The Trump administration is set to honor World War II hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by naming a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier after Miller.
The decision was made by Thomas B. Modly, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to Undersecretary of the Navy in 2017 and took over as Acting Secretary of the Navy last year after Trump fired Richard Spencer from the role in November.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy wrote:
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.
On Dec. 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.
“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,” Modly said. “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.”
Modly continued, “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.”
Miller, who died in 1943, described firing the weapon, which he had not been trained to do, by saying, “It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”
In a historic moment just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, @SECNAV announces that the newest #USNavy aircraft carrier will be named USS Doris Miller #CVN81. Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) January 19, 2020
The Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers are the largest and most powerful naval vessels in the world.
“The Gerald R. Ford-class is the future aircraft carrier replacement class for Enterprise and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers,” the Navy said in a statement. “The lead ship, Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), was commissioned in 2017. The Gerald R. Ford-class will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. The class brings improved warfighting capability, quality of life improvements for our Sailors and reduced total ownership costs.”