Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Purple Heart medal

Pete Peterson : biography

June 26, 1935 –

Douglas Brian "Pete" Peterson (born June 26, 1935, Omaha, Nebraska) was a U.S. Air Force pilot who spent over six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. He returned to Hanoi in 1997 as the first United States Ambassador to Vietnam. He was an ambassador until 2001, after which he devoted himself to philanthropic work.


Education, military service

Peterson grew up in Milton, Iowa and attended college at the University of Tampa. He joined the Air Force and served in Vietnam, where his F4 Phantom was shot down on September 10, 1966. He spent six years in prison, a period he described as "hours and hours of boredom, spliced with moments of stark terror." He was released March 4, 1973.

Academic, political career

After the war ended, Peterson entered Central Michigan University in order to earn his Ph.D in finance. He later taught the subject as a professor at Florida State University.

In 1990, Peterson ran as a Democrat for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in Florida’s 2nd congressional district. He defeated James W. Grant, a politician who grew unpopular after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of his second term.

He declined to run for a fourth term (he was succeeded by Allen Boyd) and in 1997 was asked by President Bill Clinton to become the United States’s first post-war ambassador to Vietnam. One of his goals was securing an account of those still listed as missing in action from the war and so helping to resolve the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

In 1995 his first wife Carlotta had died, and two weeks after his installation in Hanoi he met Vi Le, Australia’s senior trade commissioner, born in Vietnam, whom he married. In 1999, he moved to Melbourne so they could be closer to her family. On November 17, 2000, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.

Philanthropy, business

Since retiring as ambassador, Peterson founded The Alliance for Safe Children, TASC, which aims to lower preventable injuries to children worldwide, and focuses specifically on such issues as drowning in Asia. With his wife he started a company whose aim it is to promote American business in Southeast Asia.

In 2009, Peterson acquired Australian citizenship.

Peterson is a Senior Director for Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.