PETERSON, DOUGLAS BRIAN
Name: Douglas Brian "Pete" Peterson Rank/Branch: O3/United States Air Force, pilot Unit: 433rd TFS Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Mineola IA Date of Loss: 10 September 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212000N 1063000E Status (in 1973): Returnee Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C #640832 Missions: 67 Incident No: 0454
Other Personnel in Incident: Bernard Talley, returnee
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. March 1997 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated 2011.
REMARKS: 730304 RELEASED BY DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
DOUGLAS B. PETERSON Major - United States Air Force Shot Down: September 10, 1966 Released: March 4, 1973
I enlisted in the USAF on 5 November 1954 after attending lowa Wesleyan University for one year. Entered the USAF Pilot training program in May of 1955 after completion of Airman Basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas. I received my commission and flight wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas on 28 September 1956.
My military career as a fighter pilot has taken me to all corners of the world. After completion of advanced fighter training at Luke AFB, Arizona, and Nellis AFB, Nevada in 1956, my assignments have been exclusively to fighter units. My first operational assignment took me to England AFB, Louisana, flying the F-84F aircraft. Subsequently, I was assigned to units at Bitburg AB, Germany (3 years F-1OOC); Cannon AFB, Clovis, New Mexico (2 1/2 years F-100 D/F); MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida (1 year F4C); Eglin AFB, Fort Walton Beach, Florida (2 1/2 years F-4C); and finally Ubon AB, Thailand.
At Ubon I was flying the F-4C Phantom II fighter and had been in the combat theatre for 3 months prior to my shoot down. I was involved primarily in the "Night Owl" program, thus the vast majority of my missions were conducted at night against transportation routes in North Vietnam. I was on my 65th such mission on 10 September 1966 when I was shot down. My target was a bridge and ferry complex near Hanoi and as we were departing the target area the aircraft was hit by a surface to air missile (SAM). Fortunately it was not a direct hit, thus neither my co-pilot nor I were injured by the missile's blast. The aircraft, however, was severely damaged. Both engines were rendered inoperative and the entire aft portion of the aircraft was on fire. It was immediately obvious we could not make it to the coast where rescue would be possible. Therefore, after slowing the aircraft and attempting to radio our position and situation, my co-pilot, Lt. Bernard Talley, and I ejected. The time was 2100 hours 10 September 1966.
Upon ejection and subsequent parachute landing (I landed in a tree), I sustained multiple injuries - broken shoulder, arm, severely dislocated knee, compression fractures of both ankles plus cuts and bruises. I was, of course, incapacitated and only semi-conscious prior to my actual capture which occurred within a few hours after landing. I was captured by a large search party from a near-by village, consisting of mostly civilians armed with spears, hoes, shovels, etc. A few men were armed with military rifles. Their actions were pretty typical for the time - rough and determined; much anger. I was immediately stripped of everything except my undershorts, my clothes virtually being ripped off. The prize was my wrist watch. Without regard for injuries (the darkness was a definite disadvantage to me), I was tied with ropes and led or perhaps a better word is dragged, to the nearest hamlet. Incidentally, the Vietnamese are experts in the use of ropes. Interrogation began immediately. At dawn I was loaded on a very old motorcycle with side car and paraded through several villages, which resulted in further injury. It was actually a relief to finally arrive at my new "home", the Hanoi Hilton. This relief was short lived as interrogation once again began immediately. I remained in the interrogation room for four days. Fortunately, I was in a state of shock and those days were, at the time, just a very real nightmare. By the end of this period my health-both mental and physical-was very poor. The Vietnamese apparently realized this and on the night of the fourth day I was taken to a small hospital where my bones were set.
