Howard County

Admiral Wallis F. Petersen




Rear Admiral Wallis F. Petersen spent 43 years in active duty with the Navy.

Wallis F. Petersen was born in Council Bluffs. He was graduated from Cresco high school in 1918 and attend the University of Iowa for a year before entering the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on June 9, 1920.

He was graduated from the naval academy on June 4, 1924, and was commissioned an ensign. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1924, he was assigned to the “USS Tennessee” for two years. Mr. Petersen then served three years with destroyers with duty on the “USS Henshaw” and the “USS Decatur.” Ordered to the Asiatic station, in July 1929, he served on the “USS Beaver,” “USS John D Ward” and “USS Pillsbury” until 1932.

At that time he was returned to the United States and was with the navy department in Washington, D.C.

His next sea duty included two years as turret officer of the “USS Maryland” and a year as executive officer of the “USS Elliot.”

In 1937 he was ordered to the University of Washington at Seattle to serve for two years as an instructor in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit. In July 1939 he joined the “USS Yorktown” as gunnery officer.

On August 15, 1941, he assumed command of “USS Mustin,” and continued as her commanding officer after the United States entered World War II, until December 30, 1942.

During the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942, the “USS Mustin” rescued 337 survivors of the doomed “Hornet”, and fired the torpedoes necessary to sink the abandoned carrier. He was awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” as commanding officer of the “USS Mustin” during this aerial attack on enemy Japanese naval forces.

Mr. Petersen then returned to the United States and assumed command of the “USS Bush” on May 10, 1943. A month later he was designated commander of destroyer squadron 33, which additional duty in command of destroyed division 43. He was awarded the bronze star medal for meritorious achievement as commander of destroyer squadron 22 from February 20 to May 4, 1944.

He was also awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, for meritorious service as screen commander for an amphibious group and fire support unit from June to August 1944, during the assault and capture of Saipan.

In September 1944, he returned to the United States and served in the bureau of naval personnel in Washington, D.C., until September 1946. During this time he received a letter of commendation, with ribbon, from the Secretary of Navy.

He was in command of the “USS Fargo” in 1948 and 1949. He attended the National War College, in Washington, D.C., completing the course in July, 1950.

Early in December 1951, he assumed command of the military sea transportation service, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. He received his rank of rear admiral on January 1, 1952.

In April, 1953, he reported as deputy commandant, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense college, Paris, France, and in February 1955, assumed command of amphibious group two, U.S. Atlantic fleet.

He was director of the Pan American Affairs and U.S. Naval Missions division of the chief of naval operations in 1957 and 1958; after which he served as chief of the military assistance advisory group, Portugal, with headquarters in Lisbon. On September 11, 1961, he assumed duty as commandant of the Fifth naval district with headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, with additional duty as commander of the naval base, Norfolk, where he remained until retirement on November 1, 1963.

In addition to the awards mentioned, Rear Admiral Petersen has the Yangtze Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 10 battle stars, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe Clasp, the National Defense Service Medal, The Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal.

Rear Admiral Petersen and his wife are now living in Washington, D.C.

Source: The Times-Plain Dealer (Centennial Edition), Wednesday, June 15, 1966 (photo included)

Wallis Frederick Petersen was born Oct. 4, 1901 to Henry Detlef and Minnie Mae Evers Petersen. He died June 23, 1991 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.