NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —About once a week, Frederick Steven Ellis greets visitors at The National World War Two Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. Out of 16 million American soldiers who became part of the Second World War, only around 300 thousand remain. To put it into perspective, six years ago, there were around 900 thousand living WWII Veterans.
“This museum is a wonderful place to learn. If people want to hear it, I tell them about my experiences in the war. I tell them how it was fought and how it was won,” says Ellis.
Ellis is 97-years-young. He is one of a precious few, with a story like non-other. His story begins when he was 19 years old. He leaves Tulane’s ROTC and heads for training on the East coast. He eventually finds his way onto a Navy ship voyage that was to travel down the mouth of the Mississippi River, through the gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal, into the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean.
As Steven Ellis recollects, his eyes light up with the same fire as when he was 19, saying, “we walked on board the LST (tank landing ship) 751. It was freshly built and took off down the Ohio River, down the Mississippi, down to New Orleans. Biggest thing I had ever been on, up until that point, was a pirogue. Now, I’m a Jr. Gunnery Officer on an LST. The purpose of the ship was to be able to discharge heavy cargo, such as tanks, trucks and other rolling stock onto a combat beach.”
As Ellis and the rest of the men on the ship arrive into New Guinea, he views a sight he had never seen before.
“There in that atoll was the whole pacific fleet waiting to go into the Invasion of the Philippines. We suddenly realized that we were small potatoes in this war,” says Ellis.
In 1941, Pearl Harbor had been attacked along with other cities part of the Greater East Asia War. Japan’s fierceness is apparent in the Philippine Invasion. However, the Battle of the Philippines was far from over.
“A suicide plane was coming right at us. I still remember looking up and seeing that guy coming down and wondering if he was going to get us. We shot him down first. I can tell you personally, if you want to know if I was scared, the answer was yes, until we were in action. I was doing my job,” says Ellis.
Over times, in 1944, the Allied Forces liberate the islands from Japan.
War has a habit of irreversibly changing its participants. Prior to his Navy experience, Ellis says he was an average student in class. He believes he found his courage out on the sea. But despite his change in character, his youthful smile remains with him even now in his 90’s.
After the war, Ellis finds his way back onto Tulane’s campus.
“So I got through law school just fine. After 10 years, I was lucky enough to become a lawyer and then a judge. I stayed at it for 23 years. I think you have to establish what you are for yourself and be that person,” says Frederick Steven Ellis.
In addition to volunteering at the National WWII Museum, once a week, Ellis goes to the gym three times a week. He is also, learning how to play the violin and recently celebrated a birthday in the middle of October.