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  • 2015
Lieutenant General Frank Petersen dies at 83

By Sgt. Terry Brady, Defense Media Activity


Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (ret.) the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps officer to be promoted to brigadier general, died Aug. 25, 2015.

“[He was] a pioneer and role model in many ways, a stellar leader, Marine officer and aviator.” said Gen. John M. Paxton, Jr., the 33rd Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Born March 2, 1932 in Topeka, Kansas, Petersen was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1952 after serving two years in the U.S. Navy. Petersen served during the Korean War in 1953 and Vietnam in 1968. During his career, Petersen flew more than 350 combat missions and more than 4,000 hours in various military aircraft.

Petersen was promoted to brigadier general on Feb. 23, 1979, becoming the first African-American to hold that rank in the Marine Corps.

Petersen retired as a lieutenant general on Aug. 1, 1988, after serving as the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. His commands held include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212, deactivated March 11, 2008, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, and served as the commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Petersen’s military awards include: the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with valor device, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

His actions were recorded in the Congressional Records as part of the archives of the House of Representatives on July 28, 2014, where they will be preserved forever.