FMFRP 12-46

Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia

Headquarters United States Marine Corps
Washington, DC 20380-0001

21 August 1992


Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-46, Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia, is published to ensure the retention and dissemination of useful information which is not intended to become doctrine or to be published in Fleet Marine Force manuals. FMFRPs in the 12 series are a special category: reprints of historical works which are not available elsewhere.

Most of this reference publication was written by Major E. H. Ellis in 1921 when he perceived the coming war with Japan and made this effort to describe where the conflict might be fought and the manner in which it would be carried out. Included in this reference publication are a short biography of Major Ellis, the text of the original manuscript, and other war plan papers that seem to have been written at about the same time. The volume is priceless as it shows very clearly Major Ellis' thoughts and his extraordinary accuracy, especially in the light of a 20-year-gap between his writing and the actual outbreak of hostilities. Extremely fascinating, this volume is essential to understand what was evolving in the Marine Corps before World War II to prepare for that conflict.

Alcoholism was not Ellis' only defect. In parts of his writings, there is a racist tone that is as undeniable as it is regrettable. It accurately reflects the sentiments of a substantial, if not predominant, segment of American society in the early 20th century. These racist views had tragic


consequences. They helped precipitate the diplomatic climate which contributed to the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Further, a belief in an innate racial superiority made military strength seem less critical from a national perspective, and that fostered the lack of preparedness for war against Japan. That belief also caused many Americans --in and out of uniform - to experience a rude shock when U .S. forces encountered firsthand the genuine fighting abilities of the Japanese armed forces. In short, it must be realized today that these racist attitudes helped to cause the war as well as probably to raise the number of American casualties in the early months of the Pacific War.

The important thing, however, is that this manuscript is not being printed to advance or support the racial biases of Ellis. Instead, we seek only to learn and to gain professional military knowledge from his writings despite their reprehensible aspects. From that perspective, a little analysis reveals some useful gems. While the U.S. did not prevail because of a race-based "superiority in the use of hand weapons and in staying power," it did win because of a superior use of the tools of war and also because of a greater national staying power based on the huge American industrial base and a larger population. These strategic advantages allowed the U.S. to survive its initial defeats and go on to victory.

If Ellis' views on the Japanese were a reflection of his time, so were his views on gas warfare. Ellis' statements regarding the use of gas reflect both American experience with gas in World War I and the prevailing laws of war. During the fighting in France, American forces had used gas freely against their German enemies, and frequently they had been on the receiving end of German gas weapons. Based on that combat experience, Ellis assumed Americans would use gas in any war against Japan. In the event, however, that did not occur for the U.S. abided by its policy against being the first to use gas on the battlefield.

The key point to note is that Ellis' text clearly lays out the real reason gas has not been used in wars between modern armies. Since 1981, no army has used gas against an opponent which could respond in kind. Gas is simply too much of a double-edged sword - it cuts both ways and can be as dangerous to the using army as to its opponent. Ellis lays out the case well, and it is these problems with gas - not international law - which have been the real grounds for not using gas. International law once prohibited the use of the crossbow in warfare, but it remained on the battlefield until supplanted by firearms. The weapon was simply too useful and effective for armies not to use it. Gas, the double-edged sword, does not meet those criteria.


Reviewed and approved this date.


Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
Deputy Commanding General
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
Quantico, Virginia

DISTRIBUTION: 14012460000


Major E.H. Ellis, USMC
Major E.H. Ellis, USMC



Major Earl H. Ellis was a brilliant Marine officer whose superb skills as a planner helped forge the modern Marine Corps and its Fleet Marine Force. Though Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune was the guiding light, he trusted Ellis with the job of translating concepts into concrete plans.

Ellis' brilliance in planning was only one aspect of a complex personality. He served the Marine Corps with a single-mindedness which left no time for marriage and which damaged his health and ultimately cost him his life. Ellis frequently worked on assignments around the clock, without sleep, until physically anti mentally exhausted. This proclivity, plus alcoholism, put him in the hospital with mental breakdowns on more than one occasion. (In an era of promotions by seniority, these problems did not end his career as they would today.) His death in the Japanese-controlled Caroline Islands probably resulted from the effects of excessive drinking.

