By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE. Colo. — Colorado native and Peterson Air Force Base namesake 1st Lt. Edward Peterson, Jr. was honored Mar. 1 by DeMolay International in a ceremony held at the Peterson Air and Space Museum.
Members of Peterson’s family attended the induction, along with Col. Douglas Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander. Dignitaries from DeMolay International were on hand to present a plaque recognizing Peterson’s induction into its hall of fame. Two plaques were created, one for the organization and another for display at the museum. A brass bust of Peterson will be placed in the DeMolay International offices along with other honorees like Walt Disney.
“It was very impressive,” said Peterson’s niece Dot Peterson. “I was surprised because he had such a short life, but he accomplished a lot in a short time.”
“The only thing I can say about this is it was a complete surprise and quite an honor for my uncle. We are very pleased,” said Geoff Peterson, Edward’s nephew. He said Edward had a great influence over his father, Lt. Col. Maurice “Pete” Peterson.
Ten days after his brother’s tragic death, the younger Peterson joined the Army Air Corps. Dot said. Another sign of influence, Maurice was a member of DeMolay International, following in the footsteps of Edward.
“Edward influenced my father to be in the Air Force. I wonder if dad would have gone in (to the Air Force) if Edward had not been killed. He certainly impacted my dad’s life,” Geoff said.
Peterson was assigned to the 12th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, Colorado Springs Army Air Base, where he was the squadron’s test pilot. On Aug. 8, 1942 an engine failed in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning he was testing. The plane crashed and burst into flames. Later that day he died from injuries suffered in the accident.
As the first Colorado native to lose his life in the line of duty here, the base was renamed in his honor in December of 1942. In 1976 Peterson Field was renamed Peterson Air Force Base.
Peterson is credited with founding the Englewood chapter of DeMolay International, then known as the Order of DeMolay. The organization was founded in Kansas City in 1919 as a fraternal organization for young men between the ages of 12 and 21. Its mission is to prepare young men to lead successful, happy, and productive lives through civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills. Noted members of the group include actor John Wayne, Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Lance Sijan, retired astronaut and Col. Frank Borman and author John Steinbeck.