Doris Miller, African-American hero of World War II
During a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on January 20, acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly announced that a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier will be named in memory of World War II hero Third Class Doris Miller.
This will be the second ship named in Miller’s honor, and the first ever aircraft carrier named for an African American. This will also be the first aircraft carrier to be named for the actions while serving in the enlisted ranks of a Sailor.
HIS MILITARY ACHIEVEMENTS
Mess Attendant Second Class Doris Miller was doing laundry when the first bombs hit his ship at Pearl Harbor. Miller made his way to the main deck where he found his wounded captain and moved him to relative safety.
He then ran to an unattended deck gun and shot at the aircraft attacking until he was forced to leave the ship. It was Miller’s first time firing such a weapon, because the gunnery training earned by white sailors was not provided to black sailors serving in the navy’s segregated steward’s division. Miller’s conduct during the assault earned him a commendation from the Navy Secretary Frank Knox and the Navy Cross, which was personally given to him by U.S. Commander Adm. Chester Nimitz.
While news stories gave Miller credit for shooting down from two to five aircraft, those claims were never confirmed. Miller himself told Navy officials he thought he struck one of the jets. Navy officials conferred on Miller the Navy Cross at a ceremony on May 27, 1942, in Pearl Harbor.
Here’s a Knowledge Bomb: Miller picked up a antiaircraft machine gun on which he had never been trained and managed to shoot down enemy forces! Miller had become the first black sailor to receive the Navy Cross for his heroism. He became a positive symbol for black people and their struggles in the Armed Forces at the time. The US military at the time had been largely segregated on racial grounds.
On November 24,1943, Miller reported for duty aboard the aircraft carrier Liscome Bay, his ship was torpedoed and sunk into the Pacific Ocean during the Gilbert Islands War. He was promoted to cook, third class, at that time, and was probably working in the ship’s galley. While conferring the Navy Cross on him, the navy honored Doris Miller by assigning him a dining hall, a barracks, and a destroyer escort.
The USS Miller is the third naval ship whose namesake was a black navy man.
In Waco his name bears a branch of the YMCA, a park, and a cemetery. Elementary schools have been named for him in Houston, Texas, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also named is a Foreign War Veterans chapter in Los Angeles. A Huston-Tillotson College campus auditorium in Austin is dedicated to his memory as well . In Chicago, the Doris Miller Foundation recognizes people who contribute significantly to racial understanding.
Doris Miller is a shining example of true heroism and he is an inspiration to many.