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Ellsworth Schanerberger as a 19-year-old, 1943 Schanerberger continues to be active as a Shriner.

Lessons from an Eventful Life

by Rich Wilhelm

Ellsworth Schanerberger, who has been a member of Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants for 45 years, is a man who feels that certain events in his life have had a strong influence on him and that it is important to pass along the lessons he’s learned from these moments.

Perhaps the earliest significant event in Schanerberger’s life happened when he was six. His family, like many during the Great Depression, traveled to California in search of work. While traveling in a Model A Ford pulling a cargo trailer loaded with family possessions, a stop at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming provided Schanerberger with his first engineering lesson. The entrance into the park was a dirt road with a steep grade. To move the trailer required that the load be divided into six equal parts, with each part run up the hill separately. The unforgettable views from the top of the hill were worth the work, though, Schanerberger says.
On Dec. 3, 1942, his 18th birthday, Schanerberger was drafted into the army. Three months later he reported to basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., which marked the beginning of his participation in the biggest event of the 20th century. He training also included time at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and the First Evacuation Hospital in England, all of which would prepare him for what was to follow.

Schanerberger was assigned to Company D of the 331st Medical Battalion attached to the army’s 106th Infantry Division. Schanerberger says his outfit was a combat medical clearing station, similar to the MASH outfit of TV fame, “but without the comedy.”

After landing in France, the 106th Infantry Division moved to St. Vith, Belgium, about three miles from the frontline. Two days later, the Battle of the Bulge began and would last from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 28, 1945. During that time, two-thirds of the 106th Infantry Division and its support units were killed or captured. Company D had to split into two units to handle the wounded. Schanerberger’s unit, while constantly on the move to avoid capture, cared for an average of 275 patients a day.

The Battle of the Bulge experience that is closest to Schanerberger’s heart concerns a little girl and some baseball equipment. His outfit had stayed in a vacated boarding school to get some rest. On Christmas Day, the children returned, hearing that Schanerberger’s group wanted to have a party for them.

He and his buddies tried to think of Christmas presents they could give the girls. Finally, somebody remembered the baseball equipment stored in one of their trucks. The soldiers gave out the equipment and everybody had fun, until it was time to leave. As Schanerberger looked back, he could see the smallest girl, wearing the catcher’s mask he had given her, crying as she waved goodbye. He says he remembers thinking that this was why he was there — he still gets emotional when he talks about it.

For his participation in World War II, Schanerberger received several service awards, including the Bronze Star. He says he is very proud of these awards because he earned them by saving lives.

Schanerberger’s professional career began in a petroleum refinery in 1953, where he worked until switching to Ford Motors in 1959. He retired from Ford in 1996 after more than 37 years working in all aspects of fuel and energy research. Since retiring, he has been a consultant.

Schanerberger’s most important contributions to D02 include a motor octane engine technique for liquefied petroleum gases anti-knock evaluation (ASTM D 2623) and a specification for engine grade LPG (ASTM D 2154), which was the first alternative fuel testing standard and engine grade specification in ASTM. He was also instrumental in proposing interlaboratory crosscheck programs for training and testing audits of standards users’ proficiency with ASTM testing procedures.

Although Schanerberger will be 80 this year, he is as busy as ever, trying to help with the work of Coordinating Subcommittee 95 on Terminology and to promote his idea of a simpler book of ASTM standards. Ellsworth is also a Shriner and a member of Scottish Right Masons. He is proud to have been accepted as a member of these organizations, which are known for their philanthropy for children. In his spare time, he continues with his consulting work and to be involved in biannual reunions with his army buddies.

Copyright 2004, ASTM International