February 8, 2016 e-mail
My grandparents were emigrants from Denmark who settled around Harlan in or near the small towns of Jacksonville, Elk Horn, Kimballton, and Poplar. All were farmers and as far as I know had no connections with Manning. My parents moved to a farm a mile west and mile south of Botna in 1945. We all (Peter, John, Roger, and Everett) attended Jefferson #2. John and I graduated from Manning, class of 1953 for me and a year later for John. Roger, brother number 3, attended Manning through his Sophomore year and then, after school boundaries were changed, graduated from Irwin. Everett, the youngest of the brothers, never attended Manning and graduated from Irwin.
I am just about finished with my military memoir. The first half is relatively standard stuff except for the fact that I was assigned to a SCARWAF (Special Category Army With Air force) unit. The second part involves one of the most contentious issues of the Cold War, particularly aerial reconnaissance of the USSR by the United States. Some of this touches just briefly on the first U-2 flights, but most of it deals with a now largely forgotten effort by the CIA to use huge balloons to carry cameras across the USSR.
Much of this was just recently declassified. I will send you a copy if you are interested. I have a few photos as well and can send them to you to scan.
I turned 81 yesterday, so I think I better get on with some of this stuff.
Memorial Service Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church 2:00 P.M. - Monday - February 10, 2020 Amarillo, Texas
Officiants Pastor Steve Brauner, Pastor Wendi Gordon, Eric Petersen, Dr. James Calvi
Organist: Marsha Moller
Vocalists: Spencer and Tanya Berry
Honorary Pallbearers Former Students and Colleagues
Interment/Columbarium Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church Amarillo, Texas
Military Honors provided by Volleys for Veterans
Thank you for silencing your phone.
BROOKS FUNERAL DIRECTORS
Peter L. Petersen Ph.D. (84) died Wednesday, February 5, 2020, in Amarillo Texas. Honorary Pallbearers are Peter's former students and colleagues.
Peter Lewis Petersen was born February 7, 1935, on a farm near Harlan, Iowa, the first of Allen and Clara (Juhl) Petersen's four sons. He attended Jefferson No. 2, a one-room school through the sixth grade, and graduated from Manning High School in 1953.
He then joined the Army and was trained as a heavy equipment operator. Assigned to the Air Force as part of the Special Category Army With Air Force (SCARWAF) program, he worked on the construction of American airbases in France and Germany. Following his discharge in 1956, he continued to work as an equipment operator.
In 1958 he enrolled at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, where he earned a degree with honors in history and served as president of the student body. At Dana, he met the love of his life, Shirley Thompson, a student from Graettinger, Iowa, and they were married on August 19, 1962. He received a master's degree in history from the University of South Dakota in 1963 and a Ph. D. in history from the University of Iowa in 1971.
In 1967 he accepted an appointment at what is now West Texas A&M University in Canyon and taught American history there until his retirement in 2000. A highly respected and popular professor, "Dr. Pete" was the recipient of many honors during his lengthy tenure at WT, including twice being named by the student government as "The Outstanding Member of the Faculty." In 1988 the Phoenix Club presented him with the University Excellence Award and two years later the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation of San Antonio named him a Piper Professor. In 1997 he became WT's first Texas A&M Regents Distinguished Service Professor.
He served twenty years as faculty sponsor of the Texas Zeta Chapter of Alpha Chi, the National College Honor Scholarship Society and was the first faculty member to be elected President of the WT Foundation. In 1997 Dana College gave him a "Distinguished Alumnus award and 2003 WTAMU named him Professor Emeritus. In 2013 the Organization of American Historians named him a "Distinguished Member."
Dr. Pete authored two books and compiled and edited two additional volumes. He contributed more than thirty articles or chapters to various scholarly journals and books and published nearly sixty book and film reviews. He was a contributor to many reference books, including the Dictionary of American Biography and the Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. He also participated in several international conferences.
Following his retirement, he was editor or assistant editor for 14 years of The Bridge, the journal of the Danish American Heritage Society. He also served on that organization's Board of Directors as well as on the executive board of Danish American Archive and Library. He belonged to several other historical organizations including the Panhandle-Plains istorical Society.
