REVIEW BY DOMINIC J. CARACCILO Not until May 1942 did the Marine Corps finally succumb to political and public pressure and officially accepted blacks into its ranks for the first time in its 150-year history. It was the last service to do so.
In July 1948 President Truman's executive order 9981 required the armed forces to integrate its ranks. The Marine Corps, of all the services, was reluctant to comply with this edict. In fact, as late as May 1949, Marine Corps policy held that no black first-term enlistments would be accepted unless optioned for steward's duty only.
In Into the Tiger's Jaw, Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen conveys how his 38-year career pioneered the way for African-American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the Armed Forces. In 1950, this mid-western 18-year-old, striving to leave his confining world behind, had no idea that he would test the racial barriers well entrenched in the Military's psyche. He had no aspirations at becoming the first black Marine aviator nor did he ever expect to be the first Marine three-star general. He just wanted to be the best Marine possible.
Nonetheless, two wars later, after thousands of hours in cockpits and numerous other challenges, Frank Petersen found himself not only the Marine Corps senior aviator, the "Silver Eagle," but also the first and only black three-star general ever to serve in his service.
Frank Petersen occupies a significant place in American history because of his pinnacle achievements. He "jumped into the tiger's jaw" and "into the fray" not only as a combat aviator, but also as an icon for those of all races and gender with a desire to overcome adversity and succeed in a chosen profession.
Into the Tiger's Jaw is a tribute to those who serve, regardless of color.