MADISON (WKOW) -- Middleton resident James O. Peterson is the recipient of the Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor given by the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs.
Peterson was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin in 1922 and enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 during his junior year at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
He served as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Scotland, England and France until his transfer to Munich, Germany as a Military Police Platoon Leader in the 512th MP Battalion. He was promoted to 1LT on September 1, 1945 and was assigned as a Company Commander in the 793rd MP Battalion of General Patton's Third Army in Bad Tolz, Germany where his unit provided security to General Patton's residence and Third Army Headquarters, and he regularly accompanied General Patton on honor guard inspections.
He moved his reinforced unit of 365 MPs to Nuremberg, where the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were being held. His racially integrated unit provided security for half of Nuremberg and provided outer perimeter security and internal guard support for the prison within which the trial defendants were being held, including the notorious war criminals Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. His unit provided "honor duty" for dignitaries during Patton's funeral in Heidelberg and burial in Luxembourg. His military decorations include the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Using the G.I. Bill, he completed work on his Bachelor's Degree in History and Economics at Loras in 1947, and subsequently earned a Master's Degree in History from UW-LaCrosse leading to a 20 year career in parochial education. During that career he taught Economics, Sociology and History and served as the assistant football coach and head basketball and baseball coach at Racine St. Catherine's High School. After helping his family for three years by managing its automobile dealership in Soldiers Grove, he returned to education as a History and Economics teacher at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. At Campion he served as Athletic Director for 16 years and he coached all sports, with his teams winning numerous conference championships. He served on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors from 1962 to 1970 and was the County Board Chair from 1968 to 1970.
He was appointed by Governor Patrick Lucey to the position of Administrator of the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles and served in that capacity from 1971 until his retirement in 1983. While at the DMV, he implemented tougher used automobile dealership operating standards, served as the Commander of the Wisconsin State Highway Patrol, served as a member of the Wisconsin Police Minimum Standards Board, and served a one-year term as the President of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. He was nationally recognized for his successful initiatives to improve school bus safety, to include improved construction standards and the addition of bus-top strobe lights.
Over the past 40 years, he has served the St. Bernard Catholic Parish of Middleton in a variety of lay pastoral capacities, and since his retirement, has acted as a Mass Server on a daily basis. He is a 4th Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus, and he and his wife, Mary Ruth, are the parents of eight children.
He is a life member of the American Legion and is past Commander of the William Schoville Post 220 in Soldiers Grove. He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and belongs to William Simon Post 8216 in Middleton.
The Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes living veterans who have compiled a record of exemplary service as a military service member, a veteran, and a citizen during the veteran's lifetime.
If you'd like to nominate a veteran, go to www.WisVets.com/BoardAward or call WDVA toll free 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).