A lifelong Lutheran, he was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Canyon for more than three decades before joining Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Amarillo. In 2009 he co-authored with Frederick W. Rathjen a centennial history of Lutherans in the Texas Panhandle. He served on the boards of the United Campus Ministry and Canyon Meals on Wheels, volunteered at Canyon Cares, a local food pantry, and taught in the Elderhostel and WTAMU continuing education programs. He was a member of the WTAMU Centennial Committee and Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities Advisory Board. Despite a busy retirement, he found time to enjoy travel, reading, WT athletics and especially his grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother John, and sister-in-law Pamela. Survivors include Shirley, his wife of 57 years, two sons, Eric (Debbie) of Pueblo, Colorado, and Brant of Omaha, Nebraska, three grandchildren, Megan and Luke Petersen of Pueblo, and Zane Petersen of Omaha, two brothers, Roger of Blair, Nebraska, and Everett (Doreen) of Hampton, Iowa, and numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Peter L. Petersen Scholarship in History in care of the WT Foundation, WT Box 60766, Canyon, TX 79016, or The Food Pantry at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 3500 South Bowie, Amarillo, TX 79106.
Jefferson No. 2 - from Ray Christensen's collection
Page 131 of the Manning Schools history book
MHS 1953: Vera Ahrenholtz, Marlene Anthony, Glenn Branning, Phyllis Branning, Claus Bunz, Margene Drees, Allan Eich, Mary Lou Foley, Daryl Genzen, Loyce Gray, David Grundmeier, Dorothy Hammer, Marlene Hargens, Marlene Jahn, Wilbur Jahn, William Jensen, Ardella Joens, Donna Joens, Barbara Knaack, Dareld Kracht, Gene Kuhl, Gene Martens, Roland Meeves, David Muhlbauer, Robert Neubaum, Pete Petersen, Lewis Puck, Merlin Ramsey, Patricia Ramsey, Richard Rix, Corrine Sander, Cleone Schroeder, Colleen Schwiesow, Maxine Sextro, Ruth Sextro, Shirley Sextro, Glenn Singsank, Melvin Sinow, Donna Spies, Norbert Stoberl, Betty Stuhr, Merlene Thompson, Allen Vennink, Shirley Vinke, Roger Vollstedt, Shirley Watson, Myra Weinbrandt, James Wingrove, Phyllis Zerwas
Former members: Dean Aden, Janet Asmus, Carol Bliefert, Joseph Bringleson, Jr., Mary Bringleson, Janet Dau, James Davenport, Michael Farmer, Jack Fuller, Howard Gilman, Roger Hansen, Mary Ann Hass, Richard Henriksen, Mary Ann Holme, Donald Lerssen, Caroline Louisfield, Roger Mentzer, Ramon Meyers, Leo Miller, Charlotte Mishler, Patricia Pare, Janice Popp, JoAnn Ramsey, Betty Remmes, James Rostermundt, Darrel Sander, Lois Sander, Everett Slechta, Arlo Stein, Michael Sullivan, Nadine Walters, Jon Wiemann
In the fall of 1953, a few months after he graduated from Manning High School, Pete Petersen decided to join the Army by volunteering for the draft. Little did he realize that he was about to embark on a two year adventure that would impact his life in many ways. Although he expected to serve his tour of duty with the Army, most likely in Korea, he ended up spending eighteen months attached to the Air Force in Europe as a member of a now largely forgotten military organization named SCARWAF (Special Category Army with Air Force) which existed from 1947 to 1956. During his service, Pete was indirectly involved in one of the CIA's most controversial espionage efforts of the Cold War.
After being inducted into the Army at Fort Omaha on March 22, 1954, he was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for Basic Training and then was assigned to a Tractor Scraper School to learn how to operate heavy equipment, primarily bulldozers, scrapers, road graders and front end loaders. Following completion of the course and a brief leave, he and well over 100 fellow recruits prepared to board a train bound for California and the embarkation ports. At the last minute, Pete and nine others were told to step aside. A Non-commissioned officer then approached them and said: "Guess what? You lucky dogs are going SCARWAF." "What does that mean?" somebody asked. "It means you are going to Germany to serve with the Air Force," he replied. The next day they flew to New York City. Since the ship that would take them across the Atlantic was not due to sail for several days, Pete had an opportunity to explore the city. He attended a baseball game and saw Willie Mays and his New York Giants teammates play in the famous Polo Grounds stadium. Eventually, he and the others boarded the "U.S.N.S. General H.F. Hodges." After an uneventful crossing, the ship docked at the German port of Bremerhaven on August 19th where Pete and the other new members of SCARWAF got another surprise. They were told that instead of Germany they were being assigned to France, so they boarded a train to Paris. This would be the first of Pete's many visits to that French city.
