The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121), May 14 in Charleston, South Carolina. USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG-121) is a planned United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer, the 71st overall for the class. The ship was named for United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen Jr. (2 March 1932 – 25 August 2015), the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps general. The contract for the ship, along with the name, was first announced in a press release from Huntington Ingalls Industries on 30 March 2016. The first “cutting of steel” took place in April 2016, her keel was laid on 21 February 2017, and launched on 13 July 2018. She was christened on 6 October 2018. CDR Daniel Hancock assumed command of PCU Frank E. Petersen Jr. on 27 September 2019.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro attended the ceremony. He began by thanking the Petersen family for their lifetime of service to the nation. “All of us join you in honoring Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.” Del Toro also recognized the plankowners bringing the ship to life. “As Secretary of the Navy I contribute all that I can to make sure that you and your families are equipped for the many challenges that lie ahead. That starts with making sure that you have the very best ship that our nation has to offer.” The principal speaker was The Honorable Carlos Campbell, Naval aviator and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, who served alongside Petersen and relayed stories exemplifying the general’s strength and dedication. Recalling Petersen’s ethic, Campbell said “He received a frag wound, he was treated in the field, and returned to combat.”
The ship’s sponsors are Mrs. D’Arcy Ann Neller, wife of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert “Bob” Neller, USMC (Ret.), and the late Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, Lt. Gen. Petersen’s wife at the time of his passing in 2015. Dr. Petersen passed away in September 2021. Both sponsors participated in the keel laying, mast stepping, and christening ceremonies. During the ceremony, USS Frank E. Petersen’s commanding officer Cmdr. Daniel Hancock, reported the ship ready. Assisted by Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughters, Gayle Petersen, Dana Petersen Moore, Lindsay Pulliam, and Monique Petersen, Mrs. Neller gave the traditional order to “Man our ship and bring her to life!”? Lt. Gen. Petersen continues a family legacy of service begun by his great grandfather. Private Archibald (Archie) Charles McKinney enlisted in 1863 and served in the Mass 55th Company E during the Civil War. McKinney’s trip home included traveling aboard a steamship, disembarking at the Port of Charleston.?
The future USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. honors Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC Ret.). Petersen was the first black USMC aviator and the first black Marine to become a three-star general. Petersen served two combat tours, Korea in 1953 and Vietnam in 1968. He flew more than 350 combat missions and had over 4,000 hours in various fighter and attack aircraft. Petersen passed away in Aug. 2015 at the age of 83. Retiring in 1988 after 38 years of service, Petersen’s awards included the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with Combat “V”; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V;” and the Air Force Commendation Medal. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet. These highly capable, multi-mission ships conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence to national security providing a wide range of warfighting capabilities in multi-threat air, surface and subsurface.