River Falls Journal, March 31, 2005
Edward N. Peterson was born on August 27, 1925, in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of Roscoe D. and Rachel B. White. He was the top male graduate in the class of 1943, St. Joseph Central High School and attended the Junior College before being drafted into the U.S. Army on March 28, 1944. He served in the Anti-tank Platoon, 1st Battalion, 274 Infantry Regiment, of the 70th Division, being sent to Europe on December 1, 1944. On Christmas Eve he was at the Front, on the Rhine River, part of the 7th and later the 3rd Armies. By the summer of 1945 he was stationed in Hersfeld, Germany, part of the border troops to the Soviet Zone. By February 1946, by virtue of his having taught himself German, he was assigned to the 321 Military Intelligence Unit, and remained with that unit until May 1947.
While in Hersfeld he met and married Ursula Schmidt, who had served in the German Labor Force and the German Air Force, as part of an anti-aircraft unit. She walked most of the way home in June 1945, and they met soon thereafter. Their first son John was born there in 1947.
When he returned to the states, after brief service in the Transport Command, stationed in Brooklyn, he returned to St. Joseph, and finished by June 1948 the AA Degree and transferred to the University of Wisconsin. There he majored in history, with an emphasis on German History, receiving his PhD degree in 1953. After one year of teaching in Richmond, Kentucky, where the second son, Michael was born. He joined the Wisconsin State College, which became the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Starting there in 1954, he taught until March 18, 2005, beginning with courses in History of Western Civilization, Asian Civilization and Contemporary American Civilization, sociology, economics and political science. His advanced classes concerned 20th Century World History. In 1963, he became Chair of the Social Science Department. When that was divided into five departments, he remained chair of the History Department until 1991. For over 50 years he enjoyed teaching a course called Great Ideas, a capstone course for seniors. His most enjoyable course was a Graduate class on World War I, World War II and the Cold War, where the students would prepare research for the seminar's probing and discussion.
What impressed his students the most was his enthusiastic rapid lectures, accompanied by his outlining the lecture and filling many black boards. Students termed him the most cheerful of lecturers. He appeared in various university plays and directed a "Faculty Frolic." He was president and secretary of the Upper Midwest History Conference; Secretary & Treasurer Pierce County Historical Association He received research grants from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung- 1963-64, 1966, 1985; the National Endowment for the Humanities - 1969-70, and the Social Science Research Council - 1970-71. These enabled three major research periods in Germany, so that his sons, raised, bilingual, could attend German schools.
He published his doctoral dissertation on Hjalmar Schacht, For and Against Hitler (1954); The Limits of Hitler's Power (1969); Retreat to Victory, the U.S. Occupation of Germany (1978); The Many Faces of Defeat, the German People's Experience in 1945: An Analytical History of World War II (1995); Russian Command, German Resistance (1998); The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic (2001), and The Limits of Secret Police Power: The Magdeburger Stasi, 1953-1989 (2004). In addition there were many scholarly papers and book reviews. He was most active in the German Studies Association.
He supported wife Ursula's writings and publications on the History of River Falls and Pierce County, as well as her Family History Research. Son John became business manager of a union in Madison, Wisconsin. Son Michael is a geographer/cartographer, teaching and publishing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Son John, wife Elaine Martinson, have two daughters, Cecelia "Cece" and Angela; son Michael and wife Kathy Graf have two daughters, Sarah and Amelia. Great grandchildren are Sophie and Austin.