Captain Charles Scheffel

Charles Scheffel Jr. was born on 17 June 1919 in Enid, Oklahoma. His father, Charles Sr., emigrated from Germany in the end of 19th Century, and enlisted the U.S. Army to earn the American citizenship. He took part to the Spanish-American War. After his discharge, he settled down in Oklahoma in 1918. A year when thousands of young Americans were dying in the trenches of Europe, and he met his wife, Selma Amelia Ekdol, a grand-daughter of a Swedish emigrate, who was 35 years old. They had two sons: Charles Jr. and Stanley (1921).

Charles at the ROTC,. (Courtesy of the Author)

Charles Jr. is an athletic young boy who plays basketball. He was good, very good at it ! He made the Oklahoma newspapers covers for his sportive exploits, and earned a sportive scholarship at the University. But in the meantime, he was thinking about the military career, and more seriously since it was a troubled period, just before the War. He decided then to enter the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps).

Charles when he was in the ROTC, at the Oklahoma Officers Club. (Courtesy of the Author)

He met a young girl called Hetty Ruth Carnell, who he married on 27 March 1942, few days before he left USA to join a Europe that was at War. He ends his ROTC training in May 1942 as 2nd Lieutenant, and is first suggested to join the Finance Corps. But Charles, in a spirit of patriotic fervor, applied for the Infantry. On June 2nd, he receives his call of active duty, and on 15 August he and his unit sailed for United Kingdom where he is appointed Platoon Leader in the 15th British Infantry Reserve Training Corps Regiment. They reach Gourach, in Scotland, on 5 October 1942. For his very first command, he is responsible for five 2nd Lieutenants and two hundred men, as a supply company commander attached to 1st Highlander Regiment under British command.

Charlies and Ruth, 1942. (Courtesy of Scheffel Family)

He landed in Algiers on 10 November 1942, and few days later, he is appointed Rifle Platoon Leader in Able Company, 39th Infantry Regiment. During this early part of the North African campaign, American units are under-estimated by the British headquarter, but thank to individuals like Lt Scheffel, the first U.S. units are sent into the battle. Charles changed of command and is then Heavy Platoon Leader of Baker Company, and received his baptism of fire at the beginning of December 1942.

He continued the campaign in North Africa, and lost a lot of men, until March 1943, when he is promoted 1st Lieutenant. He is then appointed as Staff Officer in the 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, as S-3 Operations Officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star for “Meritorious actions on operations against the enemy, during the North African campaign”.

Charlie after he has been promoted to 1st Lieutenant, March 1943. (Courtesy of the Author)

As the 39th Infantry was in Bizerte, the Lt. Gen. Patton arrived to brief the regimental headquarters. Charles met Patton during this occasion. On 10 July 1943, the regiment embarked for Operation Husky : the invasion of Sicily. Still battalion S-3 at that time (mid-August 1943), Charles is sent again at war, and became Executive Officer of Able Company, until December 1943. He then took command of the Police and Prisons Detachment of 39th Infantry Regiment.

In May 1944, the 9th Infantry Division is in England, and Charles requests a new Infantry command, before the so much expected invasion. He is appointed Executive Officer of Dog Company (Heavy Weapons Company) of 39th Infantry. On 10 June, as he and his company were landing on Utah Beach, he got wounded by an air attack and his evacuated back to England, being awarded his first Purple Heart medal.

1st Lieutenant Charles Scheffel. (Courtesy of the Author)

Charles re-joined his regiment on 20 July after he landed on Omaha Beach. He took command of Charley Company, 39th Infantry, that will be his last command. He fights during the battle of Normandy, thru the bocage where his company suffers heavy losses. For his actions and those of his Charley Company in Chérencé-le-Roussel on 10 August 1944, Charles is awarded the Silver Star Medal, and Charley Company is awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.. On 20 August 1944, he is promoted to Captain, as battlefield commission.

Then came the route of liberations. He advanced south of Paris and then turned north towards Belgium. Within few days, his men are next to the Reich’s doors. They arrived in a small German village along the Belgium border, on 14 September 1944. It is there, in Lammersdorf, that Charlies ‘War will end. A fire and steel storm went down onto his company, his men couldn’t find any protection nor concealment. Charles is heavily injured and stuck in a ditch between his radioman and one of his messenger, who are both killed. Charley is bleeding heavily, and is soon recovered by an aidman called Jesus ! He is evacuated in Spa, Belgium. He is heavily wounded to his leg and his both hands. He is then carried from hospital to hospital until January 1946, official date of his honorable discharge for medical reason.

Combat route taken by Charles while in Belgium (early September 1944) up to Lammersdorf, where he got woudned for the last time. The line has been drawn by himself. (Courtesy of the Author)

While serving his country, Charles was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star and the French Croix de Guerre.

Like millions of others did after the War, Charlie and Ruth settled down and founded a family. He lived the best he could and enjoyed any minute of his life. He knew the chance he had of being back home, and the couple was only looking for happiness. They worked hard and lived well. They had two daughters and one son: Susan, Elaine and Lee. e founded an insurance business in Oklahoma, and earned money enough to travel all around the world. His son even bet him to become a pilot, and Charles earned his Pilot licence when he was fifty years old, what raised his travelling wishes. After his retirement, Ruth and him continued their trips as much as his health allowed him to.

He survived his beloved Ruth, and even alone, he kept his love for travelling. He had a map of the world in his bedroom, where he pinned a needle on every location he hasn’t been yet. Few years before he passed away, he had just taken out a needle in Antarctic, where he went on a soviet icebreaker ship with one of his granddaughters. His goal was to visit the whole world and to take every needle off his map. In addition to his touristic journeys, Charlies walked on the land where he and his comrades fought during the War, trying to understand and provide to himself answers to his questions that never left his mind. At the farm of La Gallerie, near Chérencé-le-Roussel, he stayed for four days and told the story to the new owner of the farm. He went back to the States with a bottle of Calvados, that he shared with the other members of Charley Company, during a veteran reunion.

Later, he traveled to Germany, in Lammersdorf, to see the place where he got wounded. He had a knee on the ditch where he was stuck in his blood, where happened his very last battle, where he saw his men dying all around him. These men were never far from his mind… Charlie passed away peacefully, sitting in his chair after supper on Friday, June 24, 2011, one week after his 92nd birthday. Charlie was a close friend of mine. The very first 9th ID veteran who replied to me. We created a unique relationship, and one of my biggest regret so far is that I haven’t welcomed him in Belgium, where he fought. May he rest in peace, and never be forgotten.

Abstract of the first letter I received where he agrees to become the Honorary President of our Association portraying the 39th Infantry Regiment. (Courtesy of the Author)