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Lt. Gen. Larry Jordan

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Larry R. Jordan was born on February 7, 1946 in Kansas City, Missouri. Jordan graduated from Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri in 1964 and was accepted in the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1968, he received his B.A. degree in engineering from West Point and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as an armor officer. Jordan went on to earn his M.A. degree in history from Indiana University at Bloomington in 1975. His military education includes the U.S. Army Armor School, the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, the U.S. Army Command and Staff College, the National War College at National Defense University as well as the U.S. Army Ranger Course and the U.S. Army Airborne Course. Jordan also received a certificate for completing the Harvard University Program in National and International Security Management in 1992.

Throughout his thirty-five years of service with the U.S. Armed Forces, Jordan has been assigned to a variety of staff and command assignments at the company, battalion, brigade, and installation levels. In 1993, Jordan reported to Fort Benning, Georgia where he served as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Armor Center and School. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1996, Jordan was appointed as the Inspector General of the U.S. Army where he worked closely with the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army. In 1999, Jordan deployed as the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe and the Seventh Army in Germany. He deployed in subsequent overseas missions to Germany, the Republic of Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. His last assignment from 2001 to 2003 was as the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command headquarters at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In 2003, Jordan became senior vice president of Burdeshaw Associates.

Jordan’s military honors include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge as well as the Armor Association’s Order of St. George and the Field Artillery Association’s Order of St. Barbara.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Larry R. Jordan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 14, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.040

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/12/2013

Last Name

Jordan

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

R.

Schools

Central Academy of Excellence

United States Military Academy

Indiana University

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Larry

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

JOR07

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

The only legacy most of us leave in life is the people we touch. Either manage your own career or someone else will mismanage it for you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

2/7/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Short Description

Lieutenant general (retired) Lt. Gen. Larry Jordan (1946 - ) is the former Commanding General of U.S. Army Armor Center, Inspector General of the Army and deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe, in Germany.

Employment

United States Army

Burdeshaw Associates

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Larry Jordan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about his grandfather's education and career as a doctor in the early 1900s, and his own interest in genealogy

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about his mother's life in Missouri, her education at Emporia Teachers College and her career as a teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan talks about his paternal grandparents, and his father's service in World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan talks about his paternal family's migration to Oklahoma, and his father's experience in the Philippines during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about his father's pride in his unit during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan describes his likeness to his parents, talks about his sister, and his grandmother living with his family when he was a child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan describes the neighborhood where he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about the layout of Kansas City, Missouri, school integration in the late 1950s, and moving to a different neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan talks about elementary school, his childhood interest in science, space and reading, and his favorite dog, Lady

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Larry Jordan talks about attending an integrated high school system in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Larry Jordan talks about the changing demographics of his neighborhood in Kansas City after integration

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan talks about integration in Kansas City, and his newly integrated elementary and high schools

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about his high school teacher, Mrs. Thumland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan talks about his childhood jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan talks about his family's involvement in the Baptist Church

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about his observation as a child of differing racial dynamics in different cities

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about his interests as a young boy growing up in Kansas City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan talks about his academic performance and his interest in sports in school

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan talks about his interest in the ROTC program in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Larry Jordan talks about attending the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Larry Jordan talks about his high school graduating class

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan describes his experience at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about his long term associations with classmates from the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan describes a typical day at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan talks about the academic curriculum at West Point, and the teaching of African American history

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about the training that he received at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about mentorship and friendship at the United States Military Academy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about the academic and athletic rigors of the United States Military Academy and his performance there

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement and being an African American student at the United States Military Academy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan reflects upon the civil unrest and riots in the U.S. in the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan talks about the Vietnam War and graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan talks about his training and assignment to Fort Hood after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan describes how he met and married his wife, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan describes how he met and married his wife, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan describes his experience in Vietnam in 1969

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan talks about his assignment as a company commander at Fort Riley, training with the Marine Corps, and his assignment at Fort Benning

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan talks about an opportunity to teach history at West Point, and getting a master's degree from Indiana University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan talks about the indigenous people of Vietnam and their views of American soldiers during the Vietnam War

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about the diversity and close-knit nature of his unit in Vietnam

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan reflects upon the draft and racial problems within the U.S. armed forces in the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan describes his experience at Indiana University

