Lee Peterson was born in a very small town in Iowa. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Iowa State University. After his first year, he went to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to work in the B-24 Bomber Plant in Willow Run. While there he received his draft notice. At the time they were recruiting for all branches. Lee requested and received the Army Air Corp. After basic training and Gunnery School training, he was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 92nd Bomb Group, 326th Squadron.
Lee is part of the "Lucky Bastards" group. He flew 35 missions without a scratch, plus five that were not counted. His is most proud of his DFC which he earned on a bombing raid into Germany. His B-17 lost two engines, on the same side of the plane, before reaching the target. A third engine went out over the Channel. There was an emergency air strip in Dover, England, but they decided to push on their base, 15 minutes further. They made it. The ground crew replaced all four engines, tested them in flight, and had the plane ready for another mission the next morning. During the flight back to England, Lee shot down a Me109 that was trailing them.
Lee related a story about a training flight in which one engine failed. The pilot feathered the engine, but when they were approaching the field to land, the pilot gave the feathered engine full throttle, against the instructions of the flight engineer, Lee Peterson. The crew had to bail out. At the inquire, the pilot blamed Lee, but all of the other officers on board did not agree. That pilot flew 20 missions with Lee and never said a word to him other than when they were in flight. Although Lee has expressed enormous respect for that pilot's skills, he also knew that the pilot prevented him from getting promotions. After that pilot was replaced, Lee received two promotions in a very short period of time.
Lee returned to the U.S. before VE day and was an instructor for flight engineers. After discharge, he returned to Ypsilanti and worked at the Kaiser Frazier Auto plant. When they went out of business, he got a job at Wayne State University. He started as a one man department and before he retired he had three separate sections that related to the Engineering and Liberal Arts Departments. When he retired, they held two parties because the one ballroom that held 800 was too small.