U.S. Navy to Name Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier After WWII Hero Doris Miller

Mike Schuler
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January 20, 2020

In this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller stands at attention after being awarded the Navy Cross medal for for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy will name the next Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of World War II hero Doris Miller, a Navy cook who jumped into action to fight off Japanese aircraft and help injured sailors during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In naming the ship in honor of Miller, it will mark the first time a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has been named for an African American.

Miller was a Cook Third Class when the ship he was stationed on, USS West Virginia, came under attack during the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to the Navy, Miller was collecting laundry when the attack 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,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement. “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. 

Miller was later killed in 1943 aboard USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) when the ship was hit by a torpedo and sank off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.

Million was honored on Monday during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during which the namesake was officially announced.

Not only is the aircraft carrier the first ever to be named for an African American, it is also the first to be named in honor of a Sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks. It’s also the second ship named in honor of Miller.

With commissioning planned for 2030, the future USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) will be the Navy’s fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier behind Gerald R. Ford (CV-78), John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), and Enterprise (CVN-81).

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