Art Peterson

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U.S. Navy

Name: Art Peterson

Place of Birth: New Sharon, Maine

Place of Recruitment: Greeley, Colorado

Branch of Service: U. S. Navy

Military Occupation: Naval Avaitor- WWII
Air Force MATS - Korea
Air Force MAC - Vietnam

Service History, Stateside or Abroad: Who in the World is Art Peterson?
Oh yes, he is the guy that tells those corny jokes like: A lady went to her eye doctor. He said "You have a catarack." She quickly replied, "Oh, No Sir, I have a Lincoln Continental."

Art was born on a dairy farm and had immigrant parents from Sweden. At nine the family moved to Colorado after a disastrous fire. My uncle Gus encouraged us to come because everyone was getting rich on farming and feed lots, both cattle and sheep. We arrived in 1929 just ahead of the stock market crash. Uncle Gus and his friends were parting every day and we sensed that he had an alcohol problem in the making. He had contracted ahead for expensive cattle, expensive corn and other feeds and every day fat prices were sinking. Soon he had gone through his reserves and wanted to use ours. Dad was smart enough to hang onto enough to start his own farm business the next spring, but Uncle Gus went broke and then on the bottle dying on skid row with a bottle of wine at his side. His wife died from disappointment and his kids went to foster parents.

Our family was able to survive. Dad joined up with the ex-governor's grandson and a large bank and it was my first experience with BIG farming. Now I see how important BIG is. I have a friend that farms a 6,000 acre wheat farm. You have to be a capitalist to buy a million dollar combine, but you see mountains of wheat being harvested, half going to feed our people here and half going to hungry people all over the world. Contrast that with communism that confiscates your land and divides it up into ten acre patches so that every person can have a piece. In two years it is all weeds and the people are starving.

I was the oldest son and tradition said I was to be the next generation farmer. By custom, boys like me were limited to the 9th grade in school for couple of reasons. First I was needed and drove a tractor before I was tall enough to reach the clutch pedal. Secondly, if a son got too much education he would leave the farm. Best he forgot school after 9th grade. I kinda bootlegged a high school diploma by going to school whenever I could, sometimes one day a week, loved farming and learned fast. My dad taught me to love my work and made me a work-a-holic early in life. He also taught me a few principals that have lasted, like never lie, steal, and never hit a women. I will always remember that my mom was the best Christian I ever knew, and my dad was the most honest. I was ready to be a successful farmer and hopefully - a daddy to my children. Then the draft board got me. WWII would change my life.

I reported to the induction center. The Army gave me a physical and rejected me. I said "You made my dad the happiest man on earth. I'm going home and be a farmer." He said "see that guy in the Navy uniform, you will have to talk to him. The Navy is drafting now." I went over and said "I don't guess you want me, the Army rejected me." He said "What's wrong with you?" I said "They said I had flat feet." He said " Oh, we don't care about that, welcome aboard." They gave me a book called "Navy Regulations" and told me to memorize it, not to talk about politics or religion, that I was now the "Property of the United States Government, and to salute everything that moved. I knew that SLAVES were property, so I didn't expect too much.

Suprising enough I liked the military. For one thing we slept in every morning. Six o'clock, on the farm getting up time was four. The food was good, and I didn't have to work hard. I made it though boot camp, them gunnery school learning about what I'd do sitting in the back seat of a dive bomber. Someone called me out of class and asked if I would like to be a pilot. I said I didn't have two years of college. He said " That's why I'm here, we are giving you a test. The equivalent of two years of college. I didn't realize that if they need you bad enough you couldn't flunk that test. During the early years of war the Japanese were winning. The Navy reacted and decided they needed more pilots than the college V5 program could produce. We would be enlisted pilots called Aviation Pilot instead of Naval Aviators like the college boys.

With fast training in dive bombers and torpedo bombers we could sink those burdensome Japanese ships. Our life expectancy was six months. That was OK with me since I would get all the valuable flight training free. YES, I screwed up. I hurt my knee playing football. The Navy grounded me until I could sit on my heel. The doctor said my best chance of recovery was distance swimming. I started swimming five miles a day, seven days a week and could swim the 400 meter in competition under four minutes forty seconds. But, I was devastated. I thought my flying career was over. But God was with me and I passed my physical. By then, the war had changed. They put me into the program with the cadets and I graduated, them college on the GI bill, ready for the Korean War. Receiving my BISE newsletter is always a joy, but especially the last issue with the article written by Orvill Rogers on the B-36. He said it was 95% from memory. Well, this is 100% memory for me, but I'll try my best.

Like most, I would have preferred to stay home, but answered my call to active duty and reported for duty in Corpus Christi, TX completing comprehensive training on instrument flying leading to a "Green Card", then off to MATS, to an Air Force squadron operating from Travis Air Force Base, Califronia, a part of the "Korean Airlift." Squadron VR3 was transitioning for C-54s to the new C-118s. Three of us had experience on the airline DC6-B which was very similar (I had been through the Braniff DC-6 flight Engineer training), so they got us into the left seat in a hurry. Our mission was bringing home burn victims. They called it Air Evac. We had a cockpit crew of Aircrat Commander, Pilot (co-pilot), Navigator, Engineer, Radio Operator and trainees. Usually a full cockpit. In the back was two RNs, some orderlies, and the airplane was configured with triple decker cots for the patients. Some flights carried a doctor.

We also had 2 passenger flights a week to Washington National Airport. We operated non-stop coast to coast. This was before the airlines could make it non stop, so we got a lot of VIP passengers. We had a different landing gear and other military conversions that gave us a higher take off weights (more fuel). I was in hog's heaven being the youngest Aircraft commander in our squadron always having a co-pilot outranking me, and even got my airline "DC-6/7 Type rating" which helped with Braniff. What does this have to do with B-36s? Have patience, we'll get there.

As the Korean War was becoming more routine, Gen. Curtis LaMay's Strategic Air Command (SAC) was growing. He took our squadron into SAC for logistical support. The "Cold War" was ON. First our 55-1 went into the trash can. No operation limitations in SAC. Just GO as necessary. The Chinese had started supporting North Korea and we were afraid of a full war with China. To discourage them, SAC decided to take the B-36s over there as a show of strength. All the advertising, both civilian and military, showed the B-36s going to Guam (about 4-5 hours from the China coast). We actually went to Okinawa, a few minutes away. Twenty B-36s to the Chinese looked like thousand. They landed and took off as quickly as possible spending most of their time going up and down the China coast whlie the Chinese kept counting.

Since secrecy was the key, and SAC was good at that, it was well organized. We were sent to McCord the night before. Rumor had it that were going to Alaska so we loaded up on cold weather gear. Actually, we only needed a swim suit. We openned our sealed orders after take-off, going to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, parking and refuelling in a remote area and then off to Okinawa. Being a transport plane, our job was to bring the key players to organize "Operation Big Stick." For the sake of secrecy we couldn't leave Okinawa until the operation was over and the people we brought were secretly removed.

I wore a swim suit a lot. This was my only experience around B-36s, Orville, but I was certainly impressed and envy you a little for getting to fly one. You know the rest of my story. How we flew support for the B-52s while they moved from one base to another maintaining readiness at all their bases at the minimum cost to taxpayers. SAC had advance bases at Newasour and Sididlamain in Morocco, Wheelus in Libya, and Upper Hayford and Greenham Common in England. (Please correct my spelling). I spent equal time at each but loved the beach at Casa Blanca Morocco. I was especially glad to get back to Braniff.

Present Location: Dallas, TX