The United States was in the process of building eight airbases in France and Pete was assigned to Company C of the 843 Engineer Aviation Battalion at Toul-Rosieres, not far from the German border. Shortly thereafter he was sent to Sembach Air Force Base in Germany, home to both reconnaissance bombers and fighters, to help with several projects there before returning to Toul-Rosieres a few weeks later. It was only then that his mail, including several issues of the Manning Monitor, finally caught up with him. Weather made construction at Toul-Rosieres difficult. It rained for eighteen consecutive days and then it snowed! The largest project was a housing area for more than one hundred Airmen and their dependents. When it was completed shortly before Christmas, Pete was sent back to Sembach, located near Kaiserslautern in the Southern part of Germany. Because winter weather slowed the pace of work, there was ample time to travel and Pete and some buddies made trips to several German and French cities.
In the late spring of 1955, Pete and most of his company were assigned to a German World War II airbase near the village of Giebelstadt, not far from the German city of Wurzburg. Parts of the base, which was built in the late 1930s and dedicated by Adolf Hitler, had been badly damaged by British air raids during the latter stages of the war, but several barracks and hangers remained largely untouched. The Company's assignment was to clean, repair and lengthen the runway. An occasional encounter with an unexploded British or American bomb or German antiaircraft shells made for interesting duty. Most of it, however, was routine work similar to what they had done elsewhere, but then they got a strange assignment…They were ordered to build a large circular pad of asphalt directly in front of one of surviving hangers with a narrow road connecting it to the runway.
While some of their colleagues were completing that assignment, Pete and a friend went to Copenhagen for Christmas. He had hoped to go to the western part of Denmark to visit relatives who lived in his ancestral home, but a severe winter storm shut down train and ferry travel so he had to remain in the Copenhagen area.
When he returned to Giebelstadt he found a small group, consisting of both airmen and civilians, had just arrived from the United States. They were under orders not to talk to SCARWAF personnel and the hanger where they set up operations was tightly guarded, so Pete and the others in his unit learned little at first about what the newcomers were doing. Soon, however, they began to launch giant balloons, mostly at night, from the pad that Pete and his colleagues had constructed a few weeks earlier. About a week later, he encountered an Air Force Sergeant from the group at a Gasthaus (guest house) near the base. A prolonged session with a potent local beer had loosened the airman's tongue and he confided that he and his unit were about "to start World War III." He explained that they were sending balloons over the Soviet Union to gather intelligence data. These balloons, he said, were being carried over the USSR on high altitude winds he called the "jet stream." That was the first time Pete had ever heard that meteorological term. The airman further claimed that he had watched on radar the night before as Soviet fighter aircraft shot down some of the balloons. Shortly thereafter all activity ceased for a few days, but then reporters and photographers were invited to watch a daylight launch of several balloons. One result was a front page feature story in the January 26, 1956, issue of The Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for American troops in Europe, about the Air Force's "Operation Moby Dick", a weather research project utilizing the giant balloons. The news report and some of the photos made it to domestic American publications such as Life, Newsweek, and U.S. News. The balloon people departed soon after the open launch; and so did Pete.
With his tour of duty nearly completed, it was time for him to return to the Army for discharge. He and four colleagues were trucked to the American air base at Frankfurt, Germany, and boarded a flight that took them via Prestwick, Scotland, and Goose Bay Labrador to McGuire Air Base in New Jersey. Here he and the other members of SCARWAF were quickly transferred to Army control. Pete and the others, all from the Midwest, were then sent by train Fort Sheridan, near Chicago, where they were released from Active Duty on February 27, 1956.
Pete returned to the family farm near Botna, but with three younger brothers at home he knew he had to find a job and so he went to work for a highway construction company from Des Moines. Although originally hired as a laborer, he soon began operating heavy equipment. The following year he was hired by Western Engineering out of Harlan. It was a good job with good money, but he hated to let his GI Bill expire, so he enrolled at Dana College in January 1958 while continuing to operate heavy equipment in the summer He majored in history at Dana and went on to earn a MA from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. In August 1962 he married Shirley Thompson, a Dana student from Graettinger, Iowa. In the summer of 1967 he accepted a professorship at West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M University. By the time of his retirement in 2000 he was one of the most honored professors in the University's history.
