Veterans Voices: Basil Oliver Ellis

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Basil Oliver Ellis, better known to his friends as B.O. has a story of military service that’s certainly unique.

He enlisted in the Army shortly after World War II, and spent five years overseas, all without completing basic training.

This is his story, in his own words. 

“I can tell you a little bit of a story if you’ve got time,” B.O. said when he sat down, and his military service has left him with plenty of stories to tell.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 13, 1948 at just 17-years-old and was sent to Fort Jackson in south Carolina. 

“We had a Colonel in charge, name was Benkowski, and he asked me if I could type and I said yes,” Ellis remembered. “So, he gave me a typewriter and a desk and a bunch of military forms, which I had no idea what they were.”

That’s how he got his job as a clerk, and a promotion to corporal.

“I must of done it pretty good because they didn’t fire me,” Ellis said with a laugh. 

B.O. would go from stateside to overseas, being stationed in Nuremburg Germany for several years as a finance clerk as the Army opened up a new payroll system.

“They made it so that if you were lost in route or something happened to your records, they could give you $10 partial pay,” he explained. 

There was also plenty of traveling. 

“I had four friends that we traveled together,” Ellis continued.  “Salvatore Ligani, he was from Merrimack. New York. Jack Flood, he was from Brooklyn New York. Orville May, he was from a town in Pennsylvania and Mike Prezioso, he was from New York City.”

For just 25 cents a flight, B.O. said he and his friends could fly on any military aircraft to its scheduled destination.

“Frankfurt, Germany to Paris, France to Madrid, Spain to Rome, Italy to a town in Greece and then to Turkey, then over to Egypt and over into North Africa,” Ellis recalled. “That was an interesting time in my life. I got to see a lot of places.”

Since he spent five years in Germany, B.O. said he figured he should learn the language, so he headed to school.

“I figured if the young children were using the language, they would use it fairly correctly and the teachers would correct them if they were wrong, and so I went to the kindergarten class to learn to speak what little bit of German that I learned,” Ellis continued. 

After five years, he returned home and was discharged from the Army on July 12, 1953. 

“I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it,” B.O. said with a smile. 

When B.O. returned home to the Ohio Valley, he owned several businesses, including a cable company. Be sure to check out the attached web extra for more about his life and military service. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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