Acting Secretary of the U.S. Navy Thomas B. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of World War II hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jan. 20.
The announcement will be made at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony, highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the greatest generation.
This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American. This will also be the first aircraft carrier to be named in honor of a Sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.
“In selecting this name, we honor the contributions of all our enlisted ranks, past and present, men and women, of every race, religion and background,” said Modly. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, ‘Everybody can be great – because anybody can serve’. No one understands the importance and true meaning of service than those who have volunteered to put the needs of others above themselves.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was collecting laundry on the battleship West Virginia (BB-48), when the attack from Japanese forces commenced. When the alarm for general quarters sounded he headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it. Miller was ordered to the ship’s bridge to aid the mortally wounded commanding officer, and subsequently manned a .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Miller then helped move many other injured Sailors as the ship was ordered abandoned due to her own fires and flaming oil floating down from the destroyed Arizona (BB-33). West Virginia lost 150 of its 1,500 person crew.
Miller’s actions during the attack earned him a commendation from then Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and the Navy Cross, which was presented to him personally by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time.
Nimitz stated: this marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I’m sure the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.
“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” said Modly.
In 1943, Miller died aboard USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) when the ship was hit by a torpedo and sank off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.