New Naval Destroyer To Be Named For General Who Made History

Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen Jr.
Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen Jr.

The US Navy has named a destroyer after a three-star general who was the first black aviator, first black general and first black base commander in the US Marine Corps.

The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced that the new destroyer, still under construction, will be named the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. in honor of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.

Petersen enlisted in 1950 in the US Navy.  He left the Navy in 1952 to accept a commission to become a second lieutenant and the first black aviator in the Marines.  He flew more than 350 combat missions and logged over 4,000 military aircraft hours during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Mabus made the announcement on November 9.  He pointed to Petersen’s courage and perseverance during his career as the traits that made him worthy of the honor.

Petersen retired in 1988.  At the time, he was the senior aviator on active duty in the US military.  He died in 2015 at the age of 83.  Among other honors, he received for his service the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit with Valor Device.

He earned the Purple Heart when he received multiple serious injuries during a mission in North Vietnamese airspace.  Despite his injuries, he flew another 240 missions.

In 2010, Petersen was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Board of Visitors to the US Naval Academy. The purpose of the board is to monitor morale and instruction at the academy, MarineTimes reported.

The USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. began construction on April 27 in Mississippi.  It is expected that the vessel will be ready to enter the fleet in 2020.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE