For the First Time, the Navy Names Its New Carrier After a Black Sailor

For the First Time, the Navy Names Its New Carrier After a Black Sailor

Sometime in the late 2020s, a ship will float out of a Virginia drydock bearing the name of an American hero. The USS Doris Miller, the fourth aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class of ships, will be the first carrier named after an enlisted sailor. More importantly, however, the Doris Miller will also be the first carrier named after a Black sailor, breaking the string of political names that have plagued the U.S. Navy’s flattops.

The USS Doris Miller, NPR explains, is named after messman Doris “Dorie” Miller. Miller’s job was to take care of an officer; he “laid out his clothes, shined his shoes, and served meals.” It’s not a job that really exists anymore.vMiller was aboard West Virginia on the morning of December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Miller won the Navy Cross for his actions that day, and his citation reads:

“For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.”

USS Ford during sea trials, 2017. USS Doris Miller will be functionally identical to this ship.

Admiral Chester Nimitz awarded Miller the Navy Cross in 1942. Sadly, one year later, Miller was killed in action aboard the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay. The Navy named a frigate after Miller in 1966, but this year, the service announced it would reuse his name for another ship: an aircraft carrier. The USS Doris Miller will be the fourth Ford-class carrier, after the USS Ford, the USS John F. Kennedy, and the USS Enterprise.

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