"Silver Hawk"


Frank E. Petersen Jr., suffered continual racial indignities as a military enlistee in the 1950s, which started with a recruiter who forced him to retake a Navy entrance exam after being accused of cheating the first time. After acing the exam, Petersen was told by the requiter that he would make a "great steward".

Inspired by the life of Jesse L. Brown, the United States Navy's first black aviator, Petersen had vowed to become an aviator himself. At one point in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, Petersen was flunked by his flight instructor who predicted with absolute certainty that Petersen would never be allowed, or be capable to fly anything, especially in the United States Marine Corps.

Peterson never gave in, and went on to become the first black United States Marine Corps Aviator, the first black person in command of a fighter squadron (the Black Knights). And eventually, become the first black general in the United States Marine Corps.

Peterson successfully completed over 350 combat missions during the course of two wars, Korea, and Vietnam, and In 1968, after suffering extensive damage from enemy fire, he was forced to eject from his stricken F-4.

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'.

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.

Frank E Peterson Jr. flew west at his home in Stevensville, Md., near Annapolis on August 25th, 2015 . He was 83 years of age.

The first "cutting of steel" took place in April 2016, and on March 30th 2017, the Keel was laid for the United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class Flight 11A Guided Missile Destroyer named USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG-121)





  • Jesse James Bell

    Great Story Man, Me I’m JJ Bell, Same home of Frank Petterson, and a USAF CRASH RESCUE Sgt/ E-4 / 69- 77 – US Navy Air Crew Survival Equipment ( Aviation Life Support ) PR1 /E-6, VAW-113 Black Eagles E2-b,VF-213 Black Lions F-14 Tomcats, TACAMO IRONMAN EC-13 GQ Secret, VS-41 US3 Viking, H1 Hele HC1! My Branch Officer was the first Blue Angel Pilot Lt. Donnie Cockran, And My Uncle introduced me to Tuskeegee Airman Mirrel Ross, who was a principle here in Topeka Ross Elementry Grad School and influence Frank ! And got to meet USAF Gen Chappie James !

  • Ben Mostowy

    A great aviator and a great story!

  • Dana Petersen Moore

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Lt. General Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC, Dec’d), my father. Just a little correction – his date of death is August 25, 2015. Also, the USS Frank E. Petersen keel was laid in 2017. Thank you for remembering him.

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