WW II soldier’s rifle returns from France

Jim Farrell (far left), his wife Monica Farrell (second from the left), Holly Milley (second from the right), and U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (far right) honor Martin Teahan at his grave in Normandy, France
Photo Courtesy of Jim Farrell

A family with south Bronx roots is looking forward to reconnecting with a part of their family’s military past.

Bronx native Jimmy Farrell is awaiting the return of an M-1 rifle that belonged to his uncle Martin Teahan who served in World War II as part of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).

Teahan, an Irish-American, was killed on June 6, 1944 in Picauville, Normandy after he had been scouting a position.

After his capture, a German soldier killed him.

Farrell, 60, said Colonel Patrick Collet, a French Army Paratrooper commander, contacted his sister Liv Teahan on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, to let them know the uncle’s rifle was recovered.

“It was the luck of the Irish,” Farrell said with a laugh.

Collet, while visitng a French farmer, had noticed that a rifle the farmer had was engraved with the name “Martin Teahan”.

He then made an effort to contact the family.

Farrell, who served in the U.S. Army from 1974-1977, said that in June he and his wife Monica visited the colonel in Normandy and got a chance to hold the rifle.

“I felt the cold metal of the weapon on my fingertips, and envisioned my uncle, bravely marching forward through enemy territory,” said Farrell.

Afterwards, Farrell said he and his wife got a chance to visit Teahan’s grave site where they met U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

Farrell, now a resident of East Brunswick, NJ, said his uncle’s south Bronx roots played an important part in Teahan’s toughness.

He said Teahan, who lived in Mott Haven on the corner of East 138st Street and Alexander Avenue, grew up in a ‘close-knit’ Irish-American community.

He fondly recalled stories of how his uncle could sing, dance and was a bit of a ladies’ man.

“I wish he had lived so he could have helped me,” Farrell, who lived in Mott Haven until he was 10, said with a chuckle.

Farrell, also said his uncle was a smooth talker and could talk his way out of almost anything.

Teahan joined the army at age 17 in 1942, although the minimum age was 18.

He had to forge his deployment papers because his mother, Nora, did not want him joining the military.

Farrell also said his uncle was known to have gotten into a street fight or two.

“I think he had a rebel attitude,” said Farrell. “He wasn’t afraid. That’s what made him a tailor-made paratrooper.”

He noted that his own father, Martin Farrell – Teahan’s brother-in-law, who lived about a building away, was quieter and did not have a personality as outgoing as the WW2 soldier.

Teahan, born Dec, 3, 1923 died at the age of 20 in 1944.

Farrell said Teahan shipped out of New York Harbor in December 1943 as Farrell’s mother Anne watched her brother leave.

According to Farrell, she gazed at the departing ship as it sailed over the horizon, knowing it was the last time she would ever see him.

Teahan died six months later.

The M-1 rifle will be returned to the U.S. in either late November or early December, as soon as paperwork is finalized.

According to Farrell, the rifle will be donated to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum in Fort Bragg or The Pentagon.

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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