Douglas B. Peterson


Preferred Name: Pete
Nickname/Call Sign: Pete
Date Of Birth: June 26, 1935
Highest Military Grade Held: Colonel, 0-6
Hometown: Omaha, NE

After the Vietnam War, Peterson remained in the U.S. Air Force and retired in 1981 as a colonel with 26 years of service. After retirement, he established a general contracting firm in Tampa, Florida and later a small computer company in Marianna, Florida. He served for 5 years on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
In 1990, Peterson ran as a Democrat for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in Florida’s 2nd congressional district. He defeated James W. Grant, a politician who grew unpopular after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of his second term. His first wife, Carlotta, passed away in 1995 and he declined to run for a fourth term.
In 1997 Pete was asked by President Bill Clinton to become the United States’ first post-war ambassador to Vietnam. One of his goals was securing an account of those still listed as missing in action from the war and so helping to resolve the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.
On November 17, 2000, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.
Since retiring as ambassador, Peterson founded The Alliance for Safe Children, TASC, which aims to lower preventable injuries to children worldwide, and focuses specifically on such issues as drowning in Asia. With his second wife, Vi Le, Australia’s senior trade commissioner whom he met after becoming the ambassador and moving to Hanoi, he started a company whose aim it is to promote American business in Southeast Asia.
Peterson is a Senior Advisor for Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.

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 Iowa Wesleyan University for one year and then 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 took 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 were exclusive 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, 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 and 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 nearby 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 that time – the captors were rough and determined with much anger. I was immediately stripped of everything except my undershorts, my clothes virtually being ripped off. Their prize was my wristwatch. 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.
The interrogations began immediately. At dawn, I was loaded on a very old motorcycle with sidecar 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 called 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 very difficult.
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 uphill. 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 my 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.
Note:
President Bill Clinton nominated him in December of 1996 to be the first Ambassador to Vietnam. His nomination was confirmed in 1997.

  1. (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 UPDATE – 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO)
  2. (Source: AFP)

Units Assigned

  • 1955-1956 Aviation Cadet: Primary: Graham AB, Marianna, FL, Class 57-A/Basic Pilot Training, Laughlin, AFB, TX (T-34, T-28, T-33)
  • 1956  Luke, AFB, AZ (F-84F)
  • 1957 Nellis AFB, NV F-100A)
  • 1957 612th Fighter Bomber Squadron/401st Fighter Bomber Wing, England AFB, LA (F-84F)
  • 1957-1960 36th Tactical Fighter Wing/22nd Fighter Day Squadron/Fighter Bomber Squadron/Tactical Fighter Squadron, Bitburg AB, DE (F-100C/F)
  • 1960-1962  522nd Tactical Fighter Squadron/27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100D/F)
  • 1962-1963 4453rd Combat Crew Training Squadron, MacDill AFB, FL (F-4B/C), (Initial F4 Instructor Cadre)
  • 1963-1965 4485th Test Wing, TAWC, Assistant Chief of Stan Eval, Eglin AFB, FL (F-4C)
  • 1965-1966 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of Stan Eval, Eglin AFB, FL (F-4C)
  • 1966 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron/8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Flight CO/Assist Ops, Ubon AB, Thailand (F-4C)
  • 1966-1973 – POW Hanoi, North Vietnam
  • 1973  560th Fighter Training Squadron/12th Fighter Training Wing, Flight requalificationRandolph AFB, TX (T-38)
  • 1973-1974 ATC Headquarters Flunky, Randolph AFB, TX
  • 1974-1975 National War College, Class of ‘75, Fort McNair, Washington, DC
  • 1975-1977 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of Plans, Deputy Base CO, Myrtle Beach AFB, SC (T-33)
  • 1977-1981 – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, 4 TFW, Base Commander
  • 1/1981 Retired USAFCivilian
  • 1981-1983 President, Peterson Associates, Inc., General Contracting, Tampa, FL
  • 1984-1990 Faculty, Specialized Program Director, Florida State University
  • 1991-1997 Member, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 2
  • 1997-2001 First post-war U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
  • 2001-Present President, Peterson International, Inc. and President, The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC)

Awards

 Silver Star
 Legion of Merit
 Purple Heart
 Prisoner of War
 Presidential Citizens Medal

