, 1908, Entry 16, RG 127, NARA
- Ellis's fitness reports; Entry 62, RG 125, FRC; Jul 1 – Dec 31, 1908
- Major John L. Zimmerman, The Marines' First Spy
- Maj Earl "Pete" Ellis, Naval Bases; Location, Resources, Denial of Bases, Security of Advanced Bases. 1913.
- Ellis's seminar papers are in RG 8, Naval War College archives
- Rodgers to Eli. K. Cole, 23 Sep 1913; Ellis's biographical file, MCHC
- Excerpt from Ellis's medical record, Ellis's fitness report file, Entry 62, RG 125, FRC
- Ellis's Orders are in AEF no. 180, 29 June 1918,; folder 7, container 2, Ellis MSS, MCHC.
- "LtCol. Earl Hancock Ellis", Who's Who in Marine Corps History.
- Pershing to the Adjutant General of the Army, 8 April 1919, Entry 6, General Correspondence of the CinC, AEF, RG 120, NARA
- CMC to Ellis, 15 Aug 1919, Ellis's Officer's Qualification Records, HQMC
- Fuller and Cosmas, Marines in the Dominic Republic, 31-40 passim; and log of the Kittery, RG 24, NARA
- Official Report; Haiti and Dominican Republic Military Occupation and Administration by the U.S., U.S. congress, Senate, 66th Cong., 3rd sess., 1920, documents 204-0-A and 204-0-B
- Earl H. Ellis, Operation Plan 712J - Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia (confidential), 23 Jul 1921; Ellis's biographical file, MCHC, and the Research Center, Marine Corps University, Quantico.
- Earl H. Ellis, Operation Plan 712J - Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia (confidential), 23 Jul 1921; Ellis's biographical file, MCHC, and the Research Center, Marine Corps University, Quantico.
- LtGen Thomas Holcomb to Adm. Harold R. Stark, 7 Jun 1942, folder 10, HOlcomb MSS, MCHC. The oral history of Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., one of Lejuene's aide-de-camp at the time, is silent on the subject; Benis M. Frank, oral history, 1967, MCHC
- Ulysses S. Webb to the SecNav, 7 Oct 1922; Ellis's biographical file, MCHC
- Commandant, Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, to Director, ONI, 20 Nov 1922 and 8 Jan 1923; file 20996-3313, Entry 70A, RG 38, NARA
- Ballendorf (2002), Earl Hancock Ellis: A Marine in Micronesia, p. 13.
- Dirk A. Ballendorf, Earl Hancock Ellis: A Marine in Micronesia, pg. 13–14.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
- Ballendorf, Dirk Anthony (December 2002). "Earl Hancock Ellis: A Marine in Micronesia". Micronesian Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 1 (1–2).
- "Lieutenant Colonel Earl Hancock Ellis". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- Ballendorf, Dirk Anthony, Earl Hancock Ellis: A Final Assessment, Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 74, pp. 78–87, November 1990.
- Ballendorf, Dirk Anthony & Bartlett, Merrill, Pete Ellis: An Amphibious Warfare Prophet, 1880–1923, Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 1997.
- Warfighter's Encyclopedia bio
- Marine Corps Intel Assoc Roll of Honor
- Earl H. Ellis, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps at www.arlingtoncemetery.net
- Pete Ellis: Definition and Much More from Answers.com at www.answers.com
- Marshall Islands/Incronesian
- Military Intelligence
- National Archives and Records Administration at www.archives.gov – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
- National Archives Federal Records Center at www.archives.gov – Federal Records Center (FRC)
- United States Marine Corps History Division at www.tecom.usmc.mil – Marine Corps Historical Center (MCHC)
- HyperWar: Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia at www.ibiblio.org – Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia