Delbert Ray Peterson
United States Air Force
Manson, Iowa
May 11, 1939 to February 09, 1978
(Incident Date March 09, 1966)
DELBERT R PETERSON is on the Wall at Panel 5E, Line 133

Delbert R Peterson
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Delbert R Peterson


Delbert R Peterson


25 May 2008


by his nephew,
Andrew Delbert Peterson
E-mail address is not available.


A Note from The Virtual Wall

The Special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley was well located to monitor and interfere with North Vietnamese infiltration from Laos and for that reason drew special attention from the NVA commanders. In the early morning hours of 09 March 1966, the camp's defenders - 17 US and 375 ARVN troops - came under attack by an estimated 2000 NVA troops. Bad weather prevailed at the time, with cloud bases below the level of the surrounding mountaintops, severely limiting supporting air strikes. C-123 flareships could and did drop aerial flares through the clouds, thereby providing illumination for the defenders.

By mid-morning of the 9th the defenders were in dire straits, but the cloud bases had lowered to about 400 above ground. Despite the weather, an AC-47D (tail number 44-76290) of the 4th Air Commando Squadron managed to work its way below the clouds and commenced firing passes against the NVA troops massed at the camp's outer perimeter. On its second pass the AC-47D was hit by enemy fire, literally losing its starboard engine (which fell away from the plane) and developing a fire in the port engine. The AC-47D crash-landed on a mountain slope about 5 miles north of the camp. All six crewmen survived the crash but were taken under attack by NVA troops. Two men were killed and another wounded before an Air Force HH-43 arrived on scene. The HH-43 was able to rescue three of the survivors only because the fourth, 1st Lt Delbert R. Peterson, deliberately sacrificed himself in order to allow the others to be brought aboard the helicopter. A limited number of A-1s were able to work below the overcast and two C-123s were brought in for resupply drops.

The NVA renewed their attack on the night of 09/10 March. Early on the 10th an A-4 Skyhawk (BuNo 148518) from VMA-311 was lost while trying to work below the overcast. Later in the morning an A-1E from the 602nd Air Commando Squadron, tail number 52-133867 flown by Major D. W. Myers, was forced to crash-land on the abandoned A Shau runway; in a daring rescue, Major B. F. Fisher landed his A-1E while under fire, got Myers aboard, and took off again.

By the afternoon of the 10th, with half the fort in enemy hands and bad weather still a factor, it was decided to evacuate the fort by helicopter. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 drew the job, using its 24 UH-34s beginning at about 1700. By the time the Marines were finished, they'd lost two helicopters (UH-34s 149340 and 149347) and 19 of the other 22 had taken heavy damage. In addition to the airlift, small groups of ARVN and Special Forces troops (and at least one downed Marine helicopter crew) exfiltrated through the NVA forces and were picked up over the next several days.

Nine Americans are known to have been killed at A Shau on 09/10 March 1966 - three Air Force crewmen from the AC-47D, one Marine pilot, and five Special Forces soldiers:

  • Aircrew, AC-47D serial 44-76290, 4th Air Commando Squadron
    • Capt Willard M. Collins, Quincy, IL (KIA/BNR) (Air Force Cross)
    • SSgt Robert E. Foster, Lockport, NY (KIA/BNR)
    • 1stLt Delbert R. Peterson, Mason, IA (Air Force Cross)
      (MIA/BNR. Presumptive finding of death on 09 Deb 1978)

  • Marine Attack Squadron 311
  • 5th Special Forces Group
    • SFC Raymond Allen, Rossville, GA
    • SSG Billie A. Hall, Sand Springs, OK (Dist Svc Cross)
    • SGT Owen F. McCann, Utica, PA
    • SP5 Phillip T. Stahl, Pompano Beach, FL (Dist Svc Cross)
    • SGT James L. Taylor, Nitro, WV (KIA/BNR)

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