Carroll Peterson

Carroll Peterson

Meet Carroll Peterson… born February 25, 1919. Carroll was the 5th child of 6 born to Luther and Hilda(Lundberg) Peterson – 3 boys and 3 girls. Luther and Hilda had been born and raised in the Stanton and Nyman area. They were married December 17, 1903 (…the same day as the Wright Brothers initial flight in North Carolina… keep that day in mind for later.).

Their farm was 2 miles south and 3 mile west of Stanton and was very typical of farms in the first half of the twenty century. It was 160 acres and they typically raised corn, alfalfa, and oats, and the livestock part of the operation was also very typical – stock cows, milking cows, hogs, and chickens. As anyone knows that grew up in a similar setting, there are always plenty of chores in an operation such as The Petersons’.

They milked 5 to 6 cows for family use as well as to have cream to sell weekly. Eggs from laying hens also provided for family food use, as well as to sell weekly for groceries and other cash requirements. They hauled their cream and eggs to Red Oak on Saturday evening to sell at Martin and Sons, at 5th St and Washington Ave. Carroll recalls that the square would be so crowded on Saturday night that it was difficult to drive around the square, so most folks parked and walked wherever they needed to go. As anyone from this time period knows, Saturday was THE big day in town – both for shopping as well as socializing.

Carroll’s entire 8 years of elementary school was attending Lombardy Grove in Scott Township that was over a mile. And like all kids of the day, Carroll and his siblings walked to school. As folks from the period may recall, school was held from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. with 15 minute recesses in mid-morning and mid-afternoon, with a one hour lunch period. Typical games of the day would generally include kids from all classes and involved games of “tag”, “Andy-over”, “drop-the-handkerchief”, etc. Following grade school, Carroll attended Stanton High School and graduated in 1935 in a class of 18. Through the sophomore year of high school, Carroll, like a lot of others, rode his horse to school. And like other schools, Stanton had a livery stable where the horses were kept during the day.

Sports were not a real important part of schools in the 30s and most time was spent on the basics of education. Carroll recalls his favorite subject was mathematics and his least favorite subject was English. After graduating from high school, Carroll enrolled at Red Oak Junior College in the fall of 1935. At that time, there were approximately 60 in ROJC and liberal arts classes were held on the top floor of the high school building (…this is now the Middle School building and the “junior high” at that time was across the street on the north side of Corning, between 3rd St and 4th St.)

1935 was sandwiched in between two extreme weather years of 1934 and 1936. Extremely hot in summers and cold in the winters, had put farm operations in very difficult conditions. (editor note: even to this day, many of the record temperatures – both highs and lows – are from these years) In order to survive, the number of head of livestock had to be cut back since corn and hay were in limited supply. The fact is that families of the time were very hardy and frugal and this frugality allowed them to make it through tough times.

But because farm families had to reduce their operations, many of the younger members of a family left the farms in order to search for work outside of farming. Like many young men from Iowa, Carroll headed for California. The word-on-the-street was that there were jobs there. In the summer of 1936, after reaching California, the first job Carroll got was parking cars (valet parking) for patrons of the Plaza Hotel that was located at Hollywood & Vine. He would drive cars to a parking area about 2 blocks away and then would retrieve them upon request.

Parking cars was not a great paying job, so Carroll eventually got a construction job that paid 40 cents/hour. The job involved installing skylights in the roof of aircraft manufacturers. This was a good paying job, but the company eventually ran out of work and Carroll was once again looking for work. He would survive on numerous odd jobs including washing dishes and waiting tables in some of the local cafes’ and restaurants at $10/week plus meals.

In December of 1940, the draft law was passed and the National Guard was being mobilized. Like a lot of young guys that were struggling to make ends meet during this depression period, Carroll decide to join the 160th (light) Infantry Regiment in Los Angeles, whose nickname was “Blackjack”. Since many in the USA wanted to stay out of the war raging in Europe, the term, “mobilization” was replaced by the term “federalized”. Regardless of the terms used, the fact is that the our country was preparing for war. Heroes such as Charles Lindberg fueled the “isolationism” ideology of the time.

In February 1941, Carroll was sent to Camp San Luis Obispo.

