Forestry Engineers of WWI: The Unsung Heroes of the 20th Engineer Regiment


My interest in the forestry units of WWI started with an inexpensive eBay purchase back in 2012. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of the 20th Engineer Regiment’s unit history from WWI.  This particular copy had been in a fire at one point in it’s long life and was luckily only singed on the corners.  The burned edges and soiled pages give the book a feeling of age and rugged dignity.  The inside cover in inscribed by an Ed. Peterman of Florence, OR who was assigned to the 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineers.

Ed's Burnt Book

Ed’s Burnt Book



In an incredible stroke of luck I was able to find a 1920s photo of Mr.Peterman on  Ed was born in Winona, MN on November 13th, 1894 and later moved to Oregon, where he signed up with the forestry engineers.  According to his gravestone, he served with both the 6th Battalion, 20th engineers until 10/1918 and then transferred to the 18th Company in October of 1918.  He is listed as being a corporal and was wounded by enemy action, which is very rare for a forestry engineer.  Ed was also a distinguished member of a very exclusive club. He was on board the S.S. Tuscania when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Britain on February 5th, 1918. The boat sunk, taking 33 of Ed’s fellow Company F, 6th Battalion, 20th Engineer comrades with her.  The 6th Battalion lost 95 men that day.   Luckily, Ed was one of survivors.


This post is dedicated to the 20th Engineers and my continued interest in the unit. For more info on the 20th Engineers and the idea of forestry units in wartime, please check out The Forest History Society’s website here:

Ed Peterman (right)

Ed Peterman (right)

Mr. Peterman's Grave

Mr. Peterman’s Grave

Gravestone Card

Gravestone Card

Ed’s book is filled with plenty of wonderful tidbits about the 20th Engineers during WWI as well as a series of funny cartoons and sketches done to help illustrate the book. Here are a few of my favorites:







6 thoughts on “Forestry Engineers of WWI: The Unsung Heroes of the 20th Engineer Regiment

  1. Y’ou’re realy lucky in fact!!!
    I leave in La Bresse, Vosges, France.
    And i meet the 20th engineers because of my research about a road on my village.
    The name of this road is: “Route des Américains”
    I search which was the unit who have built this, and found a pdf copy of your book on the 20th engineers website.
    I found that the F company (later 6th company) of the 20th engineers had a mills on my village (page 128 of my numerical copy)
    I try to know where was exactly this mills, but it is difficult because of my bad langage.
    Neverthless, there’s some photos about my village on your book.
    Is it possible to scan me this one in higth quality?
    You could found them page 129 and 151 of my numerical copy (258 and 302 of your book?)

    Thank you for this.

    Hervé ARNOULD

    • Arnould,

      Thank you for the wonderful post. I’m happy to help you in any way possible. What would you like me to do? Scan pages 258 and 302 and post them to my page?


  2. I have a picture of my great great grandfather and I think it might be of this 20th engineers you are talking about. I think it’s something called a yard long photo and it’s of a large company of men with the title 18th Company 20th engineers. I also have a recording of him talking about his experience. He was supposed to be on that torpedoed sub but he got sick and was transferred to a different ship. His family, however, thought he was dead as they had him on the missing list. He was a logger from Oregon. I’m not quite sure what to do with the photo. It’s so large! I know the recording of his story is online somewhere though.

    • Very cool! I will have to find the recording. I’m guessing it’s on the library of congress site dedicated to recording veteran’s stories. I will have to post it to my site when I find it. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s