Frank E. Petersen Jr., First Black Marine Aviator, Dies

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Frank Petersen, Marines’ first black aviator and general, dies at 83.

Petersen, who made history twice as the first African-American aviator in the Marine Corps and then as the Corps’ first African-American general, has died at 83, the Marines’ announced. Petersen, who flew more than 350 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam, died Tuesday at his home in Stevensville, Maryland, of complications from lung cancer. After serving as special assistant to the Marines’ chief of staff, he retired as commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia. He finally felt “I was a winner” upon his promotion to brigadier general, “even though “not everybody in the Corps was overjoyed at my selection,” he wrote. “The aide presented my brigadier’s flag with its one glaring star to the commandant, who immediately handed it to me.

I kissed my wife, left the flag with her, then seemingly floated to the lectern to give the crowd my good wishes and thanks,” Petersen wrote. “ ‘He took that flag,’ Alicia [Petersen’s wife] likes to remember, ‘and he wrapped it around himself and he sat upon his chair like he was on a throne,’” Petersen wrote. Among his many honors, Petersen received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with valor device, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal, the corps said.

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