One of the first U.S. heroes of World War II will be the namesake of one of America’s latest nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
On Monday, the Navy is expected to formally announce its decision to name a Ford-class aircraft carrier after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris “Dorie” Miller. He will be the first African-American to have an aircraft carrier named in his honor.
Petty Officer Miller also was the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while he was assigned to the U.S.S. West Virginia, a battleship.
According to the Navy’s official account, Petty Officer Miller, then 22, was collecting laundry that morning when the general quarters alarm sounded. He ran to his assigned battle station, an anti-aircraft gun ammunition magazine, only to discover it had been destroyed by a Japanese torpedo.
He began assisting his wounded shipmates when an officer told him to go to the bridge where the captain had been seriously wounded. Petty Officer Miller pulled the captain to safety while under fire then immediately ran to a nearby .50 caliber machine gun. Although not formally trained on the weapon, he was a quick study.
He kept shooting until he heard the signal to abandon the now-sinking battleship.
Petty Officer Miller was personally decorated by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the American fleet in the Pacific.
He continued to serve but didn’t survive the war. Petty Officer Miller was killed in November 1943 while assigned to the U.S.S. Liscome Bay, an escort carrier, when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during the Gilbert Islands Campaign.
“I think that Doris Miller is an American hero simply because of what he represents as a young man going beyond the call of what’s expected,” Doreen Ravenscroft, with the Doris Miller Memorial in his hometown of Waco, Texas, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The frigate USS Miller was named in his honor but was decommissioned in 1991. The decision to name an aircraft carrier after Petty Officer Miller was unique. In recent years, the high profile ships have been named for former U.S. Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George Washington or Capitol Hill powerhouses like Carl Vinson or John C. Stennis.
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