America's First Black Marine Aviator -- Frank E. Petersen, J. Alfred Phelps
From then-segregated Topeka, KS in the early 1950's, aching to be free and try his wings; joins the U.S. Navy. Against all odds, he finds himself training to become a naval aviator -- and realizes a dream to become a marine aviator.-- a mountain no other black had ever climbed. He not only does it but with determination ascends the Marine's career ladder. First black Marine aviator, squadron commander, group and wing commander and, finally, the great Quantico Marine Base.
The District of Columbia Chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association held a Testimonial for Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr., USMC, Retired, on Sunday, February 20, 1994, at Bolling Air Force Base. Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, attended.
Gen. Petersen joined the U.S. Navy as a seaman apprentice in June 1950. In 1951 he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and in October 1952, he completed flight training and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
His first tactical assignment was with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 during the Korean Conflict. His second combat tour came in Vietnam in 1968. He flew more than 350 combat missions and has over 4,000 hours in various fighter/attack aircraft.
During his career, Gen. Petersen commanded a Marine Fighter Squadron, a Marine Aircraft Group, a Marine Amphibious Brigade, a Marine Aircraft Wing, and Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
Gen. Petersen was the Marine Corps' first African-American aviator, wing commander, base commander and general officer. He retired from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1988. (Division of Public Affairs, HQMC)
Lt General Petersen's book is Into the Tiger's Jaws: America's First Black Aviator
Currently Petersen chairs the board of directors of the National Marrow Donor Program.
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