“The Coldest Winter I Ever Saw”

For 97 year old Eldie Scheffel, the time he spent on the Aleutian Islands was the coldest he’d ever been before or since. He was part of the Army’s 7th Infantry sent to rid the island of occupied Japanese in 1943. The islands, part of the Alaskan territory, were critical to Pacific supply routes for both Japan and the United States. Eldie said he stayed in a “two man fox hole on a cliff overlooking the bay”. Their job was to watch for enemy soldiers still left on the island after the invasion. His unit narrowly averted disaster on the way to the island as their ship was fired on by a Japanese submarine but missed both the front and back of the ship. Eldie would spend over a year on the islands. With temperatures reaching -59 degrees, he noted that you would “turn blue before you could finish taking a shower.”

Eldie was drafted into the Army 52 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on January 18, 1942. He would spent 13 weeks in basic training in Ft. Robinson, California with many of them spent being a calisthenics instructor. He finally asked his sergeant for a transfer which he denied. He finally went to a colonel who granted him a transfer to Ft. Benning, Georgia where he would begin infantry training and continued as a calisthenics instructor. Towards the end of his “3 years, 9 months and 4 days” of service, Eldie was once again stationed at Ft. Benning when the news came on April 12, 1945 that President Franklin Roosevelt had died at the so-called Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was selected to be one of the soldiers who escorted the president’s body to the train station. Eldie left the service on November 1, 1945. He said that the mi