Last updated on October 2, 2020
A US aircraft carrier is the first named for an enlisted sailor and first named for an African American. The 15 billion dollar carrier was announced the USS Doris Miller in January on Martin Luther King's day. Doris (Dorie) Miller is the brave sailor who took over an anti-craft machine gun shooting at Japanese warplanes during the attack on Oahu’s Pearl Harbor.
Most supercarriers are named for U.S. presidents — the USS John F. Kennedy. USS Ronald Reagan. USS Abraham Lincoln. Henry Kissinger called them “100,000 tons of diplomacy,” and that power has long been reflected in the Navy's conventions for naming them.
Doris Miller, who went by “Dorie” in the Navy, was one of the first American heroes of World War II.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, as his battleship, the USS West Virginia, was sinking, the powerfully built Miller, who was the ship's boxing champion, helped move his dying captain to better cover, then jumped behind a machine gun and shot at Japanese warplanes until his ammunition was gone. Miller eventually had to jump overboard and abandon ship.“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” Modly said. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today.”
Navy Secretary Modley secretly made the decision to name the ship after Miller. You might recall that Modley was removed from his post after he (Trump) fired and berated Brett Cozier who was the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Cozier went out of his chain of command. The firing of Cozier sparked outrage across the country to raise the issue of a COVID outbreak on the ship. Modly resigned in April of 2020 after being forced to take the proverbial bullet for the traitor in the oval office.
As a Black sailor in 1941, he wasn't supposed to fire a gun even. This means that when he reached for that weapon, he was taking on two enemies: the Japanese flyers and the pervasive discrimination in his own country.
“One of the ways in which the Navy discriminated against African Americans was that they limited them to certain types of jobs, or what we call 'ratings' in the Navy,” said Regina Akers, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command. “So, for African Americans, many were messmen or stewards. Dorie Miller was a messman, which meant that he basically took care of an officer, laid out his clothes, shined his shoes and served meals.”
Akers said much of the attention at the time, and since, has been on Miller firing the anti-aircraft gun, which he wasn't even trained to do. In fact, it's a moment Hollywood briefly portrayed in several movies about the attack.
But Akers said what Miller did afterward is just as important: He began pulling injured sailors out of the burning, oil-covered water of the harbor, and was one of the last men to leave his ship as it sank, and continued getting sailors to safety afterward.
An official Navy commendation list of those whose actions during the attack stood out mentioned a Black sailor.
But it didn't bother to name Miller, a 22-year-old sharecropper's son from Waco, Texas.
“It made two lines in the newspapers,” said Frank Bolden, who was a war correspondent for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the leading Black newspapers of the day. He spoke in an interview with the Freedom Forum before his death in 2003.
The Politicus is a collaborative political community that facilitates content creation directly on the site. Our goal is to make the political conversation accessible to everyone.Any donations we receive will go into writer outreach. That could be advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit or person-to-person outreach on College campuses. Please help if you can: