Chesley Peterson was born on August 10, 1920, in Salmon, Idaho. He enlisted in the Utah National Guard on April 6, 1938, and served until September 20, 1939, when he was accepted into the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Peterson left the Air Corps in January 1940 and joined the British Royal Air Force. While flying with 71 Eagle Squadron of the RAF in England, he was credited with the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Peterson joined the U.S. Army Air Forces when the Eagle Squadrons were absorbed in September 1942, and he served as Executive Officer of the 4th Fighter Group from September 1942 to June 1943. During this time, Peterson was credited with his 7th Air Victory during World War II. From July to August 1943, he served on the staff of 8th Fighter Command, and then became Commander of the 4th Fighter Group, where he served until January 1944. Col Peterson then served on the staff of 9th Air Force in England from January to September 1944. He then returned to the United States and attended Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from September 1944 to January 1945. His next assignment was as the base commander at Dale Mabry Field, Florida, where he served from March to August 1945, followed by service as Chief of the Air Attache Branch at Headquarters Army Air Forces in the Pentagon, where he served until March 1946. Peterson served as military attache and air attache to South Africa from March 1946 to April 1949, and then served as air instructor to the 128th Fighter Bomber Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard from August 1949 to April 1951. He became commander of the 137th Fighter Bomber Group at Alexandria, Louisiana, in August 1951, and deployed with the group to Chaumont AB, France, from May 1952 to June 1953, when he was made Commander of the 48th Fighter Bomber Wing, also at Chaumont AB. He served at Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from June 1955 to August 1958, and then attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1958 to July 1959. His next assignment was as Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and Deputy Commander of the 41st Air Division at Itazuke AB and then Johnson AB, Japan, from July 1959 to July 1961, and then as Chief of Staff at Headquarters 5th Air Force at Fuchu AS, Japan, from July 1961 to July 1963. Gen Peterson served as Assistant Chief of Staff J-2 for U.S. Strike Command at MacDill AFB, Florida, from July to October 1963, and then as Director of Intelligence of Strike Command until December 1965, when he was made Director of Plans for Strike Command. His final assignment was as assistant chief of staff for intelligence on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Pacific, from April 1967 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 31, 1970. Chesley Peterson died on January 28, 1990, and was buried at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism in action over enemy territory in continental Europe in May 1943. While leading a formation in escort of bombardment aircraft and after his wing man had dropped behind due to motor trouble, this officer sighted eight enemy airplanes about to attack the bomber formation. With utter disregard for his personal safety and without assistance he immediately engaged the eight enemy aircraft, probably destroying one and damaging another. The vigor and fearlessness of his attack completely disrupted the enemy formation and routed the enemy attack, thereby contributing largely to the safety of the bomber aircraft and the successful completion of their mission.