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
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C #640832
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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