Archive for January 22, 2020

SHAKO: In a First, New Aircraft Carrier to be Named for African American Hero of Pearl Harbor

USS Doris Miller (CVN81).

The Navy is naming its next aircraft carrier, (CVN 81) the USS Doris Miller, after Pearl Harbor hero Doris “Dorie” Miller, the first African American awarded the Navy Cross.


Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz personally pins the Navy Cross on sailor Doris “Dorie” Miller. (U.S. Navy photo)

At a Martin Luther King Day ceremony (Monday, January 20) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly announced the future CVN81 would be named for Miller. It would be the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier was named for an African American and also the first time one was named for an enlisted sailor.

The son of a Texas sharecroper, Miller was just 22 when he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest decoration for bravery, for his actions on December 7, 1941.

The U.S. Army and Navy were largely segregated all-white organizations in 1941 and the few blacks in the services were assigned menial jobs, like Miller, a messman — essentialy a waiter, busboy and dishwasher — on the battleship USS  West Virginia. When the Japanese attack began, Miller began passing ammunition to antiaircraft gunners. A big man — high school football player and boxing champion of the West Virginia’s crew — Miller began carrying the wounded to safety. Among them was the ship’s commander, Captain Mervyn Bennion, who died from his wounds during the attack.

Miller then manned a .50-calibre Browning anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training, and continued firing on the enemy planes until he ran out of ammunition. Struck by two armor piercing bombs and five torpedoes, the West Virginia was afire and slowly sinking when the last remaining officer ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Miller was commended for his heroism by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 1, 1942, and on  May 27, 1942 he received the Navy Cross personally from Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.

Eventually promoted to Ships Cook, 3rd Class, Miller shipped out on the escort aircraft carrier, Liscombe Bay (CVE 56) in 1943. The ship was torpedoed and sank within minutes during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (Operation Galvanic). Only 272 members of the crew survived, while 646 died, including Miller.


Family members of Dorie Miller unveil a plaque commemorating the future Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)

Family members were on hand to unveil an artists’ rendering of what the USS Miller will look like. The carrier will be the second Navy ship named for Miller. In 1975 the Knox class frigate, USS Miller (FF-1091) was launched.

Regular visitors to 4GWAR may remember we told Dorie Miller’s story in our Pearl Harbor anniversary post on December 8, 2019.

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.west point cadets.pdf

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

January 22, 2020 at 1:06 am Leave a comment


January 2020


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