Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Frank in the News... Frank E Petersen Jr.

We love the name Frank – it suits us - we are open, honest and direct… this means that we are not everyone’s cup of tea – but actually we are fine with that.

This post is the first in a series we are calling ‘Frank in the news’ where  we look at another frank who has hit the news recently – we have no idea what the stories will be – so hold on It could be a bumpy ride.

The Headline that prompted our interest – as reported in the LA Times  

‘Frank E. Petersen Jr. dies at 83; Flier was Marines’ first black general’

Frank E. Petersen Jr - (Source Wikipedia) 
‘Petersen was the’ Marine Corps first African American aviator and its first black general, bucking racism in nearly every step of  distinguished military career.’
He joined the military to ‘escape the constraints on blacks in his native Kansas,’ he died on 25 August 2015 at the age of 83 of lung cancer at his home in Stevensville Maryland. He had 5 children.

The US Distinguished Flying Cross - Source Wikipedia
Petersen was born in Topeka Kansas and attended the then still segregated  Monroe Elementary school then Topeka High School The son of a former sugar cane plantation from the Virgin Islands. He graduated in 1949 and joined the United States Army in 1950, having had to retake the Navy entrance exam when a recruiter suspected he had cheated.
In 1953 he was assigned to Korea where he flew on over 350 combat missions during 2 tours of Korea and Vietnam. His F-4 Phantom was shot down in 1968 but Petersen safely bailed out and went on to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross and six air medals. He became the first African American to command a squadron – the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314.

In 1998 Petersen (with Alfred Phelps) launched the autobiographical
‘Into the Tiger’s Jaw: America’s First Black Marine Aviator – The Autobiography of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen’

Into The Tigers Jaw - Source Amazon 

A review by publishers weekly states (http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-89141-675-3'Assisted by veteran biographer Phelps (They Had a Dream), Petersen relates his personal and career trajectory from wide-eyed kid to seasoned combatant. Although the presentation at times is overly detailed, with recollections of Petersen's acquaintances sprinkled liberally throughout (""Yeah, I remember Frank...""), this work offers valuable insight into the evolution of both the military and the society at large through the experience of one man and his family. It's hard not to wince when Petersen describes being stopped for impersonating a military officer at a time when blacks in the service were presumed to be enlisted men. Other anecdotes are more benign, such as the time a puzzled young Korean woman tried to wipe the color from his face. To Petersen's credit, he includes much commentary from his first wife, Ellie, who is candid about the toll of being married to an ambitious pioneer.

With an excellent record he became the first African American General in the United States Marine Corps.
He retired from the military  in 1988 and became vice president of corporate aviation for DuPont DeNemours, Inc. He retired from this post in 1997.

If you want to find out more about Frank Petersen then follow the links below. All quotes are from one of the sites below

So until today I knew nothing of Petersen but he was an inspired and inspiring Frank – one that we are proud to share our name with.

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