On this episode of the Forgottonia Project, we conclude our conversation with Marion Cornelius about the incredible history of Camp Ellis, a massive WW2 Army camp that was located right here in rural Forgottonia.
If you haven’t listened to the first portion of our talk with Marion on Camp Ellis, I’d recommend you listen here (Part 1 – What are the Misconceptions about Camp Ellis?). Marion Cornelius is the director of the Easley Pioneer Museum in Ipava, IL which holds the largest collection of artifacts from Camp Ellis. Our previous conversation focused on some of the basics of Camp Ellis like where the camp is located, how large it is and why it was built in the first place. We took special attention to point out the misconceptions people have about Camp Ellis – such as the fact that the Camp wasn’t used to train soldiers to fight but rather to support the war. This episode I asked Marion about African American soldiers that served at Camp Ellis, notable visitors to the camp, and what he feels is the legacy of Camp Ellis. I’m excited to share this portion of our talk and hope you enjoy!
The major points from this episode include the following:
- While there is not much evidence about African Americans serving at Camp Ellis were treated, it was likely that any mistreatments came from surrounding towns rather than the camp itself since there were restaurants & hotels that did not allow A.A. in
- There was one successful escape attempt from Camp Ellis by a German soldier named Reinhold Pabel. He wasn’t caught until 1954 in Chicago, and he had a family.
- And finally – the legacy of the camp – Marion shares how the amount of time, energy, and money put into the WW2 effort was simply indescribable, something we haven’t witnessed since.
If you have any questions or comments for Marion about Camp Ellis, please don’t hesitate to comment on our webpage or social media. You can also email Marion at pmcorn@mtcnow.
Here is a brief list of some outstanding books on Camp Ellis that were mentioned by Marion throughout our interview:
- From Cornfields to Marching Feet by Margery Bordner – Marion’s Bible on all things Camp Ellis
- Enemies are Human, by Reinhold Pabel – The adventure and only successful escape by a German POW from Camp Ellis
- Camp Ellis: Once a City, Not Forgotten, by Mary Haney – Mary was a graduate of Lewistown H.S. in 1943 when she joined the workforce at Camp Ellis (News story)
- WWII Camp Ellis: Homefronts & POWS by Mary Kerr – Kerr is a local author who also focuses on some of the satellite camps like in Washington, IL during WW2
Helpful links mentioned in our interview:
- Biography of General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. who was the first African American officer to achieve the rank of Brigadier General. General Davis spent 5 days at Camp Ellis reviewing the treatment of African American soldiers.
- Link to our previous episode about Camp Ellis – Part 1: What are the Misconceptions about Camp Ellis?
- An overview of the history of Camp Ellis from the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Forgottonia.com is an outstanding webpage by the way!)
- Outstanding article from Illinois Country Living written by Colton Bradford called “The Lost City of Camp Ellis.” Marion is featured in this article as well.
- The Easley Pioneer Museum Facebook Page which features several informative videos of the camp
Audio clips included in this episode come from the following:
- The Featured Image from this episode comes from a 1943 postcard from the camp accessed on archive.org