I was taken from the hospital directly to the camp we call the "Zoo" and began the long ordeal of adjusting to the cruel, subservient existence I was to live for the next 6 1/2 years. The adjustment was a very difficult one. I had to first determine if I wanted to survive. There were many times when I definitely felt that death would be better than survival - but to give up and die was the easy way out - it didn't offer the challenge that life held. After I made that one important decision it was all up hill. I took stock of myself; took a realistic look at my new environment and tried to determine exactly what I must do to survive. I soon discovered I had at my disposal the greatest and most effective tool known to man. This tool is what sustained me for the entire period of confinement. FAITH! Certainly, faith in God, but strength and comfort came also from my faith in this beautiful country and my wonderful family.
It wasn't that simple, of course. I experienced many periods of deep depression, however, it was faith and trust that eventually pulled me back up enabling me to continue to resist and survive.
Another source of encouragement came from the examples of strength and faith displayed by my fellow prisoners. Although the Vietnamese did everything in their power to isolate us-we were never "alone." The comradeship and bonds that existed between us could not be blocked by sheer physical barriers. I am extremely proud to have served my country with some truly great men.
I stepped across the freedom line on 4 March 1973. The time was 1150 hours.
My official home now is Marianna, Florida, the original home of my wife, the former Carlotta Ann Neal. We met while I was stationed at Marianna during pilot training. We were married on 4 October 1956 and have three children, Michael 16, Paula 14, and Douglas 7. Dougie was born shortly after I departed for SEA and was a very special homecoming gift. We presently reside in Fort Walton Beach, where my family remained during my absence.
I returned to the United States in excellent physical and mental condition. This is attributed to two major factors. First, I determined I would keep physically fit in spite of the Vietnamese treatment policies. This gave me a goal and proved to be very important therapy. The second factor I believe to be much more significant. It is the prayers, concern and the efforts of the American people to bring pressure upon the Vietnamese to improve our treatment that enabled us to come back as we have. Our treatment improved considerably in late 1969. It still wasn't great but conditions did improve enough to allow a slow improvement in our mental and physical health. Had the treatment remained static many of us would not have survived. This improvement I feel is a direct result of the courageous actions of the average American. It makes me extremely proud to be an American and proud to serve this great country. I will be forever grateful to all those that didn't "forget." Thank you and God bless you all.
December 1996 Douglas and his wife Carlotta reside in Florida. President Bill Clinton nominated him in 1996 to be the first Ambassador to Vietnam. His nomination was confirmed in 1997.
US ambassador decorated in Vietnam 30 years after being held prisoner Fri, 30 Jun 2000 (METDST)
HANOI, June 30 (AFP) - US ambassador Pete Peterson, who was held prisoner here for more than six years during the Vietnam War, on Friday received a medal from the Vietnamese Red Cross (VNRC) in recognition of his humanitarian work as Washington's first post-war envoy.
The highest merit award, presented to Petersen by VNRC president Nguyen Trong Nhan, carried a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the wartime leader of the North Vietnamese troops which captured him.
"I am deeply proud to receive this on behalf of the US embassy and the American people," he said.
"We are deeply committed to returning to Vietnam and helping Vietnam to achieve its established goals."
Peterson had just handed over to the Vietnamese Red Cross a few symbolic boxes from an entire field hospital worth 1.1 million dollars donated by the US Defence Department.
The gift is designed to replenish supplies in clinics and hospitals in central Vietnam where floods killed nearly 600 people late last year.
International Red Cross delegation head John Geoghegan said the supplies should be in place by the beginning of August, before the onset of the next rainy season.
They would be distributed to health centres which a team of US navy medics had identified as being most in need during a relief mission last year.
Nhan paid tribute to the US government and people as well as the American Red Cross for the relief aid they had given during last year's floods and in the aftermath of Typhoon Linda in 1997.
But he made no direct acknowledgement that the latest aid had come from the US army.
Former Vietnam Ambassador Creates International Company By Brent Kallestad Associated Press Writer Published: Feb 26, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Pete Peterson, a one-time prisoner-of-war in Vietnam who later became U.S. ambassador to that nation, is beginning a new company to increase America's business presence in Southeast Asia. "There is a huge untapped market for American business in this important region," Peterson said Tuesday. "The upside for our economy is enormous."....