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about his master's thesis about the black experience at West Point

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about the history of African Americans at West Point and in the U.S. Army

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about graduating from Indiana University and teaching history for three years at West Point

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan talks about attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan describes his family's experience in Germany from 1979 to 1982

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Larry Jordan talks about serving at the Pentagon in 1982, his promotion to lieutenant colonel, and his assignment at Fort Hood

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Larry Jordan talks about the commemorative monument to the 761st Tank Battalion, at Fort Knox, Kentucky

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan talks about his experience at the National War College

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan talks about his mentor, General Frank Franks, serving as his Chief of Staff in Germany, and serving in Desert Storm

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan talks about Operation Desert Storm, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan talks about Operation Desert Storm, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about being promoted to the rank of a 2-Star general and taking command of Fort Knox, Kentucky

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan talks about presenting the Army Task Force Report on Extremist Activity, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan talks about presenting the Army Task Force Report on Extremist Activity, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan talks about serving as the Inspector General of the U.S. Army

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Larry Jordan describes his experience as Inspector General of the U.S. Army

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Larry Jordan shares his views on the U.S. Army's approval of women for combat duty

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Larry Jordan talks about his promotion to lieutenant general, and his assignment as the deputy commander of the U.S. Army forces in Europe

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Larry Jordan talks about the changes to TRADOC after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Larry Jordan talks about his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2003 and his activities after retirement

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Larry Jordan talks about his sons' careers

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Larry Jordan reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Larry Jordan reflects upon his life and career

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Larry Jordan describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Larry Jordan describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Larry Jordan describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

11$7

DATitle
Larry Jordan talks about the changing demographics of his neighborhood in Kansas City after integration
Larry Jordan describes his experience in Vietnam in 1969
Transcript
So, where did the white population go?$$They moved, they moved away. I can remember during those times as we were looking for our new home, and searching, there were a couple of things that happened. I think a lot of the veterans of World War II began to use their GI Bill to not only go to school, but for loans. I think in the case of my family, they had saved enough where it was time to move. And in our old neighborhood, which I described as being very stable and, you know, the whole neighborhood knew who you were, and took care of you. I mean, Hillary Clinton says "It takes a village [to raise a child]." It takes a block, you know. And you're doing something bad down the road, and somebody will wear you out right there and then send you home and call your folks and say I wore out your son. And then you'd get it again, for whatever you were doing (laughter). You don't find that now. In fact, you get sued. But by the time we left that neighborhood, it had begun to change, in that there were some of the old families dying out and moving. And it began to see a little blight. And so, blacks who could afford it, moved to better houses. I mean, these were old houses. People tried to keep them up, but they moved to better houses. And the whites just moved further out, moved to the suburbs, moved to the south of the city. And I can remember driving around as we were looking, and you'd see "For Sale" signs. And you'd get to a block where every house had a sign in the yard that said, "This house is not for sale, especially to colors." I mean, you'd see signs like that. And whole blocks would sign contracts that they wouldn't sell--because once the first person sells, and a black or a Mexican or a Puerto Rican family moves in, then you have flight. And everybody sells, and they were worried about their property values, and all the rest. So, those were some--and I should have mentioned that during sights and sounds, too. But that was, that's what happened. So, my neighborhood then, of course, in about six years became, went from two families out of thirty, to probably twenty families out of thirty who were African American.$Okay. Now in '69 [1969] when you were sent to Vietnam [Vietnam War], where were you sent?$$I was sent to north of Saigon, to the 1st Infantry Division. I went to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry. I went Bravo Company, B Company. And I said, the Italian commander put myself and two classmates together in that company. The captain who was over us, was a year ahead of us at West Point [United States Military Academy]. And so, that company really, the leadership, really clicked, because we all knew each other and respected each other. Now, if we had not known each other, I think the same thing would have happened, because we were of the same profession, we were all trained. But it was just very interesting to me to be in that situation where the other lieutenants were my classmates, and the company commander had been a year ahead of us at West Point. I served my time, went to--if you ever buy a Michelin tire for your car, I was at the Michelin rubber plantation. I spent a lot of time there.$$Now where is that? Is that in--$$Vietnam.$$Vietnam? I didn't realize that.$$Yeah. The Michelin family, French family, owned a huge tract of land, and Michelin was the largest rubber plantation in Vietnam. At one time it was divided into four sectors, and each sector had housing for the workers. It had schools for the kids. It was like a little city. By the time we got there, the war was roaring. Only about a third of the plantation was working rubber, still producing rubber. Nobody lived there, but they would come out and collect the rubber. And the Michelin family would come in and inspect about every three months, to look at it, what was left of it. But I spent my time there. From the Saigon River north, it was what we referred to as jungle. It was really thick forest with a lot of bamboo and a lot of bad guys--Vietnamese, North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong. And so, my job was to conduct operations, keep Americans alive, and dispatch bad guys. That's what I did. I saw a lot of the countryside and admired some of the people. I was amazed at the little kids, amazed at things I saw in that country. I learned a lot. I left there after a year, had a son. My oldest son was born while I was there. And I got a chance to see him when he was about two months old, when I had what was called R&R, rest and relaxation, for a week. I went to Hawaii, had a wonderful time, saw my wife [Nannette Pippen] for the first time in several months, and saw my young son.

