Dennis William Peterson

United States Navy
28 June 1939 - 19 July 1967
Huntington Park, CA
Panel 23E Line 092



Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Dennis William Peterson

12 November 2003


Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 18 July 1967 Attack Squadron 164 flying from USS ORISKANY lost three aircraft as a result of a strike against the Co Trai road and railway bridge:
  • LCdr Richard D. Hartman in A-4E BuNo 151986
  • LT(jg) Larrie J. Duthie in A-4E BuNo 151175
  • Lt(jg) Barry T. Wood in A-4E BuNo 152034
Hartman was hit first, shortly after bombing the target, and was forced to eject about 25 miles south of Hanoi. A Search-and-Rescue effort was quickly mounted, but only a few minutes later LT(jg) Duthie's A-4 was hit. Duthie managed to ride his stricken Skyhawk to a position near Nam Dinh (45 miles SE of Hanoi) before he too had to eject - and a second SAR effort was mounted. LT(jg) Wood, a member of Duthie's flight, was hit while running a ZUNI strike against an AAA site; Wood was able to keep his aircraft airborne until he was about 8 miles out to sea before ejecting, where he was picked up by a boat from the destroyer USS RICHARD B. ANDERSON. Meantime, both Navy and Air Force SAR helicopters were trying to pick up Duthie. An Air Force HH-3E piloted by Major Glen York was able to get in and collect Duthie; Major York collected an Air Force Cross as well.

LCdr Hartman wasn't making out as well as his squadronmates. He avoided immediate capture by evading into a jungled-covered karst hill, where he established and maintained radio conatct with the SAR forces - but intense hostile fire in the area kept the SAR helos from picking him up. The next morning, 19 June, saw the SAR effort renewed. An SH-3A helicopter (BuNo 151538) was bought in after fixed-wing aircraft worked over the AAA sites, but the SH-3A was hit by ground fire and crashed, killing the four men aboard:

  • LT Dennis William Peterson
  • ENS Donald Patrick Frye
  • AX2 William Braxton Jackson
  • AX2 Donald Paul McGrane
At this point, Commander Task Force 77 had to decide if it was practical to continue the rescue efforts - and after the loss of three aircraft and four aircrewmen he decided that a successful rescue without further losses simply wasn't in the cards. Hartman was able to stay in contact with US aircraft for several more days, and was resupplied by air drop, but the North Vietnamese finally caught up with him. He either was killed while resisting capture or shortly after being captured - no one knows. The North Vietnamese returned Hartman's remains on 6 March 1974.

The remains of three of the SH-3A crewmen were repatriated in late 1982, but Dennis Peterson has not yet come home.

There is some confusion with respect to which carrier Peterson, Frye, Jackson, and McGrane called home.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association and Hobson's "Vietnam Air Losses" report that SH-3A 151538 was flying from USS HORNET, while the POW Network says it was based aboard USS ORISKANY - but they both are wrong.

According to Navy records, USS ORISKANY had a detachment from HC-1 aboard, flying UH-2A and UH-2B aircraft, while USS HORNET (an anti-submarine warfare carrier) had an HS-2 detachment with SH-3As. However, the same records indicate that SH-3A BuNo 151538 actually was based aboard and that morning flew from USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64).

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009