The ship bearing Frank E. Peterson Jr.’s name, the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr., is set to join the naval fleet in 2020. Petersen, a decorated military officer and fighter pilot died in 2015 at his home in Stevensville, Md. at the age of 83.
Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen
On Nov. 9, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG 121, will be named Frank E. Petersen Jr., in honor of the Marine Corps lieutenant general who was the first Black Marine Corps aviator and the first Black Marine Corps general officer.
Mabus said during the announcement “The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor.” He continued, “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”
Construction began on the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) April 27 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.
In 1950, two years after President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces, Petersen enlisted in the Navy. Two years later, in 1952, Petersen was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He would go on to fly 350 combat missions during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Petersen also went on to become the first Black in the Marine Corps to command a fighter squadron, an air group and a major base.
Petersen retired from the Marine Corps in 1988 after 38 years of service. At the time of his retirement he was the senior-ranking aviator in the Marine Corps and the United States Navy.
“It’s a tremendous honor, said Dana Moore, Petersen’s second of five children. “It’s a destroyer but in its description it will have a peacekeeping mission as well as being prepared for battle. It was only as a last resort that he would want to do battle and I think it’s the perfect embodiment of him. It’s a tremendous honor and we’re thankful to the Navy,” said Moore, owner and founder of Baltimore based law firm Petersen Moore.