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore

United States Army Lieutenant General (Retired) Russel L. Honoré, was born in 1947 to Udell and Lloyd Honoré in Lakeland, Louisiana. Honoré was the eighth of twelve children. Raised on a subsistence farm in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, Honoré was taught to value hard work. Honoré attended Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he earned his B.S. degree in vocational agriculture. After completing ROTC training at Southern University, Honoré entered the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer for the United States Army Combat Development Command in 1971.

During his 37 year career in the United States military, Honoré held a variety of positions and served in a number of commanding and supervisory positions, including Instructor at the United States Army Armor School; Commander for the C Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Infantry; and Assistant G-1 (Personnel) for the 1st Infantry Division (Forward), United States Army Europe and Seventh Army. In 1989, Honoré became the commander for the 4th Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Between 1999 and 2000, Honoré served as the Vice Director for Operations for the Joint Staff, where he supported the Department of Defense planning and response for Hurricane Floyd, as well as the United States’ military response to the devastating flooding in Venezuela (1999) and Mozambique (2000).

In 2004, Honoré became the 33rd commanding general of the U.S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Georgia. In this position, Honoré coordinated the U.S. military’s preparedness and response to Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Honoré was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina. Honoré’s arrival in New Orleans came after what was widely believed to be a poor performance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Honoré gained media celebrity and accolades for his apparent turning around of the situation in the city as well as his gruff management style which contrasted with what many felt were the empty platitude of civilian officials.

Following his retirement from the military on January 11, 2008, Honoré declared that he would spend the second half of his life committed to creating a culture of preparedness in America. In this regard, Honoré joined The Gallup Organization as a Senior Scientist; the faculties of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and Nell Hodgson School of Nursing. Honoré also served as a CNN Preparedness contributor. Since 2008, Honoré has worked as a public speaker with Keppler Speakers out of Arlington, Virginia. In 2009 he wrote a popular radio segment entitled “Work is a Blessing” for National Public Radio (NPR)’s program, This I Believe. Honoré has published many written works including his 2009 book, Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters and soon to be published, War Stories: Leadership in the New Normal.

Honoré is the recipient of numerous military and civilian awards, including six honorary doctorates from schools such as Stillman College and the United States Army War College. He received the 2006 NAACP Humanitarian Award, National Newspaper Publishers Association Newsmaker of the Year Award; Defense Distinguished Service Medal; and Army Distinguished Service Medal; as well as Keys to the City for Chrisholm, Minnesota, Riverdale, Georgia, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Honoré lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife Beverly.

Russel Honoré was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 29, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.091

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/29/2012

Last Name

Honore

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

L.

Organizations
Schools

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Troy University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Russel

Birth City, State, Country

Lakeland

HM ID

HON01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Ignorance can be fixed, stupidity is for life.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

9/15/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baton Rouge

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Lieutenant general (retired) Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore (1947 - ) is an expert on emergency preparedness and is widely credited for turning around the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina as the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina.

