Petersen served during the Vietnam War

Contributed photo
Lieutenant Junior Grade Mike Petersen after successful firefight mission in Vinh Long Provence, Vietnam, May 6, 1968.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Mike Petersen, who grew up in Otter Tail County, is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War who will be one of the speakers May 27 during the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Washington, D.C. This ceremony, at the Vietnam Wall, is a tribute to members of America’s Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam and in all conflicts.

Petersen was part of the Navy Seawolf helicopter squadron in Vietnam, the most decorated squadron in Navy history. He flew 269 combat missions, receiving 17 Air Medals and the Purple Heart.

Petersen was born in Fergus Falls on May 6, 1943. 

“I lived in Fergus Falls through my kindergarten year and then moved out of state, returning to Fergus Falls my junior year,” he said.

After high school graduation in 1961, he studied at what was then Moorhead State College, graduating in 1966. He received orders to the Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Fla. In December 1967, Petersen received orders to the Helicopter Attack Light Squadron Three in Vietnam. 

Petersen was part of Scramble the Seawolves, the U.S. Navy’s first and only attack helicopter gunship squadron established in 1967 in support of operations in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Petersen was among a fighting force of 2,556, including gunners and pilots.

With hand-me-down Huey helicopters and the spirit of ingenuity, courage and resolve, the Seawolves became the most decorated squadron in the Vietnam War and in U.S. Naval aviation history.

After leaving active duty he became a home builder and real estate developer in Pensacola, Florida. When the real estate industry soured in 1981 he returned to Minnesota where he opened and continues to operate his insurance agency in Chaska, southwest of Minneapolis.

Petersen and his wife, Suzan, have 3 children and 9 grandchildren. He is a life member of the Chaska VFW and American Legion. His passion is teaching young people that, “the price of freedom is not free.”