Newest US Navy destroyer named after first African-American Marine Corps general officer

During his career, Frank E. Petersen flew more than 350 combat missions and more than 4,000 hours in various military aircraft. Photo: US Marine Corps

The U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus named the DGG 121 destroyer after the first African-American Marine Corps general officer Frank E. Petersen Jr.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was named during a Nov. 9 ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

In 1950, two years after President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces, Petersen enlisted in the Navy.

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. He also 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 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 died last year at his home in Stevensville, Maryland, near Annapolis, at the age of 83. This is the first ship to be named for Petersen.

“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” said Mabus. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”

Construction works on the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) began April 27 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and the ship is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2020.

Frank E. Petersen, Jr. will be built in the Flight IIA configuration with the AEGIS Baseline 9 Combat System which includes Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability.

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