Employment

United States Army

Gallup Organization

Emory University

Vanderbilt University

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lieutenant General Russel Honore's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his family's Creole culture

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about floods in Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his siblings and his household

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his earliest memory growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about the differences between Creoles and African Americans

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his involvement in the 4-H Club

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his involvement in 4-H during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his lack of athletic ability

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes the mentors who directed him towards college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes why he chose to attend Southern University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his high school peers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his leadership in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his grandfather

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes working for his cousin while at Southern University pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes working for his cousin while at Southern University pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about how he came to own a horse during college

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his cousin Raymond Honore

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about Dr. Booker T. Whatley at Southern University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his ROTC teachers at Southern University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about his mentors at Southern University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about Felton G. Clark pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about Felton G. Clark pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about the sit-ins at Southern University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes his time in the ROTC at Southern University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lieutenant General Russel Honore describes why he chose a career in the Army

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about the sit-ins at Southern University
Lieutenant General Russel Honore talks about the Vietnam War
Transcript
Do you kind of reflect on that time, from time to time, and about how that, you know, this crisis--?$$Oh, yeah. I mean, let's say we go from-- We had a ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corp] student got shot. I mean, this was right across from the ROTC building. I think I was on my first assignment when I read about this in the paper. The students were doing a sit-in at the old Administration Building, and they said, "We got to break this sit-in up." So the college police went there and the sheriff came in, and they said, "You know we got people shot over a sit-in on campus." I was already in the Army, and that was--that was pretty disturbing.$$I think two students were shot, what, in 1970?$$Right.$$On campus.$$That was most unfortunate.$$There was a mysterious-- They never found who shot them or never been an arrest.$$So, I mean, those things left an indelible mark on the university. I remember being in my dorm and again, from a sit-in, the sheriff come in, you could see the scenario. They got these old armored cars, and they had these gas masks on, and you go from a sit-in to damn near a riot where people shooting--with them shooting tear gas and running people down the street, dogs running after them. And in many cases it was over a sit-in. And they said, "Power to People." And that was most disturbing. I always remember that one, right there on the campus. People running and--to get away from that tear gas, and closing my window and hunkering down in my-- Two hours later, you never knew it happened but other than a few sheriff cars around.$$When you look back on that, do you think they could have--the authorities could have handled it a different way?$$Oh, yeah. I didn't (unclear), I think both sides got what they wanted or thought they got what they wanted, because people in our community say that the only way, if it takes me sacrificing myself for this movement [Civil Rights Movement] in that the police may, who think they're doing the right thing and coming in with overwhelming force to break up a sit-in, that at the end of the day, that truth will be on our side, that we were sitting in for basic inalienable rights promised to us by the Declaration of Independence, that history will be on our side. On the other hand, the police in their own historical way of using force, say, "No, you cannot assemble, you do not have a permit to be here, and we're just going to beat the hell out of you until you leave or put you in jail." And, you know, it's almost like we bred that in the police forces, 'cause they have a tendency to go back, right to that jungle rule, that soon as something happen, break out the batons, get the sticks out and start beating the hell out of people. And I'm speaking that as a generality, 'cause I know not every police department think that way, but it seem to be a representation of many of them, because we have never come to grips with how our law enforcement deal with civil disobedience in this country.$There weren't that many voices in the black community that, you know, came out against the war [Vietnam War], but I know, in '67 [1967] or so, Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] came out against it.$$Yeah, he did.$$And was, you know, criticized by the [President Lyndon B.] Johnson Administration, "How could he betray his country by speaking out against the Vietnam War?" But there are a lot of people that thought that the war was--$$Yeah, going on too long.$$--yeah, in a way, you know--(unclear) (simultaneous).$$I mean, back then that was the longest war we ever participated in, and they weren't going nowhere.$$Yeah, for right reasons, we weren't there for the right reasons and that sort of thing, you know.$$Yeah.$$And so, did you have to--. I mean, did you have any--what were--. In those days, so you--. How did you feel about it in those days? Were you following that critique of it or did you--.$$No. Certainly, I was aware of the critique and--$$Aside from the heckling aspect that people--.$$Right.$$That kind of thing is one thing, but the critique of it, by, I mean, like, Dr. King.$$Yeah. No, I mean, again, it's one of the first lessons that, at the national and global issue, there are many ways to look at the appreciation of the problem we face. The more global, the more international we get, it becomes more complex. And there are no simple answers. I mean, we went in to Vietnam with all the right reasons. Our fear of Communist exploitation, and what was then identified as a domino effect in Asia. Well, you know, fifty thousand troops later, we still, you know, what's going on? This is not changing. And you got an endless flow of troops out of China who, at that time, was a kingmaker, and still is today, and who's a part of the National Security Council on what they will and will not support. And, through a restraining, a lot of people who did not want this to escalate to a nuclear event between China and the U.S. and Russia, we needed to get out of Vietnam. And I think those voices of discontent about staying there had an influence on the government, which is about the way a democracy is supposed to work. The people speak and the government can get in the war, but it's the people that force them out. We'll always find a reason to stay.$$Okay. And we're in two wars now, war one just ended and this--$$Right. It's going to the people that get us out of Afghanistan, because there's always folks who, "Oh, just give us two more years," and many of them are folks that come from the same cut of cloth I come from. "Give us two more years, get a few more billion dollars." But there come a time that each one of these things has got to be over with.$$Okay.$$And I think, in a positive way, Dr. King helped influence that movement that it was time to leave Vietnam.$$As a soldier--a soldier has to think a little bit differently about the war, right? I mean (unclear)(simultaneous).$$Yeah, because your mission is to fight it. I mean, your mission is to win it. It's to fight and win, that's your mission. And there's nothing short of fighting and winning. And that's why we exist. And, even though there may be discontent as there's always discontent with war. And there was discontent among Americans over even fighting the Revolutionary War against the British. There are people who are content say, "Yeah, well, King George the Third, you know, he's a nice guy, and the fact that we can't vote and we've got to pay tax; no big deal, you know. We're doing all right." But to the little guy, it's a big problem. And so, there is--there's always both sides of the story. In this particular case, I think with the impact television had on that war [Vietnam War], which we hadn't had on any war in history before or seen those guys coming off the battlefield every day and put on helicopters, I think that influenced American people significantly. And then so many people served in Vietnam; 'cause you had the draft, and then they'd come in for eighteen months, your six months' training, go to Vietnam, come back in two years, they home. So, we had a lot of people serve in Vietnam because of the draft. And they would go for one tour and come back and go home. So, we generated a lot of veterans from Vietnam as a result of that.

Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.

Marine Corps Lieutenant General Frank Emmanuel Petersen, Jr. was born on March 2, 1932 in Topeka, Kansas. His spelling of Petersen is popular amongst his paternal relatives in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. A maternal ancestor, Archie McKinney served in the 55th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. His parents, Frank E. Petersen, Sr., a radio repairman, and Edythe Southard Petersen, met at the University of Kansas. Petersen grew up in South Topeka and attended Monroe Elementary School, the gifted program of Boswell Junior High School, where his classmate was the former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith. He graduated from Topeka High School in 1949. Briefly attending Washburn College, Petersen joined the United States Navy in 1950. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1951 and in 1952 after finishing flight training as the first black Marine aviator, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Petersen later received his B.A. degree in 1967 and his M.A. degree in international affairs in 1973, both at George Washington University. He also graduated from the National War College in 1973.

Assigned briefly to El Toro, California, Petersen was assigned to Korea in 1953. There, he flew Chance Vaught F4U Corsairs on 64 combat missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 out of the K-6 Airfield in Pyong-Taek to the Yalu River. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and six air medals. In the 1960s, Petersen experienced the transition from propeller driven fighters to jets like the Lockheed T-33B Seastar, the Gruman F9F Cougar and the Douglas F3D Skynight. In 1968, Petersen became the first African American to command a squadron when he took over Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314), the Black Knights, in Vietnam. VFMA-314 received the 1968 Hanson Award for best squadron in the USMC. Shot down but rescued in the DMZ, Petersen added 250 combat missions to his Korean total. He eventually commanded a Marine Aircraft Group and a Marine Aircraft Wing. In 1975, Petersen took command of Marine Air Corps 32 at Cherry Point, North Carolina and in 1979 became the first African American General in USMC history. Petersen was made Lieutenant General in 1986 and was appointed Commanding General of the USMC Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia. When he retired in 1988, Petersen was the first black three star general in the USMC and the “Silver Hawk” and “Gray Eagle” senior and ranking aviator in both the USMC and the Navy. He was awarded still another Distinguished Service Medal for his command services at Quantico.

