Lt. Col. Earl Hancock “Pete” Ellis is considered by many to be the “First Reconnaissance Marine,” due to his daring escapade in the Pacific in 1921, over two decades before what was to become 1st Recon Battalion was even formed.  A military genius and a careful planner, he was responsible for much of the war plan followed in the Pacific Theater, though he didn’t live to see it.

Ellis enlisted in the Marine Corps in Chicago in 1900.  He made Corporal by February, 1901.  Following a request by Representative Chester Long, and some tutoring in order to pass the tests, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in December of the same year.

Over the next couple of years, he learned the ropes as a Marine officer, including a tour in the Philippines, where he is quoted as saying in a letter, “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’.”  He shortly thereafter gained a billet on the Kentucky.

In 1911, he returned to CONUS and attended the Naval War College, where he remained as a lecturer and instructor into 1913.  The next year, now a Captain, he was assigned to study the defense of Guam, given the recent sightings of Imperial Japanese Navy warships in the area.  It was while at Guam that Ellis began to form his belief that war with Japan was inevitable; he got a first-hand look at Japanese expansionist ambition.

When the US entered WWI, Ellis requested assignment to France, but was instead assigned to assist with standing up Marine Corps Base Quantico and instructing at what was to become Officer Candidate School.  However, when 6th Marines were ordered to France, Col. Lejeune took Ellis with him.

In France, Ellis was put to work as a planner, and he was good at it.  He was good enough, and dedicated enough–often at the detriment of his own health–that he was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Legion d’Honneur, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Navy Cross, for planning the assault and seizure of Mont Blanc.

A raging alcoholic, Ellis was hospitalized several times for alcohol-related illnesses.  There is a story that, during a dinner with a Navy Chaplain, Ellis got bored, so he shot the wine glasses off the table.  He was also very outspoken, which turned detrimental to his career after the war.  At a WWI veterans reunion shortly after the war, he went on a tirade about US foreign policy, criticizing an attitude of appeasement.  By this time he was already thoroughly convinced that Japan was our inevitable enemy.  When his speech showed up in the morning edition of the DC newspapers, Ellis became persona non grata with Capitol Hill.

While the Marine Corps received instructions in no uncertain terms to put a muzzle on then Major Ellis, when John Lejeune became Commandant in 1920, he immediately ordered Ellis to Washington.