During a ceremony at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced their plans to name a destroyer after Frank E. Petersen  Jr.

Petersen was the first African-American aviator and the first African-American to make the rank of general officer in the Marine Corps. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG 121 will now carry on his legacy.


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In 1948 President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces. Two years later, in 1950, Petersen decided to join the navy where he went on to make history. In 1952, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, where he would valiantly fight in 350 air combat missions.


He fought around the world in multiple wars such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Petersen had a distinguished military career and he went on to become the first African-American in the Marine Corps to command a fighter squadron, an air group, and a major base.


Petersen’s military career came to an end when he retired from the Marine Corps in 1988 after 38 years of service. At the time of his retirement, he was, by date of designation, the senior ranking aviator in the Marine Corps and the United States Navy. Petersen, unfortunately, passed away last year at his home in Stevensville, Md., at the age of 83.


The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will be the first ship to honor his service and name. Mabus commented on the historic moment saying, “The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor.” He added, “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”


The destroyer conducts various operations from peacetime and wartime. The DDG 121 will be capable defending air attacks, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously. The destroyer will also contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems.

Construction on the DDG 121 began on April 27 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2020.