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.