US government to accept delivery of USS Frank E. Petersen named after first Black Marine Corps aviator, general
TOPEKA, Kansas (Tribune News Service) — Its commanding officer on Tuesday will accept delivery of a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer named after Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr., a native Topekan.
In a short, informal ceremony to be shown live on the Facebook page of the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr., Commander Daniel Hancock at 10 a.m. will accept delivery of the ship on behalf of the U.S. government from Huntington Ingalls Industries' Ingalls Shipbuilding division.
The vessel was known as Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer DDG 121 when its construction began in 2016 at the HII shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The Navy announced that year that the ship would be named in honor of Petersen, a three-star general who became the first Black aviator, first Black general and first Black base commander in the Marine Corps.
The ship's keel was laid in 2017. It was launched in 2018 and christened later that year. The ship recently successfully passed naval acceptance trials.
Petersen is thought to be the first Topeka native to become the namesake of a U.S. Navy ship.
He graduated in 1949 from Topeka High School, spent two semesters at Washburn University, enlisted in the Navy in 1950, then left in 1952 to accept a commission as a second lieutenant and become the first black pilot in the Marine Corps.
Petersen flew more than 350 combat missions and more than 4,000 military aircraft hours during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He also became the first Black man in the Marines to command a fighter squadron, an air group and a major base.
Petersen earned a master's degree in 1973 from the National War College in Washington, D.C. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1979, major general in 1983 and lieutenant general in 1986. He retired in 1988 as the senior aviator on active duty in the U.S. military.
President Barack Obama appointed Petersen in 2010 to the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy, which monitors morale, instruction and other matters.
Petersen died at age 83 in 2015 at his home in Maryland.
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