Father Norman Elliott, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, put seminary school on hold to join the National Guard and then the U.S. Army in 1942. Now nearly 94-years-old, Elliott recalls living in Michigan at age 22 when the war broke out and the calling he felt to defend his country. Nine months later, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor led the United States to join the Allies in WWII.
In his interview, Father Elliott shared his stories of the grit and resourcefulness of troops in 1941 – using 1917 Howitzers and training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, which he said was “built on gumbo mud.” He also shared his observation that America was not adequately prepared in those days, and that “the Japanese could have gone into any port along the [Pacific] coast and not been stopped.”
“I remember good times, I remember bad times. I remember times where I barely escaped by the skin of my teeth,” said Father Norman Elliott. “You never forget. I remember, and there are things that I wish I had done, or didn’t do. I hope that as a whole, Alaskans remember what we did, because as a nation, we are losing our remembrance of WWII.”
Before Father Elliott’s unit was sent to Europe, they were chosen to serve in an experimental “light unit” modeled after the German Light Divisions. After a year of research and training in the swamps of Louisiana and the mountains of California, Elliott was shipped to Europe where he fought the German Army in France, Luxembourg, Germany and England. After the war concluded, Father Elliott returned to the United States and devoted his life to God and the Episcopal Church. In 1952, he was stationed in Alaska, where he would spend the next 50 years traveling and ministering for the Episcopal Church throughout the state. Father Elliott retired in 1990 but remains active in the community, and was recently appointed to Anchorage’s Military and Veterans Advisory Commission.