Name: Delbert Ray Peterson
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 6250th Combat Support Group
Date of Birth: 11 May 1939  Manson IA
Home City of Record: Maple Plain MN
Date of Loss: 09 March 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 160758N 1071956E (YC494849)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47

Other Personnel in Incident: Willard M. Collins; Robert E. Foster (both

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated
by the P.O.W. NETWORK. 2020


SYNOPSIS: The AC47 introduced a new principle to air attack in Vietnam.
Troubled by difficulties in conducting nighttime defense, Capt. Ronald Terry
of the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division recalled reading about
missionaries in Latin America who lowered baskets of supplies on a rope from
a tightly circling airplane. During the series of pylon turns, the basket
remained suspended over a selected point on the ground. Could this principle
be applied to fire from automatic weapons? Tests proved it could, and could
be extremely successful.

The aircraft chosen for this new principle was a version of the Douglas C47.
It was dubbed, "Puff the Magic Dragon," after a popular song of the day,
because it resembled a dragon overhead with flames billowing from its guns.
In operation, Puff's "flare kicker" illuminated the target, then the pilot
used a mark on his left window as a gun sight, and circled slowly as three
multibarrel machine guns fired 18,000 rounds per minute from the door and
two windows in the port side of the rear compartment. Ground troops welcomed
the sight of Puff because of its ability to put a heavy dose of defensive
fire in a surgically determined area.

On March 9, 1966, Capt. Willard M. Collins, 1Lt. Delbert R. Peterson, and
Ssgt. Robert E. Foster were part of the crew of an AC47 sent on a combat
mission over the A Shau Valley in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. They
were engaged in an effort to save a Special Forces firebase from being
overrun by enemy troops.

During the mission, the Puff was hit by enemy fire and crashed. After
impact, three of the crew were rescued. According to these men, Foster was
holding off enemy troops when the last attempt to rescue him failed. Of the
three who were not rescued, Foster and Collins were declared Killed in
Action and Peterson was declared Missing in Action. This suggests that at
least Foster and Peterson, and perhaps all three, were alive at the time of
the last futile rescue attempt.

Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, over 10,000 reports have
been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans missing there.
Many authorities have concluded that there are hundreds left alive in
captivity today. When the United States left Southeast Asia, what was termed
"peace with honor" was in reality an abandonment -- of the freedom-loving
peoples of Vietnam and Laos, and of America's best men. It's time we brought
our men home.

Delbert R. Peterson was promoted to the rank of Major during the period he
was maintained Missing in Action.

                                PROJECT X
                        SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE

NAME: PETERSON, Delbert R., Lieutenant USAF



RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: When last seen, Lt Peterson was alive uninjured,
and crawling, behind his crashed AC-47 aircraft to take up a position to
secure the aircraft. Friendly forces searched the site about 30 minutes
after other crash survivors had been rescued, but they could find no trace
of him. There is no evidence of this officer's death.

REFNO: 0267 19 Apr 76


1. On 9 March 1966 Lt Delbert R. Peterson, co-pilot, Ssgt Robert E. Foster
and SSgt [blank], gunners, Capt. William M.Collins, pilot, Ssgt [blank],
flight engineer, and Capt. [blank] navigator, were the crew of an AC-47
aircraft, #44-76290, call sign SPOOKY 70), which departed Da Nang, South
Vietnam, on a close air support mission over a Special Forces camp in the
A-Shau Valley. While approaching the camp on a firing pass, the aircraft
was hit by enemy ground fire, forcing the pilot to crash-land in the
vicinity of grid coordinates YC 494 849, about five miles north of the
camp. After the crash, a defensive perimeter was set up around the
aircraft, as enemy fire was being received. About 20 minutes after the
crash, radio contact was made with the pilot of an Army L-19 aircraft. That
pilot was able to direct several AlE aircraft to the crash location to
suppress the enemy fire. While the AlEs made attack passes over the area,
Lt Peterson crawled into the underbrush at the rear of the aircraft to take
up a position. He was uninjured, was wearing his survival jacket, and was
carrying an M-16 rifle. About 20 to 30 minutes later the crew was informed
by radio that rescue helicopters were enroute, and at about this time the
enemy raked the entire right side of the downed aircraft with machine gun
fire, killing SSgt Foster and Capt. Collins. The enemy fire was temporarily
silenced by the AlEs, and after the firing, Capt. [blank] called out for Lt
Peterson but received no response. SSgt [blank] attempted to crawl toward
Lt Peterson's position, but was turned back by heavy enemy fire. (Ref 1)

