Norman Ellison (March 18, 1925 - 2014) was a US Army Corporal who served in the US 2nd Armored Division during World War II. He was best-known for being the only American survivor of the Battle of Hagenohsen.
Norman Ellison was born in March 18, 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ellison learned to play the piano and to type during his youth. Eventually, he enlisted in the US Army in 1944, during World War II. He was initially assigned as a clerk typist for the V Corps during operations. PFC Ellison's first glimpse of war when he was one of the clerk typist on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. After D-Day, he was ordered to type in the front lines and after nine months of intense fighting and typing, he was relieved to go back to V Corps HQ. However, he was transferred to the US 2nd Armored Division at the last minute, as the bow gunner for the tank Fury had been killed during the drive into Nazi Germany in April of 1945.
Ellison had served in the army for just a year and a half, lying about being in the Army for eight weeks, as he had never seen the inside of a tank before. He was hazed and harassed by his crew-mates, including his commanding officer, Don Collier. Ellison was berated for not shooting Hitler Youth soldiers because of their youth; those same soldiers took out the lead tank in the American platoon as it advanced on Kirchohsen. He was again berated for refusing to shoot at dead soldiers to ensure that they were truly dead. As a result, Collier had Ellison shoot a captured German soldier for wearing an American uniform, as it violated the Geneva Convention. Ellison was repeatedly traumatized in an attempt to harden him, but he came to "like" killing during the Battle of Kirchohsen, when he killed several Waffen-SS soldiers after seeing several children who were hanged by the hands of the SS.
Romance in war
During his time in the town, Ellison started a brief romance with a young German girl named Emma, at whose house the squad was staying. Collier told Ellison to take her into the bedroom before he did, as Emma had come to like Ellison for his piano skills and his youth. The two made love, and the boorish soldier Grady Travis would bully Ellison and Emma upon entering the kitchen where they were eating breakfast with Collier and Emma's older cousin. After a tense breakfast filled with arguments, Travis shoved Ellison out of the house as he bade Emma farewell, and Ellison was traumatized after seeing that Emma was among the dead of an artillery bombardment just minutes after leaving. He saw the brutality of the Germans, so he became an adept member of the squad, earning the nickname of "Machine" and finally hardening into a fine soldier.
In the end, he volunteered to assist the squad when they made their last stand against an SS battalion by themselves, and he survived after Collier told him to hide in a crater under the tank. Ellison was spotted by a Waffen-SS soldier, but the soldier spared him, as both of them were young men who were fighting in wars that were not theirs, and because Ellison was defenseless.
Rescue and later life
The next day, Ellison was rescued by medics, who called him a hero. He finally returned to the V Corps HQ to tell them about their sacrifice and everything Ellison had been through. Norman was promoted to the rank of Corporal and was awarded the D-Day Commemorative Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Bronze Star and the Silver Star. After the war, he returned to Pittsburgh and told his family and friends the story of the Fury and the sacrifice they all made. Ellison eventually married a unknown woman and had two children, continuing to be a clerk typist until his death in 2014. He died peacefully during his sleep.