AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A World War II combat veteran celebrates his 100th birthday with family and friends. He reflects on serving in an all Black battalion in a segregated army.
In May 1943, Hughes Van Ellis was officially introduced to WWII. That is the day he was drafted into the United States Army.
“You got to do what you got to do, you got to go serve your country,” Ellis said.
Trained in the infantry, his specialty became anti-aircraft artillery, and was attached to the 234th AAA Gun Battalion.
“When I hear the sound of the plane, I would tell the others how close that plane is coming in,” Ellis said.
Ellis was shipped out to the CBI Theater of Operations. That would be China, Burma and India. There, he fought the Japanese Imperial Forces.
“A lot of people get nervous, you know, but you just go in and you just gotta do it,” Ellis said.
The 234th was an all Black unit, except for one white captain. It was, a segregated outfit.
“It ain’t like today, you just got to go in and do what you have to do, you just go by orders, your order to do something and you just do it,” Ellis said.
Ellis fought an enemy who believed in racial purity, while the army in which he served was in fact, segregated.
Ellis and his fellow soldiers fought on, and played an important role in the ultimate victory over the axis powers.
Now, at 100 years and one week old, Hughes Van Ellis is in excellent health, is surrounded by a loving family, and has a positive but grounded attitude on life.
“We’re not there yet, but it’s going to get better,” Ellis said.