Navy Vessel Named After First Black Marine Aviator Frank E. Petersen Jr. Will Be Commissioned in May

Navy Vessel Named After First Black Marine Aviator Frank E. Petersen Jr. Will Be Commissioned in May

Frank E. Petersen Jr.
(Image: US Navy)

A ship named after the first Black aviator and general officer in the Marine Corps will be commissioned on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

According to a press release from the Navy, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121), will be commissioned, honoring Petersen Jr., the first African American Marine Corps aviator and the first African American Marine Corps officer to be promoted to brigadier general. He died on Aug. 25, 2015.

Following the vessel’s commissioning, Frank E. Petersen Jr. will be homeported at Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

A 2002 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Cmdr. Daniel Hancock is the vessel’s commanding officer and guides the core crew of 32 officers and 297 enlisted personnel. The ship, which is nearly 510 feet long and has a beam of 59 feet and a navigational draft of 33 feet, was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding in a shipyard located in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The ship is capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots due to having four General Electric LM 2500-30 gas turbines and two shafts.

On March 2, 1932, Peterson was born in Topeka, Kansas, and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1952. He had previously served two years in the U.S. Navy. Petersen also served during the Korean War in 1953 and 15 years later in Vietnam in 1968. The aviator flew more than 350 combat missions and had more than 4,000 hours in various military aircraft.

On Feb. 23, 1979, Petersen was promoted to brigadier general, making him the first African American to hold that rank in the Marine Corps.

Petersen retired as a lieutenant general on Aug. 1, 1988, after serving as the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. His commands include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212, which was deactivated on March 11, 2008, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314. He also served as the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

During his military career, Petersen’s awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with valor device, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

His actions were recorded in the Congressional Record as part of the archives of the House of Representatives on July 28, 2014.