Petersen spent his civilian years as vice president of corporate aviation for DuPont DeNemours, Inc. Managing their corporate fleet, he traveled the globe, retiring in 1997.

Petersen was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 7, 2007.

Petersen passed away on August 25, 2015. He is survived by five children.

Accession Number

A2007.052

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/7/2007

Last Name

Petersen

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Schools

Topeka High School

Monroe Elementary School

Boswell Junior High School

Washburn University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Frank

Birth City, State, Country

Topeka

HM ID

PET07

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

3/2/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

8/25/2015

Short Description

Lieutenant general (retired) Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (1932 - 2015 ) was the first African American general in the history of the United States Marine Corps.

Employment

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Navy

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his mother's upbringing in Kansas

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his childhood in Topeka, Kansas

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his early entertainment

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers Boswell Junior High School in Topeka, Kansas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls enlisting in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers the death of Jesse L. Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. talks about his childhood wish to leave Kansas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his experiences at Topeka High School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his flight training in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his commission as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his service in the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his flight missions in the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his recognition as a black pilot

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls learning to fly jet airplanes

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls the Brown v. Board of Education decision

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his involvement in the First Indochina War

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers forming contrails with planes

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls petitioning to command a fighter squadron

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes race relations among soldiers in the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. reflects upon the legacy of the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. reflects upon his combat experiences in the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls investigating racial conflict in the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes the perspectives of black soldiers in the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his promotion to general in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his vice presidency of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his duties at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. remembers writing his autobiography

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. talks about his organizational activities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. reflects upon the Iraq War

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. reflects upon his life and legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. talks about prominent black military leaders

