Frank Emmanuel Petersen, Jr. was born March 2, 1932, in Topeka, Kansas. He was one of four children born to Frank Petersen, Sr. and Edythe Southard Petersen. The Petersen family lived next to Topeka Army Airfield. As a young child, Frank would watch the military aircraft take off and land. This sparked his interest in the U.S. military.
Petersen attended Monroe Elementary School in Topeka. Once he reached middle school, he attended the gifted program at Boswell Junior High School. He then attended Topeka High School and graduated from there in 1949. He then enrolled in courses at Washburn University.
After a year at Washburn University, Petersen dropped out and joined the U.S. Navy. After impressing the recruiters with his outstanding test score, he enlisted in the Navy in 1950. There, he trained to be an electronics technician. He learned about the first Black Naval Aviation Cadet, Jesse Brown, which prompted him to join the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1951.
In 1952, Petersen completed flight training. He then earned the title of Naval Aviator. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He became the first Black aviator in the history of the Marine Corps.
Petersen began fighting in the Korean War in 1953. He flew Chance Vaught F4U Corsairs on 64 combat missions. He flew with the Marine Fighter Squadron 212 Devilcats out of K-6 Airfield in Pygon-Taek. For his outstanding work, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and six air medals by the end of the Korean War.
In 1967, Petersen returned to school and earned his B.A. degree from George Washington University. By 1973, he had earned his M.A. degree in international affairs, also from George Washington University.
The Black Knights
Petersen became the first Black officer in the Marines or the Navy to command a tactical air squadron in 1968. He took over the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, The Black Knights, in Vietnam. He flew 290 missions during the Vietnam War, spanning from May 1968 to February 1969. In 1968, he earned the Purple Heart for his valor while flying.
From 1969 until 1986, Petersen climbed the ranks of the U.S. Military. In 1986, he was appointed Commanding General of the USMC Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia. He retired in 1988 as the first Black three-star general in the USMC. He was also the first Black Silver Hawk, and Gray Eagle senior and ranking aviator in the USMC and the Navy.
In 1987, Petersen was granted with an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Virginia Union University. He received a number of medals and honors for his decades of service. He later served as the vice president of corporate aviation for DuPont DeNemours, Inc. Frank E. Petersen died August 25, 2015, at his home on the Chesapeake Bay. He was 83 years old.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**]]>