Remembering Wyoming WWII Hero James ‘Vern’ Peterson
One of the last surviving War World II veterans in Wyoming passed away on Wednesday. Sergeant James Vernon "Vern" Peterson was 96.
Peterson's family moved to Wyoming when he was a child. After graduating from Green River High School in 1941, he volunteered for War World II and completed 35 missions as an Army Air Force radio operator and gunner on B-17 and B-24 bombers between 1941 and 1945. He was injured when one of the planes was shot down over Germany and was forced to make a crash landing.
"We were lucky,” Peterson told Sweetwater Now earlier this year. "There were a couple (of) missions where I didn’t think we’d make it, but we had a damn good pilot."
After the war, Peterson enrolled at the University of Wyoming and earned an education degree in 1951. In Laramie, Verne met the love of his life, Betty Jane Strong. They tied the knot in 1955 and moved to Rock Springs, where he was a math teacher for over 30 years. The Petersons had one child, a son named Von, and were married for 57 years until Betty's death in 2012.
In June, Peterson was the guest of honor at the B-17 Bomber Living Legends of Victory Tour at the Rock Springs Airport. During the even he was invited to autograph the aircraft with the number of missions he flew, leaving a permanent reminder to mark his service.
"When you see a B-17, you pat yourself on the back, because I got back home,” he said at the ceremony.
Sergeant Peterson will be buried with military honors on Tuesday, October 15th at Rest Haven Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Rock Springs.