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Eldon Nicholas collection

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2009.203.1

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    Overview

    Description
    Contains letters, maps, postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, and military paperwork related to the wartime experiences of Eldon Nicholas, an ambulance driver with the in the 548th Medical Ambulance Company of the U.S. Army, which helped to liberate the Vittel internment camp in France in September 1944. Includes letters in which Private Nicholas references a monkey puppet he had used to entertain children in the liberated camp.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the family of Eldon G. Nicholas
    Collection Creator
    Eldon G. Nicholas
    Biography
    Eldon G. Nicholas was born on July 23, 1921. He attended a one-room school in Cadillac, MI, but left school in 1938 to work on his father's small 80 acre farm in Meadwataka Stage, MI. He also worked as an auto mechanic until he enlisted in the US Army on September 8, 1942. Private First Class Eldon Nicholas was assigned as a driver of the ambulance “American Pie” with the 548th Medical Ambulance Company in Europe. He took part in Operation Cobra and on August 1, 1944, 2 months after D-Day, landed on Utah Beach in Normandy with General Patton. Supporting the 2nd French Armored Division, the Company was part of the rapid drive across France. On September 9, 1944, the 3rd Army liberated the Vittel internment camp in France. Pfc. Nicholas would be filmed and photographed entertaining children there with a monkey hand puppet named Kiki. The picture would run in newspapers all over the US.The origin of the puppet, its maker, the initials, and how Nicholas acquired it are unknown. His unit would leave Vittel in 2 weeks and become part of General Patch’s Seventh Army on its fight through Alsace-Lorraine during the Battle of the Bulge. This was the first American army to reach the German Rhine River which they crossed in the spring of 1945. The army would capture areas of the Black Forest and Bavaria, including Hitler’s Alpine residence, the Berghof.

    The 548th Ambulance Company was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque by the Army Commander. The citation accompanying the award stated, “For superior performance of duty, in the accomplishment of exceptionally difficult tasks from 1 March, 1945 to 8 May, 1945, in France and Germany. This Company evacuated casualties with outstanding success despite extremely hazardous and difficult conditions. When operating personnel were lost on evacuation routes that led on over mined roads, through by-passed pockets of enemy resistance, and through strafing, headquarters personnel replaced them in order that evacuation could be continued. In the superb execution of its tactical mission, the Company acted in the best military tradition of the Armed Forces of the United States.” Nicholas rarely talked about his wartime experiences as an ambulance driver. His duties included administering first aid and driving battlefield casualties to evacuation hospitals. He told his son, Greg, that "after picking up the wounded and transporting them, he'd open up the back door and the blood would just gush out.... that's about the only thing he'd tell us. He didn't want to talk about it."

    Nicholas left the service of the US Army on December 20, 1945. He returned home to Michigan where he would marry, have children, and work most of his life at Constructive Sheet Metal on South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids. Eldon G. Nicholas died, age 80, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on January 1, 2001.

    Physical Details

    Extent
    3 folders
    1 oversize box
    1 oversize folder

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The Museum is in the process of determining the possible use restrictions that may apply to material(s) in this collection.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Nicholas, Eldon.

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009 by Donald Nicholas.
    Record last modified:
    2024-01-03 08:55:37
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn37940

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