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Navy to name carrier honoring Pearl Harbor hero Miller

HONOLULU — The U.S. Navy is expected to honor a World War II hero when a new aircraft carrier is named for Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller.

The announcement is expected to be made at Pearl Harbor Monday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for combat valor.

Miller was recognized for manning a machine gun on the battleship West Virginia and returning fire against Japanese planes during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

A destroyer escort previously was named in his honor.

Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller receives the Navy Cross from Adm. Chester W. Nimitz at a ceremony held on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise at Pearl Harbor, 27 May 1942. (National Archives)
Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller receives the Navy Cross from Adm. Chester W. Nimitz at a ceremony held on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise at Pearl Harbor, 27 May 1942. (National Archives)

“I think that Doris Miller is an American hero simply because of what he represents as a young man going beyond the call of what’s expected,” said Doreen Ravenscroft, a team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial.

An African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy in 1941, Ravenscroft said.

"Without him really knowing, he actually was a part of the Civil Rights movement because he changed the thinking in the Navy," Ravenscroft said.

Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Miller, then 22, was collecting laundry when the attack alarm sounded. His normal battle station in an antiaircraft battery magazine was destroyed by a torpedo. He went on deck and carried wounded sailors to safety before receiving orders to aid the mortally wounded captain on the bridge.

"He subsequently manned a 50-cal. Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship," the Navy said, noting Miller was not trained to operate the gun.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, presented the Navy Cross to Miller in Pearl Harbor in May 1942.

Miller died while serving on a ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in November 1943.

Navy Times editor’s note: We caught a number of errors in this story and fixed them before it went online, but we missed a crucial one. Miller didn’t save soldiers on board the battleship West Virginia. They were sailors. We changed that.

Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship West Virginia during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. The battleship Tennessee is inboard of the sunken battleship. Note extensive distortion of West Virginia's lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location. Also note 5/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia's foremast. (National Archives)
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship West Virginia during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. The battleship Tennessee is inboard of the sunken battleship. Note extensive distortion of West Virginia's lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location. Also note 5/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia's foremast. (National Archives)
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