He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1932, and the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. in 1937.
During 1940-42 he was with the 6th Division, serving, in turn, as a company commander, battalion executive officer, battalion commander, and regimental plans and training officer of the 3rd Infantry Regt. While with the 6th Division, he also held the post of assistant adjutant general.
Col. Descheneaux was with the 5th Army in 1943 as a War Department observer, serving as liaison officer between the 5th Army Headquarters and the front line divisions in Italy.
After a short period as assistant G-3 of the 2nd Army Headquarters, Col. Descheneaux was assigned to the 106th Division as assistant chief of staff in charge of the G-3 section shortly before the division was activated.
Descheneaux assumed command of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division, in July 1944.
"Much of combat action in this war is made up of semi-independent, and often isolated operations on the part of small units. A great deal depends on how well these units function. I am convinced that the greatest stress should be placed on individual and small unit training and on the development of small unit leaders."
-Col Descheneaux, upon receiving command of the 422nd IR, July 1944
The 106th Infantry Division arrived in the ETO in early December 1944, and replaced the 2nd Infantry Division in the Schnee Eifel sector of Belgium on December 11.
On December 16, 1944, in a quiet sector in the Ardennes forest, the Germans launched a major counter offensive which would become known as The Battle Of the Bulge. Fighting on throughout the day and night, many elements of the American army found themselves surrounded by superior German infantry and armored troops. By December 17th the 422nd Infantry Regiment under Col. Descheneaux and the 423rd IR (Col. Cavender) were completely surrounded.
After an abortive attempt to break out of their encirclement at the village of Schoenberg, both Descheneaux and Cavender had decided that further resistance was futile.
"I'm going to save as many men as I can, and I don't give a damn if I'm court-martialed," Descheneaux said. It was agreed that Lt. Col. Frederick W. Nagel, the wounded executive officer of the 423rd, would negotiate for both regiments, since he spoke German. The German lieutenant whom Nagel brought back to the American lines with him could not speak English but did speak French, a language Descheneaux understood, so the commander of the 422nd himself worked out the details. By the afternoon of December 19, Descheneaux and Cavender had surrendered their regiments- the largest mass surrender of US troops in the ETO.
Descheneaux and the other members of the two regiments were taken prisoner. Col. Descheneaux served as a POW in Stalag XIIA and later in Stalag IXB until the end to the war. He retired from the Army in 1946, citing tuberculosis contracted while he was a POW.