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Tragic wreck inspired base’s name

An F-4 “Photo Lightning” is guarded by U.S. Army Air Corp security members circa 1940s. The F-4 was flown by 1st Lt. Edward Peterson when he crashed on Aug. 8, 1942, while serving as a pilot in the Army Air Forces at Colorado Springs Air Base. The base was later renamed in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Peterson Museum)

An F-4 “Photo Lightning” is guarded by U.S. Army Air Corp security members circa 1940s. The F-4 was flown by 1st Lt. Edward Peterson when he crashed on Aug. 8, 1942, while serving as a pilot in the Army Air Forces at Colorado Springs Air Base. The base was later renamed in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Peterson Museum)

1st Lt. Edward Peterson poses with an airplane circa 1942. While serving as a pilot in the Army Air Forces, Lieutenant Peterson was killed in a plane accident at Colorado Springs Air Base, which was subsequently renamed in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Peterson Museum)

1st Lt. Edward Peterson poses with an airplane circa 1942. While serving as a pilot in the Army Air Forces, Lt. Peterson was killed in a plane accident at Colorado Springs Air Base, which was subsequently renamed in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Peterson Museum)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- An airplane crash in the 1940s continues to represent one Airman’s legacy decades later in the name of the base at which he served.

According to records from the Peterson Air & Space Museum Aug. 8, 1942, 1st Lt. Edward Peterson lifted off from the runway at the Colorado Springs Army Air Base in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning for the purpose of taking it out for a test flight. Moments after leaving the ground an engine failed, and just before noon the plane crashed and burst into flames.

According to an article written by Jeffrey Nash, Peterson Air & Space Museum assistant director, published on Sept. 16, 2008, a three-man crash rescue team was on the scene “almost immediately.”

“Three enlisted soldiers, Tech Sgt. Albertis Hilbert, and Sgts. Walter Boulier and Thomas Deutsch, risked their lived by running through the massive fire to get Lt. Peterson out of the aircraft,” he said in the article. “They lifted him out of the cockpit by his parachute straps and carried him to a waiting ambulance, which set out for a hospital in Colorado Springs.”

Peterson was transported to Glockner Hospital, now known as Penrose Hospital, in Colorado Springs with massive burns over his body. Fading in and out of consciousness, Peterson’s main concern was whether or not he would fly again. Despite his focus, Peterson succumbed to his injuries and died at 3 p.m. that afternoon.

Peterson was the first Colorado native to die in the line of duty. To honor him, the base was renamed in December, 1942 to Peterson Army Air Base. Later, in 1976, the name was changed again, this time to its current moniker, Peterson Air Force Base.

Several sources, including the Peterson Air & Space Museum web site, note Peterson’s community involvement. He graduated from Englewood High School in 1935 where he played football and ran track. He also excelled academically, ranking fifth in his graduating class.

Additionally, Peterson was an Eagle Scout and founded the Englewood chapter of the Order of DeMolay, an organization that aims to prepare young men to become successful leaders and positive members of society. The organization, now known as DeMolay International inducted Peterson into its hall of fame in an on-base ceremony in 2016.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui