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Future Ford Class Aircraft Carrier Named After WWII Hero

Dorris Miller
Ship's Cook Third Class Doris Miller

By The Maritime Executive 01-20-2020 06:26:28

The U.S. Navy is naming a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of World War II hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller.  

The announcement is being made in Hawaii at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony highlighting the contributions of African Americans.

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 Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. 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 December 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.”

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.

The future USS Doris Miller and other Ford-class carriers will be the premier forward asset for crisis response, humanitarian relief and early decisive striking power in a major combat operations. The aircraft carrier and the carrier strike group will provide forward presence, rapid response, endurance on station, and multi-mission capability throughout its 50-year service life.

“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 this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Adm. Chester Nimitz awards the Navy Cross medal to Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The award was presented to Miller aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)