On Saturday, a destroyer ship was named in honor of a Black Marine, Frank E. Petersen Jr., WIBW reports. The USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. is on its way to Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii, after its commissioning at the Columbus Street Terminal in Charleston, SC.
The ceremony was led by Commander Daniel Hancock along with 32 officers and 297 enlisted personnel who are assigned to the ship.
The ship’s sponsors are D’Arcy Ann Neller, wife of retired Gen. Robert Neller, former Marine Corps Commandant, as well as Petersen’s wife, Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, who passed away in September 2021, according to the Defense Department.
The motto of the ship is said to be “Into the Tiger’s Jaw,” a phrase often used by Petersen to display courage despite all the social injustices and dangers that he encountered.
“When the time comes, hell, stick out your can,” Petersen's quote read on the ship’s wall. “Let’s go. Let’s see what the old tiger’s got. Let’s jump right into his big, old jaw.”
Born in Topeka, Kansas, Petersen became the first Black aviator and first Black general in the history of the Marines. He served combat tours in Korea in 1953 and in Vietnam in 1968. During those conflicts, Petersen is estimated to have flown more than 350 combat missions and logged over 4,000 military aircraft hours.
In 1988, Petersen retired from the Marines as a three-star general.
Into the Tiger’s Jaw is also the name of Petersen’s autobiography, where he details his life from his start as a Navy seaman in 1950 up through his retirement as Marine lieutenant general in 1988.
In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Petersen to the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy.
Petersen passed away in August 2015 at the age of 83.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro lauded Peterson for being a trailblazer in an official statement.
“This ship honors the life and legacy of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr., a pioneer not just for Marine Corps aviation but for our entire naval force,” his statement read. “I have no doubt the crew will be a cornerstone of the Surface Force carrying his legacy forward and strengthening the bond between our Navy and Marine Corps team.”