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Chesley Gordon Peterson


Whilst serving with No. 71 Eagle Squadron, he was promoted to Flt Lt - the first American in the Eagle Squadrons to be promoted above the enlisted rank of Pilot Officer.
In October 1941 he received the RAF Distinguished Flying Cross, and in November that year he became Squadron Leader at the age of 21.
With the entry of the U.S. into the war, he eventually transferred to the USAAF with the 4th Fighter Group based at Debden. The transfer was completed on 12 September 1942, when the 4th Fighter Group was officially activated. Peterson was made a Major upon transfer. A month later he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
4th Fighter Group Commanding Officer, from 20 August 1943 to 23 December 1943.
On 15 April 1943 he had to bail out of his P-47 about 30 miles from the English coast when his plane caught fire. He was later picked up and returned to base. In August 1943 he became Commander of the 4th Fighter Group replacing Colonel Anderson, becoming the youngest Colonel in the USAAF. In October he was promoted to full Colonel at the age of 23. He was retired from flying duties, having completed 200 flying sorties, and left to serve as Combat Operations officer for the 9th Air Force and was credited with seven enemy aircraft destroyed. He served in Korea and Viet Nam and stayed in the service until retirement as a Major General in July 1970.



  • William Curtin

    Military | Squadron Leader | Fighter Controller
    William G Curtin joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938, where he trained at Hornchurch, Essex to become a flight controller, working in the operations room. He was stationed at Hornchurch throughout the Battle of Britain, when the station came under...

  • James Gray

    Military | Flight Lieutenant | Pilot
    James Gray was in college and taking a civilian pilot training course when the European war began. "I tried for the U.S. Army Air Corps and couldn’t pass the physical," he says. "I heard that the British were recruiting pilots for the Royal Air Force....

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Units served with

  • 4th Fighter Group

    4th Fighter Group

    Some of the pilots of the 4th Fighter Group had seen many hours of combat by the time they joined the 4th Fighter Group as they had volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The three 'Eagle Squadrons' of RAF Fighter...

  • 334th Fighter Squadron

    334th Fighter Squadron

    The 334th Fighter Squadron was the successor to No. 71 Eagle squadron of the Royal Air Force when the 4th Fighter Group was activated on 12 September 1942. They were based at Debden Field, Essex. The "Fighting Eagles" as they were called, flew...

  • No 71 'Eagle' Squadron

    No 71 'Eagle' Squadron

    'On 19 September 1940, No. 71 was reformed at Church Fenton as the first 'Eagle' Squadron to be manned by American personnel. The Squadron received Hurricanes in November and became operational on defensive duties on 5 February 1941. No. 71 converted...


  • 41-6413

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    This aircraft was at one time or another, assigned to the following pilots: Lt. Charles Carr, Capt. James A. Clark, Maj. Oscar Coen, Lt Col. Chesley Peterson, 1st Lt. Thomas J. Andrews.

  • W3627

    Supermarine Spitfire W3627 Mk Vb, Const #1954, Built at Chattis Hill. ...

  • AB810

    Supermarine Spitfire AB810 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. Delivered to No 12 MU 17-8-41, assigned to 71S 26-8-41, shot down by Fw190s on sweep to Hazebrouck 12-4-42 P/O Ben F Mays KIA. SOC.

  • AB909

    Supermarine Spitfire AB909 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. Delivered to No 6 MU 16-8-41, assigned to 71S 2-9-41, shot down by Bf109 on sweep over France 7-9-41, SOC 30-11-41.

  • AB199 'Mespotamia'

    Supermarine Spitfire AB199 Mk Vb, Const #2391, Built at Eastleigh. ...

  • BL449

    Supermarine Spitfire BL449 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

  • BM361

    Supermarine Spitfire BM361 Mk Vb, Built at Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

  • Z3170

    Hawker Hurricane Mk IIb Z3170 assigned to 258 Sqn. ...

Associated Place

  • Debden

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Debden, construction of which began in 1935, is perhaps most famous as a Battle of Britain fighter airfield, partly responsible for the defence of London in 1940. In 1942 it was also home to three RAF 'Eagle Squadrons’ of volunteer American pilots...

  • Kirton-in-Lindsey

    Military site : airfield
    Used as an RFC and RAF Home Defence landing ground during the First World War, Kirton-in-Lindsey was built during 1938-40 as an RAF fighter station. It had two grass runways, 10 hardstandings, three grouped C hangars and four over-blister hangars....

  • Martlesham Heath

    Military site : airfield
    Opened in 1917 as home to the RFC Aeroplane Experimental Unit, Martlesham Heath became well known during the 1920s-30s as home to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment. Used as an RAF fighter station from 1939, with only a grass airfield...


Event Location Date
Born Salem, Idaho 10 August 1920
Lived in Santaquin, UT, USA 1940
Died Riverside, CA 28 January 1990
Buried Riverside National Cemetery Riverside, Riverside County, CA February 1990

Chesley Peterson rests at the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California


Date Contributor Update
25 March 2021 14:52:03 Al_Skiff Changes to events and unit associations

Date Contributor Update
15 July 2020 10:09:33 ED-BB Changes to middlename, biography and events

VA Gravesite Locator

Date Contributor Update
30 November 2018 14:23:12 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography

"The Mighty Eighth", Roger Freeman.

Date Contributor Update
14 September 2017 06:59:40 fugari Changes to service number, highest rank, role, biography, awards and events

JCook Photo Collection & Archives

Date Contributor Update
08 April 2016 21:55:37 WD-C Mustang Changes to biography

Fixed minor error in bio

Date Contributor Update
26 February 2016 17:52:16 Al_Skiff Changes to unit associations and place associations

Eagle squadron re-alignment.

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 09:29:53 Emily Changes to media associations

Associated media from the Freeman collection. Combined information from two records into one, additional information from Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list

Date Contributor Update
26 March 2015 11:08:07 Al_Skiff Changes to unit associations

AAM Database.

Date Contributor Update
01 March 2015 15:29:05 apollo11 Changes to biography and awards

All information correct as far as I am aware.

Date Contributor Update
03 November 2014 16:09:46 Lucy May Changes to middlename, biography, events, place associations and media associations

Combined two entries for Chesley Peterson. This entry now includes information from the following sources:

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list /

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:06:07 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Roll of Honor, Losses of the 8th and 9th AFs Vol. I by Bishop and Hey, p. 103, Aces of the Mighty 8th by Scutts and Stanaway pp. 102-103, National Gravesite Locator