R 172000Z JAN 20
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC MRA MP//
SUBJ/2020 NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH//
REF/A/PUBLIC LAW 99-244/11FEB1986/NATIONAL BLACK (AFRO-AMERICAN) HISTORY MONTH//
REF/B/NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH/AFRICANAMERICANHISTORYMONTH.GOV//
REF/C/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT/14NOV2012/AFRICAN AMERICANS AT WAR: FIGHTING TWO BATTLES//
POC/T. M. VELAZQUEZ/CIV/UNIT: MRA (MPE)/TEL: COM (703)784-9371/TEL: DSN (278)/EMAIL: THERESA.VELAZQUEZ@USMC.MIL//
POC/K. D. DUNN/CIV/UNIT: MRA (MPE)/TEL: COM (703)784-9371/TEL: DSN (278)/EMAIL: KENNETH.DUNN@USMC.MIL//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1. Since proclaimed by Public Law 99-244 in 1986, February is observed as “National African American History Month.” During this month, we take the opportunity to honor all African Americans and to acknowledge their ongoing contributions to the success and development of our Nation. The 2020 observance theme is: “Honoring The Past, Securing The Future.”
2. Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (1932-2015) achieved an unparalleled naval career that made an indelible impression upon the U.S. Marine Corps. Born in Topeka, Kansas during the Segregation era to a working-class family, Frank Petersen first enlisted in the U.S. Navy before becoming the first black aviator in the Marine Corps by receiving his pilot wings in 1952. During his assignment to Korea with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 (VMFA-212), the “Devil Cats,” he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as a 21-year-old Second Lieutenant for his actions on 15 June 1953 where he led a division of attack aircraft on a close air support mission against heavily defended enemy positions situated within proximity of friendly frontline units. In 1968, he served in Vietnam commanding Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314), the renowned “Black Knights,” thus becoming the first black officer to command a tactical air squadron. During February of 1979, Petersen became the first black Marine CorpsGeneral Officer upon his promotion to Brigadier General, and in 1986 as a Lieutenant General, he became the Commanding General of Marine Corps Development and Education Command, which is now known as Marine Corps Combat Development Command. During his eventful military career, LtGen Petersen not only flew more than 350 combat missions and over 4,000 hours in a variety of military aircraft such as the F-4B Phantom jet, but he also personally addressed challenging matters pertaining to troop morale, manpower policy, and equal opportunity. He would often seek clarity when dealing with inflammatory subjects, and would engage others to identify possible corrective actions for the improvement of both command climate and military operations. LtGen Petersen retired in 1988 after thirty-eight years of honorable military service leaving the Marine Corps with a stellar example of professional commitment, grit, and selfless leadership for all Marines to emulate.
3. On 10 November 1945, Frederick C. Branch (1922-2005) was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve after serving in WWII as one of the more than 20,000 Montford Point Marines. Upon his commissioning, 2ndLt Branch received the distinction as the first African American commissioned officer in the Marine Corps. Today, the Marine Corps offers the Frederick
C. Branch Leadership Scholarship in his honor. This Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship is awarded to selected midshipmen attending one of the 17 Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that host NROTC on their campuses. Sixty-eight scholarships are offered each year.
4. To learn more about the Marine Corps’ African American legacy, Medal of Honor recipients, and U.S. military history, visit the Library of the Marine Corps (grc-usmcu.libguides.com/library-of-the-marine-corps) or select a book from the Commandant’s Professional Reading list (grc-usmcu.libguides.com/usmc-reading-list). To learn more about the life and unprecedented military career of LtGen Petersen, read, “Into the Tiger’s Jaw: America’s First Black Marine Aviator, the Autobiography of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen,” (1998).
5. During this observance month, commanders are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the invaluable service and selfless contributions African Americans - military, veteran, and civilian - give to our country and Corps. Commanders are further encouraged to conduct programs and promote participation in observance events within their commands and across their local communities.
6. Release authorized by BGen D. L. Shipley, Division Director, Manpower Plans and Policy.//