Way We Were | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were

Steve Leatham
Park City Museum Researcher

The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is located on a high ridge overlooking the nation’s capital. Not far from Arlington National Cemetery, the memorial is dedicated to all U. S. Marines who have given their lives for their country. Inscribed in gold letters on its polished black granite front are the words “Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue.”

No marine personifies those words more than Private Frank Edward Peterson, 2nd Division, 18th company, 5th Regiment.

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. entered the First World War. Ten days later, while visiting relatives in Salt Lake City, Frank Peterson enlisted in the Marine Corps and immediately reported for recruit training with Company “C” at the marine barracks in Mare Island, California.

At the time, 25-year-old Peterson was working on his father’s farm in Snyderville and completing his third year of schooling at Brigham Young University.

He was the first of 10 children, born to Charles J. and Mary Peterson. By 1910, the family moved from Draper, Utah, to the family farm near Park City. Peterson often made the three-mile hike over the mountain to attend high school.

The Park Record called young Peterson a sterling, manly man; admired and beloved by all in the community who knew him.

The Peterson family never saw the young marine again after he left for Mare Island. From there he was transferred to the marine base in Quantico, Virginia, at the end of June 1917.

In July, he was assigned to the 18th Company of the 5th Marine Regiment, the most highly decorated regiment in the Marine Corps.

In June 1918, Private Peterson’s Marine Corps 2nd Division was tasked with capturing a fiercely defended, mile square French hunting preserve from the Imperial German Army.

The Battle of Bois de Belleau, or Belleau Wood, is one of the most legendary battles in Marine Corps history. This battle exemplified the Marine Corps’ core values of honor, courage and dedication. The response to the German Spring Offensive threatening Paris was the first real taste of battle for the U.S. Marines in World War I.

The story of Peterson’s valor on June 12, 1918, is so compelling it became a part of the USMC Recruiters Bulletin. At 6 p.m., the 5th regiment achieved a breakthrough in the northern third of the wood, but was exposed to an artillery barrage with great quantities of mustard gas.

As the marines advanced through deadly German machine gun fire, “Private Frank E. Peterson, Park City, Utah, started up carrying a 50-pound Chauchat rifle. One ammunition carrier dropped wounded. Peterson shouldered the heavy clips. A minute later a second carrier dropped. Peterson added the ammunition to his own burden and reached the spot picked out for him, packing the rifle and all the ammunition.”

There Peterson was gravely wounded. U.S. Marine Corps, Private Frank Edward Peterson passed away at 10:50 p.m. two days later, on Flag Day, June 14.

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