In Memory of Marine Pfc.
John Arthur Peterson
Brookings, South Dakota, Brookings County
March 13, 1947 Ė May 28, 1967
Died in Quang Nam Province, Southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam
John Arthur Peterson was born on March 13, 1947 to Carl
Willard and Melinda (Olson) Peterson in Alcester, South Dakota.
He had two brothers: Steven and Ward, and a sister, Ann. John
grew up on a farm near Alcester until he was 13 years old when
his family moved into Alcester. He loved to hunt on the farm and
played football and basketball at Alcester High. John graduated
from Alcester High School and attended one year of college at
South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. His
parents moved to Brookings after he was out of high school.
John Peterson enlisted with the Marines on August 31, 1966
since he knew he would be drafted, and John said if he were to
go he wanted to be with the best. After basic training at Camp
Pendleton, California, Pfc. John Peterson arrived in Vietnam on
February 9, 1967 with the 1st Marines, 1st Regiment. He was
engaged in combat patrols and on March 23, 1967 was wounded in
the leg by a sniper on one of those patrols. Marine Pfc.
Peterson was awarded the Purple Heart for this injury, and
offered a trip home. His uncle, Dennis Hultgren wrote:
Because of his devotion to duty, and the
comradeship he felt toward his fellow Marines, he chose to
return to the same unit after recovery from his wounds. He
wanted to be with, and serve with his friends. He knew he
In a letter to his parents dated April 20, 1967, Pfc.
Peterson wrote, in part:
Itís so hard to keep track of time over
here. Either going on patrols or working detail during the
day and night ambush or standing lines at night, it seems
like a guy doesnít have days and date over here. Itís all
just one long year of time, no weekends, no Sundays, and
never any time off. Just one long working day.
Well, just got the word this afternoon
that weíll be moving again. Donít know where this time. Some
outpost as far as Iíve heard. They donít tell us too much
till we get where we are going. Things are going pretty good
around here now. Another 14 days and Iíll be ľ done with my
On May 28, 1967, Pfc. John Arthur Peterson was on patrol
again in Quang Nam Province, in the highlands near the Laotian
border. An explosive device killed him instantly when a piece of
shrapnel hit his head. His funeral was held in the church in
Alcester where he was baptized and confirmed. Marine Pfc. John
Peterson was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, in Alcester,
South Dakota. He was awarded a second Purple Heart and several
other medals, including decorations from the Republic of
The name of Pfc. John Arthur Peterson can be seen on Panel
21E, Row 006 of the Vietnam Veteransí Memorial Wall in
Washington, D.C. His brother, Steven, wrote:
The first time we went I thought we would
just see his name and remember him (and I am a hard bitten
engineer). When we saw the wall my eyes filled with tears.
It is a very emotional experience. It took me a year to
begin to come to grips with losing my brother and my parents
never really did.
My brother was fond of children. My wife
and I had our first child who was 3 years old when John
died. Scott was Johnís pride and joy. He continued his love
for children when he went to Vietnam. They were helping an
orphanage and my parents sent memorials to it after his
The words of Pfc. Petersonís uncle, Dennis Hultgren, seem a
Let the stranger who may in future times
read this story recognize that these soldiers were brave men
who power could not corrupt, and Death could not terrify.
And let their virtues plead for just Judgment of the cause
in which they perished. And let us remember that these young
men knew how to live, and if need be, they knew how to die.
They have preserved for us all the price- less treasure of
their memories. They have taught we who have the same
birthright that Truth, Courage and Patriotism endure
Shirley Swanson, Stanley County Middle School, Fort Pierre,
South Dakota, March 28, 2006 respectfully submitted this entry.
Dennis and Nelda Hultgen, Akron, Iowa, uncle and aunt to Pfc.
Peterson, and Steven Peterson, Vernon, Connecticut, brother,
provided the information.