Arthur V. “Pete” Peterson, Nuclear Pioneer, Dies at 95

Read this article below, it's really something! The information was sent to me by the daughter of Lawrence U Bonner, 36th Combat Engineer.



Marion, thank you again for the wonderful job you are doing with the website.


You may already have the attached information, but if you don't, some others may be interested in it.


Arthur Peterson was the C.O. of Company B of the first 36th Combat Engineers. My dad, Lawrence U. Bonner, never knew why he wasn't deployed with them. My recent research located the attached article which I found very interesting, and certainly explains why the members of Company B were not told why he (Arthur Peterson) didn't go overseas with them.


Sandra Bonner Adair




Arthur V. “Pete” Peterson, Nuclear Pioneer, Dies at 95


Former Westporter Arthur V. “Pete” Peterson, a pioneer in the early development of nuclear power who as an engineer oversaw the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, has died at a retirement home in Seattle. He was 95. A.V. Peterson: lived in Westport from 1953 to 1968.


His son, Art Jr., said his father, who lived in Westport from 1953 to 1968, died peacefully of natural causes in his sleep on March 24, 2008.


Peterson’s career in nuclear engineering began in 1942 when the Army suddenly transferred him, not yet 30, from the 36th Combat Engineer Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C., to join the Army’s secret Manhattan Project, the group assigned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to develop and build an atomic bomb.


Peterson worked closely with a team that included Nobel Laureates Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton at the University of Chicago to build the world’s first atomic reactor.


On Dec. 2, 1942, under the abandoned west stands of the university’s football stadium, Stagg Field, the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved.


When the project spilled over from Chicago to Oak Ridge, Tenn., then to Hanford, Wash., and then to Los Alamos, N.M., Peterson was named director of the combined operations for the production of fissionable material.


A number of processes were underway, and it was his job to combine the efforts to make it possible to produce the atomic bomb at the earliest possible date.


During this time he made innumerable trips to the numerous locations across the country where work on the bomb was underway. He left the country only once – to consult with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in England just prior to D-Day.


When the country turned after the war to the development of peaceful uses of atomic energy for research and power generation, Peterson helped lead the country’s effort to bring the benefits of atomic energy to the world.


In 1946, he was named chief of the Fissionable Materials Branch, production division, of the new Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Arthur V. Peterson shown in his Westport office in an undated newspaper photo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo


In 1953, feeling that atomic energy could also develop through private industry, he became general manager of the new Atomic Energy Division of American Machine and Foundry Company in New York City. Under his leadership, some 20 research reactors were built in countries around the world.


It was during this time, between 1953 and 1968, that Peterson was a Westporter, living with his wife, M-L, and family at 50 Old Hill Road. He enjoyed Westport immensely--building a house, raising a family, sailing, and as chairman of the Red Cross local chapter, among other activities.


In 1958, Peterson formed his own consulting firm, AVP Associates, with offices at 21 Bridge Square, and kept working on nuclear power planning and development well into his 70s.


Peterson was born on Oct. 31, 1912, in Morristown, N.J. Fascinated by science, building, and new technology (e.g. radio) during his childhood on the East Side of Manhattan, he graduated from Stuyvesant High School with honors, and in 1930 entered New York University, graduating in 1934 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering.


He earned a Masters degree in civil engineering from Cornell in 1937. After working as an engineer in New Jersey, in 1940 he returned to Cornell to do research for the Firestone Tire Co. A reserve officer, in June 1941, he was called into active army service at Plattsburgh, N.Y.


There he married his college sweetheart, Marie-Louise (M-L) Darrieulat of Ithaca, N.Y., whose father taught fencing at Cornell. His reassignment to the Manhattan Project occurred the following year.


Peterson was preceded in death by his wife, who died in 2004 at the age of 87, and his daughter Medley, who died in 2006 at the age of 62.


He is survived by sons Art and John, both of Seattle, grandchildren Christopher, Margaret, Akiyo, Scott, and Matthew, and four great-grandchildren.


Peterson is fondly remembered by family and friends as a loving and gentle husband, father and friend, a most thorough gentleman, and a dedicated servant of his country and his community.


A private ceremony was held on March 28 at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash.


Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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