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Adapted from "Rear Admiral James William Ellis, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, Deceased" [biography, dated 24 January 1950] in Modern Biographical Files collection, Navy Department Library.

  • Medicine
Document Type
  • Biography
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
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  • NHHC-Library

James William Ellis

31 October 1888-21 January 1967

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Rear Admiral Ellis was born on October 31, 1888, in Cheyenne, Wyoming; son of J.V. and Sarah Dolan Ellis. He was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1915, and entered the Naval service on April 27, 1917, as Assistant Surgeon in the Naval Reserve Force, with the accompanying rank of Lieutenant (jg) in the Medical Corps. He subsequently attained the rank of Captain to date from July 1, 1941. He was transferred to the Retired List of the Navy, and promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral on January 1, 1947.

During World War I, Rear Admiral Ellis served first at the Navy Yard, Puget Sound, Washington, and later aboard USS Nevada, which operated during the latter months of the war, with the Sixth British Battle Squadron. After the Armistice, he had duty in the Thirteenth Naval District (Astoria Section) and returned to the NEVADA to serve until 1920. In 1921-1922 he served at the Marine Recruiting Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and after a tour of  duty at the Naval Hospital and Dispensary, League Island, Pennsylvania, had foreign service in 1923 and 1924 with the Second Brigade of the US Marine at Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, and on special duty with the Guardia Nacional.

Attached to USS Quail, Rear Admiral Ellis served for two years at the Submarine Base, Coco Solo, Canal Zone, and detached from that submarine tender in 1925 he returned to the West Coast for three years' duty at the Puget Sound Naval Hospital, Bremerton, Washington. Duty from 1929 to 1931 in USS Sacramento, during which period he participated in operations in Nicaragua, was followed by shore duty at the Naval Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, until the fall of 1934. Again ordered to sea, he served aboard USS Indianapolis for two years, after which he reported for a tour of duty at the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois, where he remained until 1939. 

Rear Admiral Ellis again had duty in the battleship Nevada, this time as Senior Medical Officer, in 1939 and 1940. Prior to the surprise attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor he had duty for a year at the Naval Hospital, San Diego, California as Chief of the Outpatient Service. Detached December 1, 1941, he was ordered to the First Joint Training Force, Camp Elliott. (This later became First Marine Amphibious Force and finally First Marine Amphibious Corps). Dr. Ellis served on the staff of the Commanding General as Corps Surgeon. For exceptionally meritorious service as Corps Surgeon in the Solomon Islands Area, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V", and citation as follows:


"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Corps Surgeon of a Marine Amphibious Corps engaged in operations in the Solomon Islands Area from August 7 to December 15, 1943. During this period of concentrated offensive action, Captain Ellis displayed expert professional ability, sound judgement and splendid initiative in his planning and supervision of the vitally essential medical activities. By his tireless efforts and unwavering devotion to duty throughout these operations, he contributed materially to the success of our forces in the occupation of the Treasury Islands, the diversionary landing on Choiseul Island and the establishment of an important beachhead at Empress Augusta Bay on enemy-held Bougainville."

He returned to the United States to duty as Assistant District Medical Officer, Ninth Naval District, and later became Executive Officer of the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes. He then received orders to the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee, as Senior Medical Officer, and following that assignment served at sea aboard USS Tryon (APA 1). After decommissioning the medical department of that vessel, he reported to Camp Perry B. Thompson, to decommission the medical department there.

Early in 1946, he became Senior Medical Officer of the Officer Personnel Separation Center, San Francisco, California, and on September 3 of the same year he was detached after reporting to the District Medical Office, Twelfth Naval District, and transferred as a patient to the US Naval Hospital, Oakland, California. He was relieved of all active duty and transferred to the Retired List of the Navy on January 1, 1947.

In addition to the Legion of Merit, Admiral Ellis has the Victory Medal, Grand Fleet Clasp; the Marine Expeditionary Medal; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; and is entitled to the American Defense Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

Dr. Ellis is considered especially qualified in Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is a member of the American Medical Association and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He is now Cancer Consultant to the California State Department of Public Health, having served as such since his retirement.

He died January 21, 1967. 


Published: Tue Dec 15 07:46:24 EST 2020