(editor note: Camp San Luis Obispo is the original home of the California Army National Guard. It served as an Infantry Division Camp and Cantonment Area for the US Army during World War II. It was formerly called Camp Merriam and was established in 1928. The camp is in San Luis Obispo County, which is on the Central Coast of California. State Route 1 passes through the camp about halfway between the cities of Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo

On the day following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the troops of the base were mobilized. Each man was issued an M1 rifle and 8 rounds of ammunition (…only 8 rounds were issued because that is all the inventory that was available at the time). The troops were deployed up and down the coast of California and were on alert for a possible invasion by the Japanese. It was during this time, December 1941, that Carroll met a young lady from Omaha by the name of Mary Peterson. There was a bond formed that would last from that time forward and to this day.

Some time later, a notice was placed on the camp bulletin board requesting applications for those that were interested in applying for the Army Air Corp (…it was not yet “Air Force” and would not be until September 18, 1947). Carroll took the tests and passed. Upon being accepted into the Air Corp, he was shipped out for training to Santa Ana Army Air Base – Classification Center and Ground School for Air Corps Cadet Replacement Training. This camp had just been activated in February of 1942 and Carroll arrived there in September 1942. After testing, Carroll was classified as a bombardier – no doubt his mathematics ability influenced this classification since technology of the day was necessary. Following the classification, his training involved book learning and close order drilling (A military drill in marching shoulder-to-shoulder, maneuvering, and formal handling of arms in which the troops perform at close intervals).

On December 17, 1942 (remember that day? was the same day that Carroll’s folks were married – in 1903), Mary caught a bus to Santa Anna and she and Carroll got married – she then took the bus back to town to live in a rented room. Their time spent together during this period was the time allotted for a weekend pass – 6 p.m. on Saturday night to noon on Sunday – not a lot of time together for a young married couple.

In March of 1943, Carroll was sent to Albuquerque NM to Kirtland Army Air Field for flight training of entire flight crews for the B-17 and B-24 bombers. Training consisted of practice bombing runs with 100 pound bombs that were stove pipe filled with sand. After a couple of months, Carroll was sent to San Angelo Texas Navigator and Bombardier School. This training involved a lot of mathematical calculations and maps study. Practice navigational missions were conducted all over The South and to the West Coast.

In May 1943, Carroll was shipped to Barksdale Air Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana for combat crew training for the relatively new B-26. Very soon after arrival, individuals were selected and formed into a unit or a “crew”. A 6 man crew consisted of a pilot, a co-pilot, a bombardier/navigator, and 3 gunners…top turret gunner (TTG), a tail gunner and a waist gunner. This training would last until November 1943. The major portion of the bombing missions would be with the same crew, although there were a few exceptions.

On December 17, 1943 Carroll was shipped to Italy (…does that day look familiar? was Carroll and Mary’s first anniversary). Carroll’s crew was assigned to the 17th Bomb Group in Villacidro, Sardinia, Italy. The 17th Bomb Group had been converted to B-26’s in the summer of 1942. The objective of The 17th was the drive towards Rome that was only 20 miles away.

The Martin B-26 Marauder was introduced in 1941 and was a medium range bomber that generally flew at 9,000 to 11,000 feet. They flew without oxygen so that they could not fly higher. They carried two ton of bombs. Depending on the objective of the mission, it may have been 2 – 1 ton bombs, 4 – 1000 pound bombs, or 8 – 500 pounders…or some combination of those. On occasion, the mission would carry fragmentation or “frag” bombs. These were equivalent to 20 pound hand grenades and were used for support of troops on the ground, and clearing areas prior to some planned ground invasion. Even then the our military observed a “pull your punches war” – Rome had numerous shrines and these were off limits to any bombing mission. A typical mission would last 4 to 5 hours and the targets would be railroads, bridges, docks, etc. Many of these targets would be bombed multiple times, since targets were rapidly rebuilt, but one of the objective was to keep the enemy occupied in such activity.

Each squadron had 2 or 3 photographers that alternated between planes on each mission. On one memorable mission when one of the photographers was flying with Carroll’s crew, he captured on film another crew being shot down. Carroll’s crew had made there run and were on the way out when the photographer got this photo (below) of a crew that was heading into their target objective. Flying through flak was common, but on this occasion this crew’s plane took a direct hit on an engine, as seen in the photo… only two members of the crew survived. While such scenes were common during Carroll’s tour, it was rare to capture such an event on film.

One of the Martin Bomber Assembly Plants (The Glenn L. Martin Company) was located near Omaha NE in what is now know as Offutt Air Force Base…I believe the plant is now known as Building D. This plant was an important contribution to America’s World War II effort. Of the nearly 5300 that were produced, 1500 B-26 Marauder medium range bombers were built in the Omaha plant.

