Pete Hunting was born in Massachusetts in 1941. His childhood years were spent in Connecticut. Pete was ten when the Huntings moved to Illinois and fourteen when they moved to Missouri. He returned to Connecticut for college, attending Wesleyan University and studying government, Chinese, and French. Upon graduation, he joined International Voluntary Services, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization upon which the Peace Corps was modeled. In July 1963—when John Kennedy was still president—Pete arrived in Saigon, the Pearl of the Orient. Within months, President Kennedy and President Diem of South Vietnam were both assassinated. In Pete’s two-plus years in Vietnam he chronicled the deteriorating situation in his journal and correspondence.
In Pete’s first letters home he asked for pie and cake recipes, craved hamburgers, and sought advice about building an airplane in his back yard. As he came to know the Vietnamese, Cham, and Montagnard people he worked with, his letters included observations about local customs, the challenges of building wells and windmills, and the frustrations and dangers he lived with. After two months’ home leave in 1965, Pete returned to Vietnam as a regional supervisor for IVS in the Mekong Delta. On witnessing the changes associated with U.S. ground troops arriving in Vietnam, he wrote, “Saigon is awash with green uniforms.”
At the wheel of his jeep four months later, Pete was killed in an ambush. Family members and friends learned of his death in newspapers across the country or heard it on the radio or from Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.
As a civilian, Pete’s name is not on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Click here to learn about Jill's work with the United States Institute of Peace to create a sculpture honoring civilians killed in war.
Dedication of the Peter Hunting Library, Phan Rang, Vietnam, June 1968
An IVS volunteer who followed Pete in Phan Rang oversaw construction of a memorial library. A Vietnamese architect drew the plans. The project was funded with donations from Pete’s family and friends.
After weeks of scrounging for materials and supplies, the IVS volunteer found a source for books he believed Vietnamese library patrons would read and find useful. After being informed that the source might be linked to the CIA, however, he was dissuaded from accepting them so as not to compromise the work of IVS.