Remembering General Frank Petersen USMC

Honoring the Old Corps


His face imprinted on my memories as a US Marine. After I learned of Marine history, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, our General Orders, the importance of honor, pride, loyalty, guts and what distinguished us from other branches of military service I learned of Frank E. Petersen. It was his 8” x 10” picture hanging above my master sergeants desk that did it. He had made it to the rank of general, in this Corps. He had one star when I saw the picture in 1981.

Petersen went on to become the Marine Corps’ first African American aviator and its first black general, bucking racism at nearly every step of a distinguished military career.

After joining the Marines in 1952, Petersen flew 350 combat missions in Korea and later in Vietnam, where he was decorated with the Purple Heart after his plane was shot down over the demilitarized zone.  I think my “Top” (the name given to the the E-8 Marine non-commissioned officer) served with him in Viet Nam and that is why the picture was in his office.

The US Marines were last military branch to accept African Americans into it. This was one of the issues my family lamented over when I decided to join. The Marines Corps however, is the one that changed my life. I think I met General Petersen only once. It was as brief as a salute and that is all it was. I forget where I was but I was excited to see him in the flesh. Protocol prevented me from really talking to him so that was all I got.  It is interesting about the people you meet in your life.

Hadn’t thought about General Petersen for decades until my wife showed me his obituary. He lived near me actually and I didn’t know it.  It was an honor to know you sir, Semper Fidelis.



Rev. Kenn Blanchard is a professional speaker, writer, podcaster, and digital influencer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook He is the force behind, founder of Blanchard.Media and the