Ellis, who was not a college graduate, enlisted in the USMC in 1900. His talents earned him a commission just over a year later. His service prior to World War I involved the assignments typical for officers of the era. He became a first lieutenant in 1903, a captain in 1908, and a major in 1916. During World War I, Ellis received a temporary promotion to lieutenant colonel but reverted to his permanent rank after the war. During the war, he served as a principal staff officer to Lejeune when the latter commanded the 4th Marine Brigade and then the 2d Division in France. The close relationship, which actually began in the Philippines in 1908, continued after Major General Lejeune became Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Service at the Naval War College as a student and faculty member (1911- 1913) was a turning point in Ellis' career. This tour of duty came during the period when the Naval War College was a major participant in the development of the Navy's war plans. one of these was War Plan ORANGE, which grew out of the need to defend the recently acquired Philippines and from the perception that Japan was the most likely enemy in a future war in the Pacific. War Plan ORANGE served as the basis for a ground-breaking paper by Ellis on the theoretical basis for doctrine covering the defense of advance bases.


After World War I, the naval services again turned their attention to War Plan ORANGE and the problems of a naval campaign against Japan. Study was necessary because the strategic situation had changed radically. Japan, which was on the Allied side in World War I, had captured islands previously occupied by Germany. These islands provided Japan with bases suitable for launching attacks on the Philippines and other American possessions in the Pacific. The altered strategic situation meant that a war with Japan would have to include amphibious assaults for capturing island bases for subsequent fleet actions. This reality served as the basis for the Marines' development of amphibious warfare doctrine and for the formation in 1933 of the Fleet Marine Force.

The first tangible step by the Marines came from Ellis. Working virtually around the clock during early 1921, he developed Operation Plan 712, Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia. This plan stood the test of time; 20 years later, during World War II, the actual American campaign for Micronesia diverged from Ellis' plan only in areas affected by technological advances.

The effort to develop Operation Plan 712 was not without cost to Ellis. He suffered several reoccurrences of his earlier mental and physical problems. He was under medical supervision and treatment for much of the time he worked on the plan.

At the completion of his plan, Major Ellis received permission to travel to Japanese-held Micronesia in the guise of a civilian. En route, he had to be hospitalized in Japan for alcohol poisoning and nephritis, a disease of the kidneys. He managed to get to Micronesia but was under close Japanese surveillance. In May 1923, the Japanese authorities announced that Ellis had died on the Micronesia island of Korror. While there was some speculation that the Japanese had killed him, the most likely cause of death was alcohol poisoning and nephritis.

Major Earl Ellis' writings and plans made him a major architect in the development of the modern Marine Corp. Ellis Hall, the home of the Marine Corps' Command and Staff College at Quantico, VA, pays tribute to his memory and contributions.


Notes on Presentation of this Document

The material entitled "War Portfolio - U.S. Marine Corps" seems to be a draft or working document dating from around 1921. The text refers to charts which appear to be missing. Readers should use or quote this material with care.

The paper appears in this volume solely as an example of the planning undertaken to support Marine Corps operations expected during execution of the then current version of "War Plan ORANGE. "

To make this historical work more readable, minor grammatical and structural changes have been made:

Those who wish to study the original documents may apply to the Marine Corps Research Center, Quantico, VA, 22134.


Table of Contents

War Portfolio 3
Preface 27
Introduction 29
The Theater of Operations 31
  The Sea 31
  The Air 32
  The Land 32
  The Native Population 35
  The Economic Conditions 36
  The Enemy 37
The Reduction of the Islands 39
  The Strategy 39
  The Tactics 40
  The Occupation 46
  Reduction Forces Required 47
  The Defense of Fleet Bases 51
  Enemy Attacks 53
General Principles of Advanced Base Defense 59
  Fixed Defense 60
  Observation 60
  Word Communications 61
  Gun Defense 62
  Searchlight Defense 65
  Barrier Defense 66
  Mobile Air Defense 67
  Mobile Sea Defense 69
  Mobile Land Defense 69
  First Line 70
  Second Line and Stronghold 72
  Switch Lines 72
  Auxiliary Defense--Personnel & Matériel 74
Summary 77
  Strategy 77
  Tactics 78
  Matériel 80
  Personnel 80
  Organization 81
  Proposed Task Organizations 82
Index 85


712H Operation Plan


Approved by the M.G.C. 23 July 1921

Contains: 1. War Portfolio, U.S. Marine Corps.
  2. Work Sheet to Accompany War Portfolio.
  3. Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia by Major Earl H. Ellis, U.S.M.C.




July 23, 1921

The attached War Plans are approved.

Major General Commandant.


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation