The Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121), May 14 in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Destroyer was named in honor of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC Ret.). Petersen, born in Topeka, Kansas, was the first Black USMC aviator and the first Black Marine to become a three-star general.
Peterson enlisted in the U. S. Navy in June 1950 as a seaman apprentice and served as an electronics technician. When Petersen aced the Navy’s entrance exam, the recruiter told him he would make a “great steward.” However, being motivated by the recent Korean War combat death of the Navy’s first Black aviator Jesse L. Brown in December, Petersen vowed to be a combat pilot.
In 1951, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. In October 1952, he completed flight training and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Petersen served a combat tour in the Korean War (1953) and in the Vietnam War (1968).
He flew more than 350 combat missions and had over 4,000 hours in various fighter and attack aircraft. Lt. Gen. Petersen passed away in Aug. 2015 at the age of 83.
“There’s a saying that ships take on the characteristics of their namesakes, and if that’s true, then God help any adversary to ever confronts the Frank E. Petersen, Jr,” said Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, at the commissioning ceremony.
Members of Petersen’s family on hand for the commissioning included his daughters Gayle Petersen, Dana Petersen Moore, Lindsay Pulliam, and Monique Petersenand
“We would not be having this ceremony today if not for a gentleman named Robert Adams. When my dad was shot down in Vietnam he was rescued by Robert Adams.” said his daughter Gayle. “Iwould like to thank all who had a hand in building this ship, from stem to stern.”
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet. These highly capable, multi-mission ships conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence to national security providing a wide range of warfighting capabilities in multi-threat air, surface and subsurface. Following the commission, the destroyer – with its crew – will transit to her homeport at Joint base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.