Theodore Pacheco: A Soldier’s Story

Theodore Pacheco: A Soldier’s Story


Theodore Pacheco was born 31 Aug 1899, Kilauea, Kauai. He was the third child of Joao Pacheco and Joana Goncalves Cardoza–a family nicknamed “The Reds” because of their red hair. He grew up in Kilauea, but left home sometime after his father’s death and his mother’s second marriage (1906-1910). When he was about 16, he lived with his aunt and uncle, Antonio and Alexandrinha (Jose) in California.

In 1918, too young to be drafted, he enlisted in the US Army. He was part of the 6th Engineers (later called the 3rd Division). After two months of training, he was sent overseas to France as a member of one of the combat regiments of engineers. He fought in the battles of St. Mihiel and Chateau Thierry. At Chateau Thierry, the regiment was sent in to relieve the marines. His regiment was attacked and chemical weapons were used. Theodore was one of only a handful of men to survive.

After sustaining a leg wound, he was discharged. He reenlisted three months later. Soon after, he was sent to Honolulu. The day after his arrival the adverse affects of the chemicals he was exposed to in combat began to wreak havoc on his body. He was hospitalized for a month.

Once he was feeling better, he was granted leave to visit relatives on Kauai. He was not able to enjoy the trip as he became ill soon after arriving.

Theodore died 18 Dec 1919, 8 months shy of his 21st birthday. The cause of death was hemorrhaging due to gassing. He was buried with fanfare at Kilauea Catholic Cemetery. He died a hero and for years the community gathered to remember him.  The Garden Island newspaper told in the 1 June 1920 issue about how a wreath was placed on the grave of “our one dead martyr, Theodore Pacheco“.

He never married and had no children. There are no known photographs of Theodore. His tombstone stands as the only reminder of a life that was too brief given for his country.

There were others connected to my Portuguese Hawaiian roots who also fought in World War I. Most from the town of Kilauea. Let’s honor their memories now: Jose Pacheco (aka Joe P. Smith), John Correia, Albert Figg, Gabriel Medeiros, Jose Medeiros, and Theodore A. Pacheco (first cousin of the Theodore in this story).

1. The Garden Island Newspaper, Lihue, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii, Front Page, 23 Dec 1919.
2. Death certificate of Theodore Pacheco.
3. Battle of St. Mihiel, 12-13 September 1918.

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