The 506th Fighter Group lost another pilot when 1st Lt. Bill Peterson passed away on July 3, 2021. Wilhelm (Bill) Herbert Peterson was born on June 27, 1923, in Gary, Indiana. Bill’s family moved to Sebring, Florida early in his childhood, and Bill left high school after the 11th grade and enrolled in the University of Florida. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Force Reserve and was in his last year of college when he was called up.
He started his basic flight training at Americus, Georgia, flying Boeing’s primary trainer, the PT-17 Stearman biplane, and then went to Greenwood, Mississippi, flying the Vultee BT-13 basic trainer. Bill continued his training at Dothan, Alabama, flying the North American AT-6 advanced trainer, and completed his flight training at Montgomery, Alabama, flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk where he received his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.
2nd Lt. Peterson was assigned to the 458th Fighter Squadron shortly after the 506th Fighter Group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Force base in October, 1944. The 506th was trained solely for very long range missions.
Below are two pictures of 2nd Lt. Peterson during tour of duty on Iwo Jima. The first is of 2nd Lt. F.H. Wheeler (front), 2nd Lt. Robert “Andy” Anderstrom (back left), and 2nd Lt. Wilhelm Peterson (back right).
The second is of C Flight of the 458th Fighter Squadron. 2nd Lt. Peterson is in the back row, fifth from the left.
1st Lieutenant Myndret S. Starin and 2nd Lieutenant Wilhelm W. Peterson were assigned to fly 580 “Shirley III/Augusta Wind” a P-51D-25-NA (Serial No. 44-72890). 1st Lt. Starin named the plane Shirley III, which appeared on the port side of the nose, and 2nd Lt. Peterson named the plane Augusta Wind after his wife, Augusta, which appeared on the starboard side of the nose.
Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of 580 showing the name Augusta Wind on nose. Below is the only photo of starboard side of 580. Because the cowl panels have been removed for maintenance, we are unable to see the name Augusta Wind.
Bill flew many VLR missions to Japan and back during his tour of duty, and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. Bill returned to the United States in early January of 1946, just in time to enroll for his final semester at the University of Florida.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Bill worked in the life insurance industry for 19 years, and then had a very successful practice as a certified public accountant. On July 3, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.
On July 10, 2013, Bill gave an interview as part of the University of Central Florida Veterans’ History Project recounting his life and service to his country as part of the 506th Fighter Group. Bill’s interview can be found here: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/veteransoralhistories/172/