The first African-American aviator in the Marine Corps has died at 83


Gen. John M. Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, called Petersen “a pioneer and role model in many ways, a stellar leader, Marine officer and aviator.” In his 1998 autobiography, “Into the Tiger’s Jaw: America’s First Black Marine Aviator,” Petersen wrote at length about the racism and opposition he encountered along his way up the ranks. He revealed what it was: “”Separate water fountains in the gym. Designated latrines. The back-of-the-bus routine.” Among his many honors, Petersen received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with valor device, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal.


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