2. After the rescue helicopters were brought in, Capt. [blank] and and SSgt
[blank] both called out for Lt Peterson many times, but neither received a
response. Capt. [blank] SSgt [blank] and SSgt [blank] were successfully
rescued. Just after take-off, the immediate area around the crash site was
searched, but Lt Peterson could not be seen. That evening and the following
day, Special Forces personnel searched around the crash site and reported
finding, (but not recovering), the bodies of Capt. Collins and SSgt Foster.
They found no trace of Lt Peterson. (Ref 1)

3. In September 1973, at the request of JCRC, the U.S. Defense Attache
Office in Saigon reviewed available aerial photography. Wreckage of two
C-47's was analyzed at locations near the coordinates listed for this case;
at (GC) YC 483 870 and at (GC) 498 836, but nothing was revealed for this
case. On 2 May 1974 JCRC proposed to the U.S. Delegation, Four-Party joint
Military Team that an operation be conducted at the site in an area
controlled by the Communists (PRG). On 10 May 1974 the U.S. Delegation
proposed to the communists that a U.S. Specialist Search Team visit the
site to search for and recover any remains. No response was ever
forthcoming from the Communists.

4. Capt. Collins and SSgt Foster are currently carried in the status of
Dead, Body Not Recovered. Lt Peterson is currently carried in the status of


1. RPT (U), HQ 6252 CSG (DPPA), w/statements, 14 Mar 66.


1. Delbert R. Peterson 0267-0-01

2. Robert E. Foster 0267-0-01

3. William M. Collins 0267-0-01

                 * National Alliance of Families Home Page




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On March 9, 1966, an AC-47 Spooky (bureau number 44-76290) with six crew members was providing close air support in defense of the A Shau Special Forces Camp, which was under heavy enemy assault and in danger of being overrun. On its second pass at treetop level over the enemy, the Spooky was hit by enemy ground fire, which tore the right engine from its mounts and forced the pilot to crash land on a nearby mountainside, in the vicinity of grid coordinates YC 481 871. The crew set up a defensive perimeter around the aircraft but the enemy attacked again. Soon after, the crew made radio contact with a U.S. Army pilot, who then located the downed Spooky and directed additional U.S. aircraft to make passes over the area to suppress enemy fire. The downed crew eventually received word that rescue helicopters were en route but within a short while, enemy fire raked the side of the Spooky and killed two crew members. A third enemy assault began just as the rescue helicopter arrived; the helicopter rescued three of the remaining four crew members. The two crew members who died during the action, and the remaining crew member who was not rescued following the third assault, were not recovered and all remain unaccounted-for.

First Lieutenant Delbert Ray Peterson entered the U.S. Air Force from Iowa and served in the 6250th Combat Support Group. He was the copilot of this AC-47 when it was shot down on March 9, 1966, and he survived the crash and then took up a sentry position at the aircraft to fend off the enemy. When the rescue helicopter landed during a third enemy attack, 1st Lt Peterson was seen charging an enemy machine gun position with his M-16 rifle and .38 caliber pistol. He did not make it on board the rescue helicopter and was not spotted in the loss area from the air. Later attempts to locate or identify his remains were unsuccessful. Following the incident, the Air Force promoted 1st Lt Peterson to the rank of Major (Maj). Today, Major Peterson is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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