John Peterman – World War II

About John Peterman - World War II:

Age: 87

Branch of service: WWII Navy submariner

Home state: Pennsylvania

John and Mary have four children, 10 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. A son followed in John’s military footsteps, serving in the Navy for 30 years before retiring.

How did John get involved in the military?
John Peterman grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, knowing how to work hard and appreciate nature. Fishing, hunting and farming were his passion until he enlisted in the Navy on June 17, 1941, hoping to see more of the world. His next 31 years with the Navy would take him to parts of the world he only read about in schoolbooks, giving him an interesting and varied career.

Memorable moments
Following his recruit training he was qualified as a submariner and then assigned to the submarine USS Flying Fish (SS229). WWII had begun and he was ready. In the Flying Fish, he participated in nine successful patrols, during which 18 enemy ships were sunk and 12 were damaged. He learned of other subs being destroyed, and his training was being tested daily. During WWII (and before nuclear power), the submarines were forced to surface regularly in order to take in clean air and charge the batteries, leading to careful maneuvering around enemy ships. John also served aboard the submarine Sea Cat. He advanced in rank and was commissioned as an ensign in 1957, moved on to lieutenant, junior grade and was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1967. John visited many countries throughout the Pacific Campaign, and stayed in the Navy through the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.

A friend of his aboard the Flying Fish had a wife with an attractive sister, and John began writing to the sister. When back in port in California, John rented a car and made a quick trip to Sugar Creek to meet this lovely lady, Mary Lubek, which resulted in him taking a new wife home to Pennsylvania to meet his family. Surprised by this woman, his mother wouldn’t let her into the house until they showed her the marriage license. John and Mary have been married 65 years.

Life after the military
Deciding it was time to begin another career and leave the Navy after 31 years, he took his wife and four children back to Pennsylvania to call it home. John took the position of Sullivan County Sheriff and was required to reside in the sheriff quarters in the courthouse. Mary was the jail matron who cooked and served meals to the prisoners. This proved to become a problem when prisoners would come back to the jail to serve time in order to get those good meals. That career was soon over and John was able to become a farmer again, moving into a home they built near his aging parents.

Helen Matson, volunteer program director for the city of Independence, compiles interviews with veterans at the Truman Memorial Building. Contact her at or 816-325-7860 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.