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US Navy - Guided Missile Destroyer

DDG 121 - USS Frank E. Petersen Jr.


  ddg-121 uss frank e. petersen arleigh burke class destroyer


Type, class: Guided Missile Destroyer - DDG; Arleigh Burke class, Flight IIA

Builder: Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA



Awarded: authorized

Laid down:


Commissioned: ?




Namesake: Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen Jr. / USMC (1932-2015)

Ships Motto:

Technical Data: see: INFO > Arleigh Burke class Guided Missile Destroyer - DDG


ship images



USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121):

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- The construction of future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) is officially underway at Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard.

The milestone, which signifies the first 100 tons of steel being cut, was marked with a ceremony held in the shipyard's fabrication shop, April 27.

The guided-missile destroyer honors Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr. who was the first African American aviator and general officer in the United States Marine Corps. After entering the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1950, Petersen would go on to fly more than 350 combat missions throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

"With this milestone, Ingalls is now in various stages of production on five Arleigh Burke-class destroyers," said Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 class program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. "DDG 121 will greatly benefit from the serial production of those earlier ships and once delivered, will be the 70th destroyer of its class to join the U.S. Fleet."

Frank E. Petersen Jr. will be built in the Flight IIA configuration with the AEGIS Baseline 9 Combat System, which includes Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability. This system delivers quick reaction time, high firepower, and increased electronic countermeasures capability for Anti-Air Warfare.


Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen Jr. / USMC (1932-2015):

Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr. (USMC) (March 2, 1932 - August 25, 2015) was a United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General. He was the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps general.

Petersen retired from the Marine Corps in 1988 after 38 years of service. "At the time of his retirement he was by date of aviator designation the senior ranking aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps and the United States Navy with respective titles of 'Silver Hawk' and 'Gray Eagle'. His date of designation as an aviator also precedes all other aviators in the U.S. Air Force and Army."

In 2010, President Obama appointed Petersen to the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy.

Personal life:

Frank E. Petersen was born on March 2, 1932 in Topeka, Kansas. He married Eleanor "Ellie" Burton in 1955, while he was a pilot on rotation for test flights in dropping an atomic bomb and was called for a flight on the night of his wedding. Their marriage ended in divorce, but produced four biological children; Frank E. Petersen III, Gayle Petersen, Linda Pulliam, and Dana Moore. He also had a stepdaughter whom he adopted, Monique Petersen.

Petersen died at his home in Stevensville, Maryland on August 25, 2015 from lung cancer.

Military career:

When Petersen aced the United States Navy entrance exam in 1950, the recruiter told him he would make a "great steward." However, being motivated by the recent Korean War combat death of Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, Petersen vowed to be a pilot. After serving as a seaman apprentice, he then served as an electronics technician. In 1951, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. After completing flight training, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1952.

Petersen served combat tours in two wars, Korea (1953) and Vietnam (1968). His first tactical assignment was with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 during the Korean War. He would fly a total of 350 combat missions and over 4,000 hours in various fighter/attack aircraft.

He held command positions at all levels of Marine Corps aviation, commanding a Marine Fighter Squadron, a Marine Aircraft Group and a Marine Aircraft Wing. He was also the first African-American to command a fighter squadron, a fighter air group, an air wing and a major base.

On February 23, 1979, he was promoted to Brigadier General, becoming the first African-American General in the Marine Corps. Petersen relinquished duties as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia on July 8, 1988. He served as the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff from July 8–31 and retired from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1988. Upon his retirement, he was presented the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia, from June 1986 to July 1988.



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.



Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr.






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