Staff Sgt. (Sep.) Larry Peterson was an active duty member of the Air Force from 1970 to 1974. To hear him tell it, he was an Airman and a gunner for four years, four months, 27 days, 13 hours and 21 minutes.
Although it has been 40 years since the Hewlett Packard Data Center manager disembarked the AC-130H Spectre gunship for the final time, to say the aircraft is in his past would be altogether false; the Colorado native is never more than five feet away from the room he has filled with relics, or five minutes away from a larger-than-life retelling.
During his tenure, Peterson deployed to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base as part of the 16th Special Operations Squadron based with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing there. It was there that he completed his 10th combat mission and was awarded permanent air crew wings. By the end of the Vietnam Conflict in 1973, Peterson had amassed over 600 combat hours on more than 123 missions and lived through the deadliest year in Spectre gunship history. Ironically, in the midst of the mayhem, Peterson experienced, “the most serene and beautiful moment he has ever known,” when he was permitted to pilot the gunship between take off and the commencement of combat phase flight operations.
Peterson went on to aid firebases and troops-in-contact in South Vietnam, and relieve ground troops in Kontum and An Loc with precision airborne artillery delivery. For his actions, Peterson was awarded the Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Peterson credits the discipline and ‘one team, one fight’ mentality he has toward the time he spent in the world’s greatest Air Force.