Navy to Honor African-American Sailor on MLK Day
BEAUMONT, TX – After valiantly defending the U.S.S. West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris E. Miller will have an aircraft carrier named in his honor on MLK Day. This is the first time in the Navy's history that an aircraft carrier named after African American sailor.
In 1941, Miller was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Virginia and as an African American sailor he was not allowed to man a gun. Miller, who was 22 at the time, was collecting laundry when the attack alarm sounded. His normal battle station in an antiaircraft battery magazine was destroyed by a torpedo so he went on deck and carried wounded soldiers to safety before receiving orders to aid the mortally wounded captain on the bridge.
"He subsequently manned a 50-cal. Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship," the Navy said, noting Miller was not trained to operate the gun.
In May 1942, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, presented the Navy Cross to Miller in Pearl Harbor. The Waco native was the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross for valor.
"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 that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts,” said Admiral Nimitz at the time.
Unfortunately, Miller died while serving on a ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in November 1943.
"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," said Doreen Ravenscroft, a team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial.
Miller is also considered an important part of the Civil Rights movement because he helped change the way the Navy thought about the role African American sailors played in the Navy.
In the past, Miller had an American Legion post and hall named after him as well as a destroyer escort, the USS Miller. Miller also received a Purple Heart Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
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