Delbert Peterson was born on May 11, 1939, in Manson, Iowa. He was commissioned a 2d Lt through the Air Force ROTC program on July 12, 1962, and went on active duty beginning January 14, 1963. Lt Peterson completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, in February 1964, and then attended C-130 Hercules transition training before serving as a C-130 pilot with the 29th Air Transport Squadron at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, from June 1964 to October 1965. Lt Peterson then deployed to Southeast Asia where he served as an AC-47 Spooky gunship co-pilot with the 4th Air Commando Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Airfield, South Vietnam, from November 1965 until he was killed in action during the Battle of A Shau on March 9, 1966. His remains have never been returned, and he was officially listed as Missing in Action until declared dead on February 9, 1978.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Delbert R. Peterson distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Co-Pilot of an AC-47 near A Shau, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 March 1966. On that date, Lieutenant Peterson and crew responded to a desperate plea for close air support from the embattled defenders of the Special Forces Camp at A Shau. Arriving over the battle scene, Lieutenant Peterson's aircraft penetrated a four hundred foot cloud ceiling to reach the beleaguered, mountain shrouded fort. Shortly after making a firing pass at treetop level, the aircraft's right engine was torn from its mounts by savage .50 calibre antiaircraft fire. Seconds later the left engine was lost and the pilot crash-landed the aircraft on a nearby mountain slope. Realizing that the Viet Cong would soon swarm to the crash site, Lieutenant Peterson displayed utter disregard for his own safety as he refused to abandon a badly injured fellow crew member. The Viet Cong attacked immediately but were beaten back by the downed crew. During the second assault, one crew member was killed and another seriously wounded, but again the Viet Cong were repelled. As they pressed their third attack, Lieutenant Peterson, in a last ditch effort, gallantly and heroically charged the hostile forces. The intensity of hostile fire immediately diminished. Largely through his determined resistance, rescue aircraft were able to pick up the surviving crew members. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the opposing force, Lieutenant Peterson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.