‘Gallant Men’ inducted at Atterbury Bakalar Air Museum

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A World War II airman whose service to the nation’s air defenses stretched into the 1960s and in later years included helping preserve military aviation history was posthumously honored Monday at Atterbury Bakalar Air Museum in Columbus.

Jim Peters Sr., who died in 2018, was inducted Monday as one of the museum’s “Our Gallant Men” honorees during a ceremony in which family members, fellow veterans and museum volunteers paid tribute.

Peters flew 27 bombing missions as a tail gunner and flight engineer on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers in the European Theater of World War II. After his induction into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, he took part in raids over Germany, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia.

Later, as a member of the U.S. Air Force, Peters served in the Korean War and in the U.S. Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, where his duties included keeping B-52 bombers in a constant state of readiness against North Korean forces. Peters retired as a master sergeant in 1965.

“I miss Dad and his stories, but I know he was very proud,” Jim Peters Jr. of Columbus said, with tears in his eyes at the end of a presentation about his father.

The younger Peters shared stories he heard growing up from his dad: dining on powdered eggs during World War II and later being stationed in Alaska, where an oil drum provided heat for him and his young bride. Serving in the Strategic Air Command in Korea and during the Cold War, the younger Peters said his father was part of a “Herculean effort” to keep the nation’s air defenses ready around the clock.

While the senior Peters had no direct military experience rooted in the former Bakalar Air Force Base or its predecessor, Atterbury Air Base, his son said the decorated veteran was dedicated to preserving its memories and military aviation history more broadly.

A plaque honoring Peters, complete with many of his service medals, patches and other items from his service was unveiled Monday, the ninth airman honored on the museum’s Gallant Men wall.

A fellow Strategic Air Command veteran and Gallant Men honoree Maj. Gen. Mark Pillar lauded Peters’ service and commendations, and not just for “some pretty heavy flights he was on” in World War II, but also for the sometimes unheralded constant watch and readiness demanded of air defenses during the Cold War.

Also honored

In addition to Jim Peters Sr., who was inducted Monday, these are the eight other honorees on Atterbury Bakalar Air Museum’s “Our Gallant Men” wall:

  • Forest Bruce Warren
  • Richard I. Thayer
  • John Walter
  • Maj. Gen. John Hoff
  • William Robert Hilycord
  • Thomas L. Thayer
  • Maj. Gen. Mark Pillar
  • James F. Sellars II

For the complete story and more photos, see Wednesday’s Republic.