Colonel (Ret.) Lee Ellis was born and raised in Georgia with a fascination for planes and military aviation. He attended the University of Georgia and enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history, was selected as a Distinguished Graduate of his ROTC detachment, and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Ellis’ first duty station was Moody Air Force Base, Ga. He was trained as an F-4C Phantom pilot and sent to Vietnam in support of the conflict. On his 53rd mission, his jet was shot down. He and his aircraft commander ejected and were captured.
He was a POW (prisoner of war) in Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) and for the next nine months he and three other comrades shared a small cell. Throughout the next five-and-a-half years he was tortured for not giving classified information or for not making anti-American propaganda.
In 1973, he and several of his comrades, to include Senator John McCain, were released and eventually flown to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
After reparation, Ellis returned to active-duty flying and was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
He retired from the Air Force and became a motivational speaker, consultant and author. Ellis has authored the book “Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton”, and is currently writing another book.
Ellis currently resides in Georgia, where he travels for work often but enjoys time with his wife, four children and six grandchildren.