It is reported that the B-26 is the only bomber with 4 blade props – all other bombers have 3 blades. The B-26 had 2 – 2000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines…positioned 6 foot either side of the nose of the plane, which was where the bombardier was located… would you guess it would be a “little noisey” where Carroll was positioned with his 50 caliber machine gun? It should be noted that while the pilot/co-pilot controlled the speed and altitude of the plane, the bombardier could control the “direction” once the auto-pilot was set. Of course this was necessary for accuracy of the hitting the intended target.

By comparison, the B-17 Flying Fortress was much larger, flew higher, carried heavier bomb load and flew longer missions

Just before The Battle of Anzio that began on January 22, 1944, all crews were called to the mess hall and informed by the Air Corp Commander of the mission at hand and that the goal was to be in Rome by the first part of February 1943…it would be June 5, 1943 before they made it to Rome.

Editor note:
Carroll has a favorite poem that describes this battle in exact detail…click here to read the poem The Pinch Hitters at Anzio

It was during this period that The Commander called all crews to the mess hall again. A full tour was considered to be 40 missions and then the individual would return state-side, but The Commander informed crews that replacements were not keeping up with casualties and that the “40 mission and out” rule was being scrubbed. Carroll would fly a total of 78 missions before returning state-side. Carroll attended Sunday chapel regularly, but he noted that after the scrubbing of the 40 mission plan, attendance went up…go figure!

He flew his last mission in November 1944. He then return, along with a couple thousand other troops, to New York Harbor. He had been shipped to Europe on a British ship and was returning to the US on a French ship. He arrived in New York on December 17 1944.(…does that day still sound familiar?..yep – it was his and Mary’s second anniversary.)

After arriving back in The States, Carroll was allowed 2 weeks furlough before reporting to Van Nuys Army Air Field for 2 weeks and then on to Midland Army Air Field in Midland Texas in January 1945. The training here was in preparation for a Japanese invasion. Of course the A-Bomb would soon bring an abrupt end to World Ware II. It was during this time that the Army had adopted a point system to determine possible discharge. Certain points were allowed for length of service, number of dependents, decorations earned and a few more areas of service. The requirement was to have at least 90 points in order to be considered for discharge. Carroll’s point total added up to 110 points…he was discharged in June 1945.

After a period of time to just relax and unwind from the stressful years of service, Carroll came home to Stanton and took over the farming operation of his parents. His parents moved to Stanton so that Mary and Carroll could move to the “home place” farm. He would operate the family farm for 9 years with pretty much the same operation that his parents had managed for their entire farm life.

In 1955, Carroll and Mary paid $200/acre for a 225 acre farm just a half mile east of Viking Lake that was under construction at the time. Carroll recalls Homer Focht clearing and burning 75 acres of timber, building roads and parking areas and more. He also recalled that there was a local contest for the naming of the new lake and that the winner of that contest was Carl Albert Johnson. He rationalized that it could have been named Hultman Lake – named after Oscar Hultman, state representative. Oscar had been the driving force behind the project for a number of years. Oscar had two sons, Donavan and Calvin, and Cal Hultman would follow his dad’s footsteps in state political service.

One of Carroll’s neighbors was Millard Anderson. In the early 60s when new Highway 34 was being constructed, the new highway virtually bisected Millard’s 200 acre farm in equal parcels. Millard was very upset with the entire situation and decided to sell his farm. Carroll bought both parcels for $200/acre. He later paid $330/acre for a connecting 40 acres from the estate of a deceased Red Oak lawyer.

He would continue to farm until 1999 when at the age of 80, he decided to retire. However, he and Mary would continue to live on the farm for nine more years. They then spent a winter in Virginia with son Phillip before moving to Arlington Place, Red Oak in 2009 where they currently reside.

Mary and Carroll had four sons; Carl (wife is Darleen), Michael (divorced), Darwin (wife is Susan) and Phillip (wife is Becky). They also have 19 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

  • Carl went to University of Missouri to study medicine and became a surgeon at the Des Moines VA Hospital and is now retired.
  • Michael is an instructor for Heartland Express. Heartland is one of the largest truck lines in the country and is based in New Liberty IA.
  • Darwin studied medicine at the University of Iowa and is currently a surgeon at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City IA
  • Phillip also studied medicine at the University of Iowa and is currently in Family Practice in Virginia.