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Future Ford-class carrier to be named for WWII hero Doris Miller

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Doris "Dorie" Miller with his Navy Cross (U.S. Navy photograph)

Acting Secretary of the 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 “Dorie” 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. The first was the Knox-class frigate USS Miller (FF-1091), commissioned in 1973 and decomissioned in 1991

The aircraft carrier will be the first ever named for an African American and the first 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, Doris Miller, known to his friends as “Dorie,” 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.

In this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Adm. Chester Nimitz awards the Navy Cross medal to Doris Miller for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 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)

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.

“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.

The Naval History and Heritage Command biography of Doris Miller can be found HERE

The Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau has more on Miller HERE

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