The Story of Lemuel Byrd Peterson​, Lost in World War II:

His real name was Lemuel Byrd Peterson, but, like all the boys in the Peterson family, he wound up with the nickname of Pete.

He had blonde hair and blue eyes, and those who knew him say he was one heck of a basketball player who would do anything

for his team. He was born in 1918, and, like lots of others in South Alabama, his father was a sharecropper who raised cotton and peanuts on his land. 

  

Though farm life could be tough, Pete loved being outdoors and he never missed a chance to hunt, fish or play ball. And while he enjoyed farming, Pete's career plans were quite different from his father's, as what he truly loved to do was work on cars. They say it was pretty darn rare to find Pete Peterson without a little grease on his hands. Eventually he landed a job as the mechanic at Shelby's Service Station. It was there he met a girl he would later marry, Nina.

When the war began heating up in 1941, so did work around South Alabama. Nina took a job at a sawmill and Pete's parents began logging 16-hour days in a sock factory. But Pete felt his contribution to the war should be made far away from his home. So he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to be a tailgunner for a B29 fighter plane called "The Ghastly Goose." The crew of the Goose was a tight knit team who became known as a highly effective force in the missions they flew over Japan. But, in January 1945, when anti-aircraft fire struck her fuel tanks, the Goose was forced to crash land in the Pacific. All 12 members of the crew survived and climbed atop the plane, which they knew could float for up to 48 hours, to await rescue. Shortly before dusk, they were spotted by another plane which signaled that, because it was getting dark, pick up would have to wait until morning. It was the last time anyone ever saw Pete Peterson and the crew of the Ghastly Goose. When rescuers came at dawn, they had vanished. To this day, no one knows what happened. In keeping with MIA policy at the time, Pete and all the others were declared dead a year and a day later.

They say that, even though they never made it home, the bombing missions Pete and his crew flew over Japan were instrumental in winning the war. And that's just kind of fitting, because Pete Peterson of Tumbleton, Alabama always was one heck of a good guy to have on your team.