This Day in Black History: Frank E. Petersen became the first African American general in the Marine Corps


Frank E. Petersen

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HOUSTON – Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr. was born on March 2, 1932 in Topeka, Kansas.

In 1950, Petersen served as an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy. A year later, Petersen enrolled in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. In 1952, he was a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War.

In Feb. 1979, Petersen was promoted to brigadier and became the first African American general in the Marine Corps. In 1986, he was then promoted to lieutenant general. Petersen was also known as the first African American Marine Corps aviator.

On Aug. 25, 2015, Petersen died at the age of 83 from lung cancer in Stevensville, Maryland.

Petersen’s courageous leadership earned him a right to make history – black history.

A few of Lieutenant General Frank Petersen’s awards and accomplishments:

  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Defense Superior Service Medal
  • Purple Heart Medal
  • Legion of Merit with Combat “V”
  • Distinguished Flying Cross

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