Stillwater News Press

July 5, 2013

Courage Under Fire: Howard Ellington

By Merrick Eagleton
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Howard Ellington never planned on joining the Army but his life changed when he was drafted in August 1943. At just 18, Ellington served in World War II.

Ellington had always thought about the military because he was interested in traveling. However, he never signed up or seriously considered it until he was called to duty. Ellington didn’t have any hostility when that happened. He said he just did what he had to do.

“I was old enough but I just never saw myself as a career soldier and I was going to school,” Ellington said.

Ellington received training at Camp Adair in Oregon before going overseas where he was stationed in the Philippines. The climate in the Philippines was wetter than in the United States. He said it was a lot of jungle and it rained often.

“You don’t know what rain is here,” Ellington said. “It rained real hard in the Philippines.”

He also spent time in Okinawa and Leyte where his unit was ordered to take the islands. They were successful and Ellington was awarded two bronze stars.

Although he had no experience working with radios, Ellington was needed as a radio operator while serving in the war. He carried the radio on his back and would call back to his company to relay information they needed to know about what was happening up front and where to set up.

“Things just happen sometimes,” Ellington said. “Somebody says, ‘Bring that guy over here I’ll put him as a radio operator.’”

They traveled everywhere by foot overseas and only had tents to use as shelter. Ellington said food was scarce but they always had something.

“It taught me not to like Spam,” Ellington said. “We got more Spam than anything.”

Ellington spent 30 months in the military; he was overseas for 24 of those. He was in the Phillipines for six months then sent to Okinawa for six months. After that he went back to the Philippines for another year.

“It seemed like a long time,” Ellington said. “It seemed like there was just no end to it but I knew there had to be an end to it. I had to get back to the United States.”

Ellington left the Army soon after the end of World War II. He moved back home with his parents while getting readjusted. During that time he received a 52/20. The Army provided him with $20 a week for one year. It helped soldiers cover the necessities while they adjusted to the civilian lifestyle again.

“It didn’t cover much but I suppose it covered as much as what $100 a week would now,” Ellington said.

Ellington worked several jobs after returning home. He eventually wound  up in aircraft production because of his military service.

“It was just from being a veteran more or less,” Ellington said. “They hired veterans pretty good.”

Since getting out of the Army, Ellington has still been involved with the military in several ways. He is a member of the American Legion in Yale and last year he received the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with fellow World War II veterans in what is called an Honor Flight.

The group flew to D.C. and back in one day. While there, they visited memorials and watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The group arrived back in Tulsa at 10 that night. Ellington said they had arranged a turning out of people to greet the veterans as they got back.

“I never saw so many people in my life, people coming out and greeting us home,” Ellington said.

Ellington doesn’t talk about his time overseas often. He has two grandsons now though who enjoy hearing about the things he experienced while in the war.

“It’s better if you look forward and don’t look back,” Ellington said.