AUBURN — According to his cousin, Ellsworth K. Flewelling had opportunity to evade capture by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. But the the lieutenant from Auburn refused to abandon his platoon.

Lt. Ellsworth K. Flewelling of Auburn. Contributed photo

“My cousin, it was just like him to do that, I guess,” Joyce Hawkins Parker said in a conversation two years ago with her son. “He could have escaped. He went right in with his troops and was captured.”

A week later, Flewelling died under mysterious circumstances at a prisoner of war camp in Germany.

Joyce Hawkins Parker told that story to her son, Karl Parker, who recorded the interview in 2021, when his mother was 96 years old. She died the following year.

Karl Parker said he believes his mother was the last person who had a personal connection with Flewelling, The oral history Karl Parker recorded of his mother’s memory is helping keep Flewelling’s legacy alive.

Ellsworth Flewelling was born in 1915 in Washburn in Aroostook County. He graduated from Washburn High School in 1933, after having served as senior class president.


“He was smart in school and studious,” Karl Parker said. “When he graduated, he wanted more education, so he came down to Auburn, where we lived.”

Flewelling enrolled at Bliss Business School in Lewiston. There was no room for him to stay at the Auburn home of his aunt, Mildred Flewelling Hawkins, and four cousins, so Flewelling found lodging at the home of a minister. The minister had a daughter, Thurley, and she and Ellsworth Flewelling would marry in 1939.

Joyce Hawkins Parker, who was 10 years younger than her cousin, said Flewelling would come over for Sunday dinner and bring her mother flowers. Parker recalls sitting on his knee when he visited.

“We thought he was pretty special,” she said.

After two years of college, Flewelling worked as an assistant foreman at Maine Shoes Inc. in Auburn. Active at his church, he served as a deacon, a clerk and the superintendent of the Sunday school at the Advent Christian Church.

At age 27, with World War II waging in both Europe and the Pacific, Flewelling enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1942.


“He had more education than a lot of them at that time,” Joyce Hawkins Parker said. “He was made a lieutenant in the Army. He came to see us, said goodbye and went off to the war.”

Flewelling trained in Hawaii, Joyce Hawkins Parker said, and a few other bases across the country. He was assigned to the 106th Infantry Division and sent overseas in October 1944.

After brief stays in England, France and Belgium, Flewelling’s division ended up in the Ardennes region of Germany. It was considered a quiet sector, the perfect place for an inexperienced unit like the 106th Infantry Division to train.

The surprise German assault that kicked off the Battle of the Bulge began Dec. 16, 1944. Overwhelmed by the offensive, two of the three regiments of the 106th quickly surrendered after having been surrounded. Thousands of Americans were captured.

Story in the Lewiston Evening Journal, Jan. 17, 1945

Flewelling was reported missing Dec. 17, 1944, and was reportedly taken to one of the German POW camps — either Stalag XII-A or Stalag IX-B.

What happened next is shrouded in mystery. One report suggests Flewelling was either executed or shot while trying to escape. The International Red Cross, however, said it had been told by German officials that Flewelling was among 63 POWs who died Dec. 23, 1944, in an air raid conducted by the British. Their target was a nearby railroad station, but the bombs missed their mark.


The family is not sure what to believe.

“Germany claimed he was subsequently killed during an air raid,” Karl Parker said. “Whether that is actually true, I do not know. It is well documented that a lot of sketchy things happened to American POWs during that battle.”

A funeral was held for Flewelling at the Advent Christian Church. His body was returned home after the war, and he was buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in May 1949.

In October 1945, Flewelling’s former employer, Maine Shoes Inc., presented his church with a pair of pulpit chairs in his honor.

Flewelling’s wife, Thurley, never remarried. She was a lifelong resident of Auburn and lived to age 91.

Joyce Hawkins Parker was 19 when Flewelling died. She lived in upstate New York for most of her life, and visited Flewelling’s grave in 2013 for the first time, Karl Parker said.

She fondly recalled the family’s having received a letter after the war from someone who served with Flewelling “who said what a nice man that he was.”

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