Ensign Don Peterson was born on March 17, 1921 in Chicago. He was an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA on November 28, 1942.

 

Don and his fellow Ensign, Nick Pagonis and Lt. John Smith, attending MIT, all escaped the Cocoanut Grove fire.

They arrived at the nightclub about 9:30 PM and were seated in the Broadway Lounge. 

Don told the Boston Police the day after the fire on November 29, 1942,

"All I know is the fire started and people stared to rush out, and a cloud of smoke came up behind them."

Reported by Ensign Pagonis that the threesome tried unsuccessfully to hold crowd back.

Once outside they grabbed fire axes and smashed glass brick windows. 

Lt. Smith to Boston Police, 11:30 PM:

"Both my friends ...got hatchets off the truck and broke in the glass. They shouted in to the people and they did get one fellow up on the brick wall and they couldn't get him over..."

Don Peterson was raised in Chicago and attended Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, NY. He married his wife, Doris, and they were a longtime residents of Balboa Island, Newport Beach, CA.

Don passed way at age 96, in 2017, and became the last known living survivor to escape from the Broadway Lounge, upon the death of his fellow Ensign, Nick Pagonis. 

Don's children, Diane and Richard live in the San Barbara, CA area. 

Audio Interview

Ensign Don Peterson

escapes and helps others out of Broadway Lounge