The U.S. Navy announced the next carrier in the Ford-class of supercarriers will be USS Doris Miller.
Miller was a cook on December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked.
Miller manned a machine gun and fought back. He was killed in action two years later.
The U.S. Navy will name an aircraft carrier after Cook First Class Doris Miller. Miller received the Navy Cross for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, helping move wounded soldiers to safety and manning a machine gun to repel Japanese planes. The future USS Doris Miller will be the fourth carrier in the USS Ford-class of carriers and will enter service in the early 2030s.
The U.S. Navy made the announcement on Martin Luther King Day at a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The reasons for the naming are twofold: to honor the U.S. Navy’s enlisted sailors and their heroes and to honor the contributions of African American sailors. The USS Miller will be the first aircraft carrier in the history of the U.S. Navy to be named for either.
Doris Miller born in Waco, Texas, on October 23, 1919, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on the ammunition ship USS Pyro and battleship USS Nevada. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Miller was aboard the USS West Virginia collecting laundry when, as the U.S. Navy tells it:
“Miller was below decks December 7, 1941, when the first Japanese torpedo struck USS West Virginia (BB 48). His battle station in the magazine damaged, Miller was ordered to the bridge, where he helped carry the ship’s mortally wounded captain to safety. Miller then loaded and fired an anti-aircraft machine gun—a weapon that, as an African American in a segregated military, he had not been trained to operate. Miller stayed behind once the order to abandon ship was passed to help evacuate shipmates and save the lives of sailors in the burning water.”
West Virginia, heavily damaged by two armor-piercing bombs and five torpedoes, sank pierside at Pearl Harbor, killing 130 soldiers and injuring another 52. The ship was subsequently refloated, repaired, and served throughout the Pacific campaign of World War II, until the Japanese surrender of 1945. Miller was portrayed in the film Pearl Harbor by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
Miller survived Pearl Harbor unscathed and received the Navy Cross for his actions on that day, the service’s second highest medal for valor, and went on to serve on the escort carrier USS Liscombe Bay. In 1943, Liscombe Bay was attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine during the invasion of Makin island. Miller was declared missing in action after the attack and reclassified killed in action one year later. His body was never found.
USS Doris Miller (CVN-81) will be the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, following USS Ford, USS John F. Kennedy, and USS Enterprise. The Navy will buy about eleven Ford class carriers, replacing the older Nimitz-class carriers throughout the 2020-2050 time frame.
USS Miller’s naming is a radical break from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Carriers were originally named after Revolutionary War ships and battles (USS Yorktown, Enterprise, Saratoga, Lexington), with World War II battles added between 1941 and 1945. Recent carriers were named after 5-star admirals (Nimitz), Presidents, (Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, Reagan, Bush), and pro-Navy politicians (Stennis, Vinson).
This name begins the process of de-politicizing ship-naming. It also honors enlisted personnel, a process that the U.S. Army also recently went through after it named the Stryker armored vehicle after two enlisted personnel, Private First Class Stuart S. Stryker, who died in World War II, and Specialist Four Robert F. Stryker, who died in the Vietnam War.
Finally, the naming process honors the service of African Americans in the U.S. Navy. As of January 2019, approximately 65,000 African Americans were serving in the Navy while the number over the lifetime of the service almost certainly reaches well into the millions.
USS Miller, like the other ships in the Ford-class of aircraft carriers, will be one of the largest warships ever built. Miller will carry nearly 80 warplanes and will be manned by 6,000 sailors. Miller is scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2032, a fitting tribute for sailor that gave everything.
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