Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr., the first African-American Marine Corps general and the first black Marine pilot, was honored by the Congressional Black Caucus, following his death in late August.
“While we mourn the loss of the United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr., we also celebrate his over three decades of honorable, inspired and courageous service to our country,” said G.K. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “From the harrowing skies of Korea and Vietnam, Lieutenant General Petersen flew over 300 combat missions with great courage, honor and distinction and logged over 4,000 flight hours on a variety of tactical fighter and attack aircraft by the end of his military career.”
Petersen was commissioned a second lieutenant in Marines, becoming the first black pilot in 1952. He was inspired by the story of Jesse Brown, the first African-American naval aviator.
During the Korean and Vietnam wars, Petersen served as a fighter pilot, earning a Purple Heart in Vietnam.
In 1979, he was named the first African-American general in the Marines. In 1986, he was named the first black commander of the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
Lieutenant General Petersen served 38 years in the Navy, including 36 years in the Marines. He retired in 1988.
He died August 25 at his home in Stevensville, Maryland, of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths among black men. Lieutenant General Petersen, who was 83, was born March 2, 1932, in Topeka, Kansas.