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William S Peterson

William S Peterson - Stories

World War II

75th Anniversary of D-Day Tribute to "Gold Star" Relative

Today on this 75th Anniversary of D-Day let us once again pay tribute to our "Gold Star" cousin, Pfc. William Spencer Peterson. "Spence" was killed in U.S. Army service during that great amphibious WWII battle in France. A lifelong resident of Chicago, he spent many happy summers at his uncle's ranch near Crivitz, Wisconsin. (See a recent Findagrave memorial:

Remembering Pfc. Peterson's D-Day Sacrifice


    This memorial page, written by relatives and based on a variety of sources, is intended to honor a young fallen soldier and his family. William Spencer “Spence” Peterson was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 26, 1919 and died on June 9, 1944 in Normandy, France[1].

    Pfc. Peterson was a casualty of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day). The largest amphibious invasion in history, the operation began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe and contributed to Allied victory in the war[2], [3]. The 70th anniversary of this historic event was observed on June 6, 2014 [4].


    According to his cousin Jean, Spence’s mother Minnie died when he was born, leaving him to be raised by his father and siblings. Jean’s parents always included Spence in summer trips to their farm in Crivitz, Wisconsin (see photo gallery, with tall and slender Spence dressed in overalls, Jean at far right, 1939). He reveled in the camaraderie and fresh air at the farm. Not even early morning chores could dampen his cheerful demeanor (see photo of him running the blower at harvest time). Then came the news that he would be leaving his family to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII. Spence rode the train 275 miles from Chicago to Crivitz to tell his aunt, “Tante Mayme”, and his Uncle Herm goodbye. Soon he was on his way to war.


    When Spence became a soldier, he was assigned to the 12th Infantry Regiment[5]within the Fourth Infantry Division[6]. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, they saw their first action of the war when they spearheaded the assault landing on Utah Beach under the command of Colonel Russell "Red" Reeder. Although Omaha Beach became the most well-known battle location of the invasion, Allied forces also descended on four other beaches, including Utah, that fateful day, with the avowed purpose to liberate France from Nazi Germany[7] .


    Pfc. Peterson died on June 9, 1944, three days after the invasion began, of wounds received in action. His final sacrifice has not gone unrecognized, however. Far from it. He received the Purple Heart, a U.S. military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. Military[8]. Along with nearly 10,000 other D-Day casualties, he lies buried in the American National Cemetery [9] (ANC) on a magnificent site overlooking Omaha Beach (see photo gallery). Many of the ANC’s estimated one million visitors a year come to Plot D, passing by Pfc. Peterson’s grave on Row 10 on the way to honor the nearby side-by-side graves of President Theodore Roosevelt’s two sons, Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, a fallen fighter pilot in WWI, and Medal of Honor winner, Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. [10].

    On June 6, 2014 a 70th Anniversary Ceremony at the ANC in Normandy brought heads of state of the United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia, as well as thousands of veterans and other international visitors. The ceremony was broadcast live on the internet and was covered by news media from all over the world. Other major events were held at the WWII Museum in New Orleans and the National D Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.


    Pfc. Peterson left no mother, no wife, and no child to remember his passing. His cousin Jean has also passed away, leaving her descendants to honor him every Memorial Day. Lest we forget.

    [1] private link


    [3 ]







    [10] American National Cemetery at Normandy


    [12] [Flanders Fields](<iframe width="560" height="315" src="/" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>)