Merchant Marine, U.S. Navy
Radar Man First Class U.S. Navy
Duty Stations/Ships - Merchant Marines, SS Mauvilla, T-2 tanker; SS Charles A McAllister, troop carrier; SS Jonathan Elmer, liberty ship; United States Navy - NRS Buffalo N.Y., R Duty FLT training; Oahu, Hawaii, LST No. 694
William D. Peters
Medals/Awards: Merchant Marine Emblem, Atlantic War zone ribbon, Pacific War zone emblem, Middle East War zone ribbon, World War II victory medal
The Great Patriotic War Medal - Medal awarded by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Merchant Marine Act of 1936 - This act was deemed necessary for national defense. Its purpose was to further develop and maintain a merchant marine fleet consisting of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of U.S. commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. During World War II the government controlled the cargo and destinations and contracted with the private shipping companies. It also provided guns and naval personnel to help protect the ship, its crew and cargo.
The Merchant Marine was the starting point for America's young men who wanted to do their share during war time, but were not yet 17 years old. The Merchant Marine took applicants at the age of 16. Records show that three women were awarded the Merchant Marine Medal when their ships were torpedoed and four women were prisoners of war (POWs).
After a recruit met the requirements to become a mariner, he was sent to Sheepshead Bay National Maritime Training School in New York. There he received training in gunnery tactics, maintenance and practice. Next a recruit went to Baltimore for training in life boat drills, abandon ship drills, swimming, seamanship, rope splicing and unlimited fire training. From there the recruit would be sent back to Sheepshead Bay for basic station duties such as guard duty and mess.
After training was completed the recruit received his certification paper but he was now on his own. He was not full time; he can come and go as he pleases. It's up to him to find a ship, request a billet, and hope for a call. In New York there would be a list of hundreds of ships that required crews. A person signing on to get a ship who is selected for duty has no idea where the ship is traveling, what the cargo is or when the ship is leaving its port.
Married - Jean Hammond, Dec. 2, 1955
Children - Jeffery Peters, wife, Terry; Donald Peters, wife, Karen.
Grandchildren - Emmali, William, Asa, Nora and Ben.
William D. Peters was born in Conewango, N.Y. on July 10, 1927. His parents Mannie and Lucy Peters made their living running a dairy farm in Randolph. Growing up on a dairy farm didn't leave a lot of time for play, because there was work to do - like making sure the barns were kept clean and the cows were fed and had plenty of water.
Peters started school at Snyders Corners in a one-room school. He recalled having one teacher who taught 38 students who were in eight different grades. He enjoyed school because he would learn so many things because of the variety of students. Later when the family moved, his school was the Beach Hill School near Dewittville. This was another one-room school but it only had 12 students. High school was a completely different experience. There were different classes with a teacher for each subject. While in high school he joined the FFA, Future Farmers of America. It was a organization that visited different state-of-the-art farms each week to give these future farmers ideas on how to run their farms if they ever decided farming was in their future.
When Peters was 16 years old and working part time at the Jamestown airport, he decided it was time to serve his country. He decided that it was best for him to leave school and join the Merchant Marine.
After signing he was off to Buffalo and then sent to Sheepshead Bay Maritime Training School in New York. He was assigned to a barracks with 59 other merchant mariners who received training in gunnery school which took 30 hours a week. The rest of the training consisted of ship board safety. Later the group was shipped to Baltimore to receive training in swimming, seamanship, life boat drills and abandon ship drills. The men were given utilities but were not in the US Navy so uniforms were not issued. Peters later was sent back to Sheepshead Bay and spent the remaining weeks in guard and mess duty.
Peters was now a qualified mariner which meant it was up to him to sign on to a ship. Being a mariner didn't require him to be on ship all the time. All it gave him was the qualifications to sign on to one. If the union needed a ship to be full of a qualified crew it could assign one if needed. During the war it wasn't hard to find a ship. A mariner would go to the office, look at the list of ships, pick one and hope for a call. Signing on a ship didn't guarantee a mariner a place on it. Mariners never knew the ship's date of departure, its cargo or its destination until it was ready to leave or already had left port.
While in the Merchant Marines, Peters logged in war time duty on the SS Mauvilla, a T2 tanker carrying aviation fuel with a full load of 225,000 barrels on this trip. He sailed from New York to Liverpool, England. He later took two more trips on her.
Later he signed a on the SS Charles S McAllister, a large troop carrier which carried general cargo and crossed the Atlantic two more times. Finally in July of 1945 he received confirmation on the SS Jonathan Elmer, a liberty ship whose duties were to transport soldiers from port to port.