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes his family

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls his flight training in the U.S. Marine Corps
Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. recalls investigating racial conflict in the U.S. military
Transcript
All right, back to the [U.S.] Marine Corps now. So you discovered that you could be a pilot, and?$$Yeah, I discovered with Jesse Brown's [Jesse L. Brown] death that blacks could in fact go to the [U.S.] Navy flight school. Once I arrived at the Navy flight school, which was relatively easy for me, I discovered there had never been a black pilot in the [U.S.] Marine Corps. And I found that out by the other black cadet, who was about a year ahead of me. And I say the other because we were entering as blacks maybe about one every eight months. His name was Dave Campbell, Dave was a former Marine. And Dave was determined to try the Marine Corps. When I entered, Dave took me under his wing, and he indicated that if he didn't make it then I should try for it. At the time, there had been three blacks to graduate from flight school--a guy named Jesse Brown, a gentleman by the name of Earl Carter, and a gentleman by the name of Floyd [Albert Floyd]. I can't remember Floyd's full name. There were only three who had managed to make it through the syllabus.$$Okay.$$And Dave (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And Jesse Brown was the first one?$$Jesse Brown was the first one. And he of course had been killed in combat in Korea.$$Okay, so let me get--so this is the naval flight school, but the Marine pilots and the Navy pilots are in the same school?$$That is correct.$$All right. But when you come out, you--$$A lot of people don't realize--$$Okay.$$--but all Marine Corps and Navy pilots go through the same training at the same schools. Dave Campbell didn't make it. I did make it, applying for the Marine Corps, and I was the fourth black to have completed flight school, and the first to have been accepted into the Marine Corps.$$Okay. Now, let me go back to Dave Campbell. Now, what happened to him? You know, he, I know you mentioned him in other interviews (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah.$$--as being a real inspiration to you--$$Dave was an inspiration--$$--and somebody that changed your life.$$He was older than I, of course. And you have to realize when I received my wings and my commission, I was only twenty years old. Dave was around twenty-five, and he had gone--well, you had your basic training and then you had your advanced training. And in the advanced training, you were required to have six carrier landings in the more advanced kind of airplane. Dave didn't make it through that, and I was heartbroken, because I felt that Dave was much smarter and much more capable than I, and if Dave didn't make it, I didn't think I had chance in hell of making it.$$Now, was a story behind why Dave didn't make it?$$Dave would never discuss it with me. But he received a down check during those final phases of flight training, and I always suspected that Dave was singled out and they got him. I had a similar incident when I was going through my initial basic training. I received a down check by my instructor, and the other instructors got together and assigned me a new instructor. I had one flight with the new guy, and on my second flight with the new guy we were landed in a grass field. He climbed out of the backseat and hit me on the shoulder and said, "Go fly, and then come back here and land." And that's when I soloed. So, there was an effort to clean things up in the system. But here again, you know, blacks were going through the course, 1-Zs/2-Zs, and again, only three blacks that were going through the syllabus by the time I went through.$Back in the United States in '68 [1968], you got involved in race relations.$$Race relations with the [U.S.] Marine Corps. The Marine Corps and the [U.S.] Army were having one hell of a time. Traveled all over the world on fact-finding missions in terms of--I'll never forget in Heidelberg, Germany under the [U.S.] Department of Defense team to take a look. And the Army kids were having it pretty tough. It was a lack of manpower. And what was happening is the kids would go to Vietnam for a combat tour, come back stateside or to Germany for about a year or so, and then they'd be going back into Vietnam. And with the racial issues that were taking place, there was a great deal of friction. Even here at stateside they had riots, race riots, at many of the major bases. Even in the Marine Corps, there were two. There was a riot at Camp Pendleton [Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, San Diego County, California] and there was a riot at Camp Lejeune [Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina]. The Army had the same problems. On this fact-finding tour in Germany, I would talk to the kids. And one of these groups wanted to meet with me off-base to discuss issues. And what they wanted to do was discuss what would be the biggest signal to give to the Army to show their displeasure. And what they were concentrating on was killing the Army, the U.S. Army Europe commander, General Polk [James H. Polk], P-O-L-K. And they were serious, they were very serious. They didn't carry out their plan, and when I reported it, it got a lot of attention. It got a lot of attention, because these kids were serious. They were trained to kill; they knew they were going to die, or had the high probability of dying, and they said, "Hey, we'll take somebody out with us."$$Now, this is serious. Now, I've read that there were conflicts, you know, some bloody conflicts during the Korean War down on the ground, too. But this is really a plot to actually blow up the commander of the--$$Uh-huh.$$--U.S. forces in Germany. That's--$$Absolutely, absolutely. In fact, one of my good friends was a guy named Curtis Smothers [Curtis R. Smothers], who was an attorney with the JAG Corps, the Judge Advocate General [Judge Advocate General's Corps]. And Curt was black and had come from the inner city, and was just as smart as he could be. And Curt would tell a funny story about some of these court martials. He would be sitting there with a white attorney, and this young kid, black kid, would come in and they would begin to talk. And this black kid said, "Where's the motherfucker been messing with me? I ain't going to take no more of that shit." And the white attorney would say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you." And Curt would say, "I understand him, let him go." (Laughter) "Let him keep talking." So, these kinds of things. Another incident was when I was the squadron commander in Vietnam, this is in '68 [1968]. Big commotion in my hooch, in my office, and I looked up and a sergeant major was telling this kid, "You can't go in there." And this kid was black, he was a ground troop. And I looked out at the officer and I said, "That's okay, sergeant major, let him in." And this kid walked into my office and he said, "Okay, you the one. I heard there was one of you over here." You got to realize I was a lieutenant colonel, and I was about the only one in the Marine Corps. I said, "Sit down, son." I said, "Well, what's your problem?" He said, "Well, sir, they're fucking with me." And I said, "Well, tell me your problem." He said, "Well, sir, I guess it all happened when I shot the lieutenant." (Laughter) I said, "Whoa." So these kinds of things were going on, these kinds of things. So very, very severe problems in the [U.S.] military. And they really didn't--I say they, the problems, didn't really resolve themselves until the late '70s [1970s] when everybody finally got their act together, and a lot of this stuff was knocked off. A lot of the bad guys were kicked out of the services. And if you look at the services today, it's the ultimate, I think, in terms of working together, equality, and so forth. It's the place to be, it's the place to be.$$Yeah, we often hear there's a lot more equality in the service (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely.$$--than in regular life sometimes.$$Absolutely.$$A lot of people say that.$$And you can see it as you go aboard the bases nowadays. When I was coming along, if you saw a mixed couple you would stare. Nowadays, if you don't see a mixed couple, you stare. (Laughter) So it's totally different, totally different.