Flight Info

T-34
T-28
T-33
F-84 F
F-100 A/C/D/F
F-4 B/C

Military Education

1961 Squadron Officers School (Class 61C)
Air Ground Operations School
1975 National War College

Civilian Education

BA/History, University of Tampa

Biography

After the Vietnam War, Peterson remained in the U.S. Air Force and retired in 1981 as a colonel with 26 years of service. After retirement, he established a general contracting firm in Tampa, Florida and later a small computer company in Marianna, Florida. He served for 5 years on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
In 1990, Peterson ran as a Democrat for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in Florida’s 2nd congressional district. He defeated James W. Grant, a politician who grew unpopular after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of his second term. His first wife, Carlotta, passed away in 1995 and he declined to run for a fourth term.
In 1997 Pete was asked by President Bill Clinton to become the United States’ first post-war ambassador to Vietnam. One of his goals was securing an account of those still listed as missing in action from the war and so helping to resolve the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.
On November 17, 2000, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.
Since retiring as ambassador, Peterson founded The Alliance for Safe Children, TASC, which aims to lower preventable injuries to children worldwide, and focuses specifically on such issues as drowning in Asia. With his second wife, Vi Le, Australia’s senior trade commissioner whom he met after becoming the ambassador and moving to Hanoi, he started a company whose aim it is to promote American business in Southeast Asia.
Peterson is a Senior Advisor for Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.

Caterpillar/POW Story

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 Iowa Wesleyan University for one year and then 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 took 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 were exclusive 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, 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 and 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 nearby 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 that time – the captors were rough and determined with much anger. I was immediately stripped of everything except my undershorts, my clothes virtually being ripped off. Their prize was my wristwatch. 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.
The interrogations began immediately. At dawn, I was loaded on a very old motorcycle with sidecar 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 called 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 very difficult.
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 uphill. 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 my 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.
Note:
President Bill Clinton nominated him in December of 1996 to be the first Ambassador to Vietnam. His nomination was confirmed in 1997.

  1. (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 UPDATE – 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO)
  2. (Source: AFP)
Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

  • 1955-1956 Aviation Cadet: Primary: Graham AB, Marianna, FL, Class 57-A/Basic Pilot Training, Laughlin, AFB, TX (T-34, T-28, T-33)
  • 1956  Luke, AFB, AZ (F-84F)
  • 1957 Nellis AFB, NV F-100A)
  • 1957 612th Fighter Bomber Squadron/401st Fighter Bomber Wing, England AFB, LA (F-84F)
  • 1957-1960 36th Tactical Fighter Wing/22nd Fighter Day Squadron/Fighter Bomber Squadron/Tactical Fighter Squadron, Bitburg AB, DE (F-100C/F)
  • 1960-1962  522nd Tactical Fighter Squadron/27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100D/F)
  • 1962-1963 4453rd Combat Crew Training Squadron, MacDill AFB, FL (F-4B/C), (Initial F4 Instructor Cadre)
  • 1963-1965 4485th Test Wing, TAWC, Assistant Chief of Stan Eval, Eglin AFB, FL (F-4C)
  • 1965-1966 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of Stan Eval, Eglin AFB, FL (F-4C)
  • 1966 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron/8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Flight CO/Assist Ops, Ubon AB, Thailand (F-4C)
  • 1966-1973 – POW Hanoi, North Vietnam
  • 1973  560th Fighter Training Squadron/12th Fighter Training Wing, Flight requalificationRandolph AFB, TX (T-38)
  • 1973-1974 ATC Headquarters Flunky, Randolph AFB, TX
  • 1974-1975 National War College, Class of ‘75, Fort McNair, Washington, DC
  • 1975-1977 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of Plans, Deputy Base CO, Myrtle Beach AFB, SC (T-33)
  • 1977-1981 – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, 4 TFW, Base Commander
  • 1/1981 Retired USAFCivilian
  • 1981-1983 President, Peterson Associates, Inc., General Contracting, Tampa, FL
  • 1984-1990 Faculty, Specialized Program Director, Florida State University
  • 1991-1997 Member, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 2
  • 1997-2001 First post-war U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
  • 2001-Present President, Peterson International, Inc. and President, The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC)

Awards

 Silver Star
 Legion of Merit
 Purple Heart
 Prisoner of War
 Presidential Citizens Medal

Flight Info

T-34
T-28
T-33
F-84 F
F-100 A/C/D/F
F-4 B/C

Military Education

1961 Squadron Officers School (Class 61C)
Air Ground Operations School
1975 National War College

Civilian Education

BA/History, University of Tampa

Scroll to Top