Because he taught Recent American History, Pete kept his eyes open for information about the balloon program and other U.S reconnaissance efforts in the Cold War. He found very little until well after he retired. Several years later he learned that the History Staff at the CIA had compiled an account of its overhead reconnaissance programs, but kept the document labeled "secret" until 2013.
The impulses for the balloon project came from President Eisenhower's concern about a "nuclear Pearl Harbor" following the Russian's successful test of a hydrogen bomb in 1955. The balloons launched from Giebelstadt were part of a CIA program code named "Operation Genetrix." Approximately 500 Balloons were launched from Giebelstadt and other locations with the goal of obtaining high-altitude photography of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The balloons carried an assortment of cameras and once they reached international waters, the gondola separated from the balloon and drifted downward under a parachute. Only a small percentage of balloons were recovered and very few of those provided useful photographs. Many of the others were shot down by the Russians or simply drifted off course. The Soviets and several Eastern European nations protested the overflights and put on display some of the downed balloons and the contents of their gondolas. Clearly the American assertion that these were weather research balloons did not hold up to this type of scrutiny and President Eisenhower soon ordered an end to the balloon overflights in early 1956.
Eisenhower's decision did not mean an end to American efforts to determine Soviet missile and nuclear progress and not long after the balloon launch group departed Giebelstadt, another CIA contingent arrived at the base. It brought with it five of the newly developed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. In many ways Giebelstadt, with its long, wide and smooth runway, was well suited to the U-2 with its bicycle type landing gear. Moreover it was only fifteen minutes in flying time from the East German border.
A few weeks later one of the U-2s made a flight over Czechoslovakia, Poland, and portions of East Germany. Shortly thereafter U-2 flights over the Soviet Union commenced and included photographs of the shipyards at Leningrad and missile and rocket-engine factories near Moscow. Soon, however, a complication arose as U.S. security forces noted that a large black car with East European diplomatic plates was often parked on a village street near the end of the runway. Clearly Giebelstadt had been compromised and all the U-2s and their support personnel were sent to other locations. Today, sixty years after SCARWAF restored the runway, Giebelstadt serves as a regional airport for much of Northern Germany.
Creating an earthen berm around a fuel storage area near Sembach runway.
Pete standing by his dozer.
Pete with a heavy roller at Toul Rosiers Air Base in France shortly before Christmas 1954
January 9, 2015 e-mail
I was pleased to see your story about Russ Lee's photo of the hands of Mrs. Andrew Ostermeyer on your web page. I had no idea that there was a Manning connection.
I first met Lee at a symposium on Depression Era
photography. We became good friends and he invited me to his home in Austin
where he taught photography at the University of Texas. We talked a great deal
about his work in Iowa and eventually I wrote an article, "A Record of
Hard Times in Iowa: The Depression-era Photographs of Russell Lee," for
The Iowan, a quarterly magazine published by Mid-America Publishing Company in
Shenandoah. The article had seven Lee photos from his 1936 assignment to Iowa including
a full page print of the Ostermeyer photo. In the caption I wrote the
following: "In his history of the RA/FSA project, Roy Stryker selected
this photograph from the nearly 80,000 on file as an example of his staff's respect for human dignity."
My article appeared in the Spring 1983 issue so I suspect a copy would be hard to find, but I would be happy to mail one to you. You could return it to me or I could pick it up this summer when I am in Manning, perhaps for the All-School reunion in June. What address shall I use?
My next goal is to write something about my military experience. I did some research on "Google" and found that the CIA has released two accounts of the project I was indirectly involved with. Sixty years is a long time to wait.
Thanks for your good work on preserving Manning's history.
Pete Petersen MHS class of 1953
Theresia Ostermeyer hands
Grandmother of Mae Ostermeyer
Des Moines Register 1977
Ostermeyer pictures from Lois (Anthony) Stribe - great-granddaughter of Claus & Anna Anthony.
Anna (Anthony), John, and Mae Ostermeyer
John & Anna (Anthony) Ostermeyer
Ostermeyer Garage in Westside - John in middle
Catharina (Groth) Jahn, Anna (Jahn) Anthony, Anna (Anthony) Ostermeyer, baby Mae Ann Ostermeyer
Anna Ostermeyer with her parents Claus & Anna (Jahn) Anthony
Anna Mae Ostermeyer is mentioned in the Des Moines Register article linked above
Mae Ann Ostermeyer - Lyden Studio
Mae Ann Ostermeyer
Mae Ann Ostermeyer with turkeys