Log Cabin Chronicles

My Pa's German Luger and how he got it


My Pa, PFC Thomas B. Tetreault, served as a runner in Company A, 58th Infantry Division of the 4th Army of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

He was awarded 2 War Service Chevrons; the Victory Medal; Service Ribbons with 3 Battle Stars; for participation in major operations with Company A, 58th Infantry at: The Meaux Sector July 9 to July 17, 1918; Aisne-Marne July 17 to August 6, 1918; Toulon Sector Sept 6 to Sept 11, 1918; Meuse-Argonne Sept 25 to Oct 19, 1918.

Enroute to England aboard the USS Moldavia, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine and Pa ended up in the water, a non-swimmer. He somehow got onto a raft of sorts and was later pulled aboard the Destroyer DD9. The DD9 put shore in Dover, and Pa was re-united with the rest of Company A, 58th Infantry.

He said it was a frightening experience, and the worse part of it was that he lost a brand new pearl-handled shaving razor which had been given to him as a departure gift by his good friend, Cy Searles, jeweler in Newport, Vermont.

During the First World War, company commanders had no radios with which they could communicate with headquarters or other units in their combat area. The only method used for communication was to write out a message and hand it to a company runner who placed the message in his satchel, and ran off to deliver to the distant addressee.

Sometimes the runners had to travel short distances across fields and through the forests. Other times they traveled miles to get to their destination. At times, their route took them through contested territory where enemy troops might lurk.

The weapon in use by the U.S. Army was the Springfield model 1903 bolt action rifle in 30.06 caliber, and Pa was an expert with it. He occasionally saw enemy soldiers while on his dispatch missions, but was able to keep out of danger by fading into the woods like an Indian or by shooting his way out.

Runners also traveled in pairs and on one trip, Pa and his buddy spotted a German machine gun nest on a farm house roof top overlooking a road that soldiers would be traveling. He avoided roads as much as possible, so was in the woods behind the house when he and his buddy saw the machine gun. There were two soldiers manning the gun. Pa and his buddy checked out the whole area as well as they could then lifted their rifles and, on the count, they shot the two machine gunners and continued on their mission.

Pa was wounded in the back of the neck by German shell fire while 'Going Over the Top' on August 4, 1918 at Fisnes (Firnes) in the Chateau Thierry sector of Aisne Marne. He was taken to an aid station in Chateau Thiery, then on a hospital train he traveled to a base hospital in Mans, France. His wound was treated and he spent a short time convalescing. He returned to the front on September 16, 1918.

Gas War

At times there were gas attacks initiated by both sides of the war zones. One day, the Germans initiated a gas attack and Pa didn't hear the warning signal in time, and was late in getting his gas mask over his face. A bit of gas got under the mask and as a result his senses of smell, and flavors in food were lost the rest of his life.

He made up for it by adding salt and or sugar to his food. I remember Ma made baked beans every Saturday so we could have a baked-bean breakfast on Sunday morning. Back in those days. folks would add some sugar or some other sweetener to the beans on their plate. Pa usually spread a couple spoonfuls of sugar, or sometimes maple syrup, over his baked beans. Pa loved things sweet.

Pa grew up in the woods and with a gun in his hand. He was a crack shot. When I was four years old he taught me to handle and shoot his .22 cal. Remington semi-automatic rifle and began to take me hunting for rabbits and partridge to put meat on the table. I remember one sunny day, he tacked a target on the old shed door next to the barn, and had me and Ma take turns shooting at it with the .22 rifle.

One day when company had come, Pa called Pat and Mike, his two black and tan hounds, and we went down into the cedar swamp behind the house to hunt up some dinner for our guests. In a very short time the dogs ran up a couple snow shoe hares which Pa bowled over his 20 gauge Remington pump shotgun.

As we were walking along the trail in the cedars, Pa put his hand out to halt me, and pointed to a fat partridge sitting on cedar branch about fifty feet ahead. He handed me the shot gun, and reached for the .22 rifle I was carrying. He pulled the gun to his shoulder and quickly knocked the partridge off the branch.

The shot and commotion of the partridge falling off the branch flushed another partridge that had been sitting close by out of sight. It flew off in a noisy flurry and Pa swung his rifle on the departing bird and knocked it down with one clean shot. We switched guns, retrieved the two birds, placed them with the two rabbits in the pannier on his back and walked out of the woods with meat for the table.

Back to the War: The Luger

Pa was drifting softly through the woods along a low ridge overlooking an area near where the U.S. forces were entrenched. He was returning from a running mission to another unit. He paused as he thought he heard the sound of voices nearby. The sound came again from ahead, in a small glen just below on the edge of the woods.

He crept softly and found a German artillery officer pointing to the allied position below and giving orders to two soldiers standing there with him. The Officer pointed back toward the German direction, spoke some more words, and one of the soldiers saluted and trotted off toward the German line. The officer and the other soldier sat on the ground and relaxed.

Pa thought about the situation awhile as he watched, then got up and walked into the clearing with his rifle pointing menacingly at the two men. They jumped up at a startled attention, very aware of the weapon point at their chests. Pa told them to drop their weapons, motioning to the ground with his gun. The soldier dropped the rifle which was hanging on his arm.

Pa pointed to the Luger in the officer's holster. The officer unbuckled his gun belt with holster and shoulder strap in one bundle and tossed it at Pa's feet. Pa got the two men heading down toward the U.S. lines, picked up the Luger and took his captives down to Company A headquarters tent. He carried his trophy in his back pack until he returned home at the end of the war.


Copyright © 2003 Charles Tetreault/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.03