Ellis, Roger (Interview transcript and video), 2017


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Ellis, Roger (Interview transcript and video), 2017



Smither, James (Interviewer)


Roger Ellis was born on May 18, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up in San Jose, California, where he graduated from a prep high school. Ellis then attended college for a bachelor’s degree in English and Dramatic Literature. He also participated in the Reserve Officer Training Courses for the Navy, and then the Army, but lost interest by 1963 due to conflict heating up overseas and the counterculture movement at home. In 1963, he studied abroad in Italy for a year. He then attended a master’s program in Dramatic Literature at the University of Santa Clara in California before the draft prevented him from moving onto achieve his Doctorate in 1967. Entering the Army in 1968, Ellis attended Basic Training as well as Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lewis, Washington. After training, he was deployed to Saigon, Vietnam, where he was assigned to an infantry unit at Bien Hoa Air Base. As a Light Weapons Infantryman, Ellis accompanied foot patrols that secured perimeters around Bien Hoa. Later, Ellis was reassigned as an administrative Clerk for the Morning Report Section of a Headquarters Battalion in Bien Hoa, and then in Phu Bai. He also took up photography and worked as an English teacher for orphan girls in a village near the base. At the end of his tour in 1970, Ellis was flown back to Chicago where he was officially discharged from the Army. Once back in the United States, he was surprised by the hostility of antiwar protests directed against Vietnam veterans. Ellis reunited with his wife and returned to his Doctorate program at the University of California, Berkeley where he also rejoined the antiwar protests. He grew critical of the military, economic, and human waste caused by the war, especially as the Armed Forces made their hasty retreat from Vietnam after 1973. Reflecting upon his time in the service, Ellis believed he was part of a great historical era since it was difficult to discuss his war experience with those who had not lived it. He also appreciated the Army’s veteran benefits and the greater military experience, which he used as a critical lens into contemporary American military politics.




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Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI, 49401.


Veterans History Project (U.S.)






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Ellis, Roger, “Ellis, Roger (Interview transcript and video), 2017,” Digital Collections, accessed March 4, 2024, https://digitalcollections.library.gvsu.edu/document/48857.
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