SIOUX CENTER—When you mention the Battle of the Bulge, people know it was an infamous battle fought during World War II. What people may not know is that one of the wounded is alive and living among us.
Ninety-three-year-old Ed Scholten of Sioux Center cannot only recount serving under Gen. George S. Patton, but was one of the statistics.
Scholten grew up in Hull into a farming family, graduated from the eighth grade and retired from his studies to work on his uncle’s farm in Hull. He was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1944, just after he turned 18. He traveled to Camp Roberts in central California for basic training and 18 weeks later he was in the 134th Regiment in the 3rd Army of the 35th Infantry under the command of Patton and found himself in the second-most lethal conflict for the American military.
Wounded at the Battle of the Bulge in the dense Ardennes forest in Bastogne, Belgium, Scholten laid in a foxhole for two days in the dead of winter as he was hit Jan. 1, 1945, by shrapnel which killed everyone around him.
“On Christmas Day 1944, they put us on trucks to go to the Battle of the Bulge,” Scholten said. “The 101st Airborne was trapped in there and we were supposed to help them get out. There was a dense woods and then a bare spot. The sergeant said ‘Go!’ but only three of us went and the rest of them didn’t come.”
With shellfire going back and forth over top of them, they crossed the clearing and came upon two German soldiers who they captured. Almost immediately after, a shell — which Scholten said came from the American side — struck a tree and exploded above them.
“One of our 75 mms fell short and hit a tree right above us,” Scholten said. “I was in a foxhole that happened to be there and I was lying on my side in the foxhole. A piece of shrapnel nicked one heel and went into the other.”
Scholten tried to run back across the clearing, but with his injured foot, decided to return the foxhole, where he waited. The soldiers who found him a day later were surprised to discover anyone alive there among the dead and called for help which did not arrive for another 24 hours.
“I was 19 years old,” Scholten said. “And when you’re 19 years old, you ain’t scared of nothing, you know?”
He laughed as he recounted the pain and what he was facing.
“The litter bearers came after I laid in that snow for two days,” Scholten said.
The battle was eventually won Jan. 25, 1945, while Scholten was recovering in England where he had undergone surgery to repair the wound. However, the shrapnel was not removed out of the bone.
The wounded then were transported to New York on the Queen Mary which had been designated a hospital ship during the war. Two months after leaving the hospital in Topeka, KS, the war was over.
There are just over 496,000 surviving American veterans left who can recount the atrocities and the heartbreak of World War II which infamously boasted over a million veterans wounded or killed.
Scholten developed a bone infection that lasted almost 50 years before a surgeon in Sioux Falls, SD, finally removed the piece of shrapnel and eradicated all of the infection in the bone.
At the age of 93 he walks without even a hint of a limp.
After the war, Scholten returned to Hull where he started his own trucking business and drove truck until his retirement.
At the Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 12 in Sioux Center, Scholten was honored with the Quilt of Valor presented by the Sioux Center American Legion Auxiliary.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation began in 2003 with a dream by founder Catherine Roberts, whose son Nat was deployed in Iraq.
According to Roberts, “The dream was as vivid as real life. I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change.”
The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation “is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”