The Navy is commissioning a new destroyer vessel named after the Marine Corps’ first Black aviator, Frank E. Petersen, Jr.
According to The Post and Courier, Charleston is the commissioning site for the Navy’s guided-missile destroyer, the Frank E. Petersen Jr. The ceremony will be held on May 14 at the Columbus Street Terminal.
When the ship goes online, it will be homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. It is the 33rd destroyer built at Pascagoula.
Petersen Commissioning Committee said in a statement, “The ship’s motto, ‘Into the Tiger’s Jaw,’ is a phrase used by Petersen many times throughout his life to convey the unbridled spirit in confronting and overcoming social injustice and prejudice as well as bravery in combat and courage in the broad sense.”
Petersen was born on March 2, 1932, in Topeka, Kansas. He joined the Navy in 1950 as a seaman apprentice and worked as an electronics technician. In 1951 he joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program.
By October 1952, Petersen had completed flight training and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He made history as the Marine Corps’ first Black aviator and the first Black officer to be promoted to brigadier general.
Petersen also served two combat tours. One in Korea in 1953 and the second in Vietnam in 1968. He flew more than 350 combat missions and had more than 4,000 hours in various attack aircraft.
He retired as a lieutenant general in 1988, passing away in August 2015 at age 83. Lieutenant General Petersen was a senior ranking aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy with the titles “Silver Hawk” and “Grey Eagle.
On July 13, 2018, Ingalls Shipbuilding launched the guided-missile destroyer Frank E. Petersen Jr.
The ceremony is open to the public, and tickets may be requested at ddg121commissioning.org.