Peters recalls that being assigned to a merchant ship did have its perks. The pay was $56 a month. Once the ship was three miles out of US waters, the pay doubled to $112 per month. In combat designated waters he received an additional $5 per day. He recalled that the U.S. Navy personnel assigned to these ships didn't like the thought of sailing on these fully loaded ships with fuel and bombs, especially when most of the faster merchant ships sailed unescorted.
Arriving in ports was fun, especially Liverpool where there were a lot of restaurants and sights to see. The only drawback were the buzz bomb attacks he witnessed while on leave.
His final assignment as a mariner was Feb. 7, 1945, signing up for a ship and not knowing its cargo and destination. Peters found himself while in Glasgow, Scotland, on a ship heading to meet a convoy of 64 ships which included two baby flattops. He later found that the convoy was sailing to Murmansk, Russia to supply the Russian Army in the cargo area. He saw a brand new locomotive. The trip was uneventful until an enemy submarine torpedoed 4 ships and sunk one British escort . Only 13 out of 138 sailors survived. All Peters' ship could do by orders was to watch and pass by without stopping. A few days later word came that the war had ended. He celebrated. The ship picked up a load of scrap and returned to New York .
He served on the SS Jonathan traveling from Baltimore for a trip to Marseilles, France. The ship altered its cargo hold by placing cots in it. The cots were used by Italian prisoners of war traveling back home to Italy. The trip was uneventful because the POWs were just happy to be going back home. While in Italy the ship completely loaded itself with Americans waiting to return home.
When the war was over, Peters returned to Dewittville. Since he wasn't yet 18 years old, he hadn't registered with the local draft board. He and a friend both decided to join the U.S. Navy from Jamestown. The two ended up in Buffalo.
Peters' naval duties included boot camp at Williamsburg, Va., a promotion to Seaman Second class on Feb. 2, 1946, and then trip to Camp Shoemaker in San Francisco. He boarded a passenger ship to Hawaii where he attended radar school at the navy's fleet training center in Oahu. Later orders assigned him to a U.S. Navy lst hull 694 where he received the rank of Seaman First Class. He was discharged in November 1947.
After Peters came home after his Navy days, he worked at many jobs, including roofing and factory work. He even went back to the sea on the Great Lakes moving iron ore from Lake Superior to Minnesota as a watchman. This job paid $120 per week and he kept it for three years. The ship was the Harry Colby and it was 550 ft. long.
In 1956 Peters' life changed with the help of his cousin Glenn Peters who handed him a job application for the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department. A few days later Charles McCloskey, the sheriff, called him. Peters received a position with the sheriff's office as a desk clerk in Mayville. This later led to a job in the road patrol division. During his years in the sheriff's office, he advanced to the detectives division of the sheriffs plain clothes division. This division handled the county's serious crimes, such as homicides and larcenies.
Peters was the very first person promoted in the sheriff's office to the rank of lieutenant through taking the first civil service competitive exam and passing it. Prior appointments were just awarded or given in-house. It was a job that was not just handed to him. Peters retired from the Sheriffs Department in 1983.
He wasn't ready to call it quits and he returned as a county court security officer where he worked until Dec. 30, 1998. Peters gave Chautauqua County 43 years of service.
April 12, 1985, marked the 40th anniversary of the allied victory over Germany in World War II. In Russia, the portion of that conflict from the 1941 invasion of Russia by Germany to the allied victory is known as the Great Patriotic War. A medal to commemorate this anniversary was sent to Mr. William D. Peters, 32 Maple Ave., Mayville, N.Y. 14757.
This bronze medal is 32 millimeters in diameter and showed three persons, a peasant woman, a soldier and a worker standing with a 5 pointed star in the background and a tower of the Kremlin in Moscow in its center. On top of the medal are the years 1945 on one side and 1985 on the other. With this came a certificate with the recipient name William D. Peters (Yunbrm D Tiemepc) written in Russian, and the date of issuance. It was stamped with the seal of the president of Russia and signed by President Boris Yeltsin.
Peters story is one of a local hero, leaving a dairy farm at 16 years old to do his duty and help the war effort. During his service as a civilian in the merchant marines the ships on which he served not only supplied the airplanes with fuel to take the war to the enemy, but also brought over much needed supplies and transported servicemen back home. Even when the war was over, he served by transporting Italian prisoners of war back home to their families waiting. After coming home he spent 43 years serving the people of Chautauqua County.
Currently, Peters is active in the Bemus Point United Methodist Church, the Mayville Legion, and the Mayville VFW, the Peacock Lodge and the Deputy Sheriff's Association.
This is another story of a local hero who did so much - a boy from Dewittville who sailed the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic and all the way to some ports in Russia before his 18th birthday. He came home and started his life and gave another 43 years of service to his fellow man. This makes William D. Peters our Hero of the Week.
- Submitted by John Fedyszyn,