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Pete Peterson

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Pete Peterson
Ambassador of the United States of America to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
In office
April 11, 1997 – July 15, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded byInaugural holder
Succeeded byRaymond Burghardt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byBill Grant
Succeeded byAllen Boyd
Personal details
Douglas Brian Peterson

(1935-06-26) June 26, 1935 (age 88)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
CitizenshipAustralian (since 2002)[1]
Political partyDemocratic
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Air Force
Years of service1954–1980
Unit433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Battles/warsVietnam War (WIA)
AwardsSilver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal (3)
Purple Heart

Douglas Brian "Pete" Peterson (born June 26, 1935) is an American politician and diplomat. He served as a United States Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War and spent over six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese army after his plane was shot down. He returned to Hanoi when he became the first United States Ambassador to Vietnam in 1997. He was an ambassador until July 2001, after which he devoted himself to philanthropic work.

Early life and education[edit]

Peterson grew up in Milton, Iowa, and attended college at the University of Tampa. He joined the United States Air Force and served in the Vietnam War, where his F-4 Phantom II fighter was shot down on September 10, 1966. He spent six years in prison, a period he described as "hours and hours of boredom, spliced with moments of stark terror."[1] He was released on March 4, 1973.


After the Vietnam War, Peterson remained in the Air Force and retired in 1981 as a colonel with 26 years of service. After retirement he established a general contracting firm in Tampa, Florida and later a small computer company in Marianna, Florida called CRT Computers. He served for 5 years on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

In 1990, Peterson ran as a Democrat for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in Florida's 2nd congressional district. He defeated James W. Grant, a politician who grew unpopular after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of his second term. He declined to run for a fourth term (he was succeeded by Allen Boyd) and in 1997 was asked by President Bill Clinton to become the United States's first post-war ambassador to Vietnam.[1] One of his goals was securing an account of those still listed as missing in action from the war and so helping to resolve the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

On November 17, 2000, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.

Philanthropy and business[edit]

Since retiring as ambassador, Peterson founded The Alliance for Safe Children, TASC, which aims to lower preventable injuries to children worldwide, and focuses specifically on such issues as drowning in Asia.[2][3] With his wife he started a company whose aim it is to promote American business in Southeast Asia.[4]

Peterson is a senior advisor for Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.

Personal life[edit]

Peterson's first wife died in 1995. Two weeks after his installation in Hanoi, he met Vi Le, Australia's senior trade commissioner, born in Vietnam, whom he married. In 2002, he moved to Melbourne, Australia, so they could be closer to her family.[1]

In 2009, Peterson acquired Australian citizenship.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Webb, Carolyn (17 September 2009). "POW's journey to Australia, via love in Vietnam". The Age. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Children from developing world dying of preventable injuries: UN". ABC News. 6 October 2002. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  3. ^ William Kremer (23 March 2013). "Pete Peterson: The ex-POW teaching Vietnam to swim". BBC News magazine.
  4. ^ "Pete Peterson starts business". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 8 October 2010.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by U.S. Representative
Florida's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
new office
United States Ambassador to Vietnam
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative