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:







Post WWII Rebuilding of Germany – The Marshall Plan and Kassel, Germany in Vibrant Color in the 1950s

PortraitsofWar recently acquired a collection of over 200 color slides taken in the mid to late 1950s depicting the rebuilding of Postwar Germany in the Kassel area.  The images follow a group of American volunteers who helped rebuild churches in and around the city.  They also were charged with feeding and taking care of refugees who were waiting for new homes to be built.  Although there is no linear progression to the photos, they nonetheless show a side of European history that has been glossed over.  The Marshall Plan brought industry and revitalization to Europe, and also brought American tourists who snapped countless photos of the rebuild process.