The United States’ newest aircraft carrier isn’t named after a president this fourth dimension but after Waco native and Earth War Two hero Doris Miller, the get-go black sailor to receive the Navy Cantankerous for his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
With the USS Arizona Memorial floating in the background, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly honored Miller’s legacy in a ceremony Monday at Pearl Harbor, where he officially named the futurity aircraft carrier after Miller on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Miller has already been honored in his hometown with a veterans hospital named for him as well as a riverside memorial, only the ship naming represents a new level of national recognition.
“As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., we recognize that for also many of these warriors the liberty they defended overseas was denied to them and their families hither at home simply considering of the color of their skin,” Modly said.
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He then quoted King’southward “Letter of the alphabet from a Birmingham Jail”: “’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
Miller distinguished himself equally an American hero at the onset of a “war on injustice” on Dec. vii, 1941, Modly said, when 350 Japanese aircraft descended upon Pearl Harbor. At the time, Miller, 22, served as a Mess Attendant third Class on the battleship USS West Virginia and was doing one of the transport’s ensigns’ laundry below decks when the first torpedo exploded. He immediately reported to his battle station, the send’s magazine, considering past regulation black men in the Navy were relegated to shining officers’ shoes, making beds and serving in the kitchen. They were not trained in combat.
That did non terminate Miller. With the magazine already flooded, he sought reassignment and found himself helping the West Virginia’southward commanding officer, the mortally wounded Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion, to a safer place. Then Miller saw an unattended .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun. With zero training and no orders, Miller manned the gun and opened fire on the incoming Japanese aircraft.
With his ammo spent and an order to abandon transport, Miller helped wounded shipmates from the blazing battleship and swam 300 to 400 yards to shore, dodging enemy burn and patches of flaming oil from the USS Arizona. He was one of the last three men to leave the Westward Virginia. He would go on to serve in the Navy for nearly two more years, meeting his end in the Gilbert Islands when his ship was torpedoed.
“He died every bit he lived, an American sailor defending his nation, shoulder to shoulder with his shipmates, until the end,” Modly said. “Dorie Miller stood for everything that is practiced about our nation. His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today. He is not just the story of one sailor. Information technology is the story of our Navy, of our nation and our ongoing struggle to class — in the words of our Constitution — a more perfect union.”
The Navy previously named a destroyer escort later on Miller, the USS Miller, which has been decommissioned. The new aircraft carrier will operate long into the 21st century. When completed, it volition be the most powerful and lethal warship ever built, Modly said.
T. Michael Parrish, an American history professor at Baylor University, co-authored the 2017 book “Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Nascence of the Civil Rights Move” with Thomas Due west. Cutrer. He said Miller’s act of heroism during the set on on Pearl Harbor played a pivotal role in advancing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregating the military.
“He was a very of import effigy who was an unlikely hero, coming from small circumstances, and he performed a peachy human action of heroism at Pearl Harbor nether heavy stress and farthermost combat without any formal training,” he said.
A sharecropper’due south son and the grandson of slaves, Miller helped launched a revolution when he took control of that machine gun, Parrish said.
On May 27, 1942, Admiral Chester West. Nimitz presented him the Navy Cantankerous, the third-highest Navy award for gallantry during combat at the time. But even that was not without controversy.
If information technology not for the Pittsburgh Courier and other African American newspapers in the North, Miller might never accept been recognized for his heroism, Parrish said. The Courier showtime published his name and reports of his actions at Pearl Harbor. Nether pressure from reporters and politicians, the Navy eventually released Miller’south name, and his fame skyrocketed.
“He became an iconic figure and a catalyst to the campaign the Pittsburgh Courier called the ‘Double Five Campaign’ — victory abroad and victory over racism,” he said. “From that point forrard, Miller was recognized as a leading personality and a leading vocalism in the ceremonious rights movement.”
Yet, 16 other white men, mostly officers and petty officers, received the Medal of Honor for their actions on Dec. 7, 1941. Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has fought to see Miller awarded the Medal of Honour since she was elected to the Business firm of Representatives in 1992.
Johnson, who attended the anniversary Mon, grew up in Waco and heard stories almost Miller all her life. She said his spirit and deportment made her appreciate being an American and motivated her to pursue public role.
“In the days of real segregation, a black human being from my hometown stepped up to help save America,” she said. “Dorie Miller started the Civil Rights Motion and perhaps even gave Martin Luther King Jr. the spirit to lead united states.”
Congressman Bill Flores, R-College Station, who represents Waco, also attended the ceremony Monday and called Miller a “hometown hero” who continues to inspire.
“Today’s significant recognition of this African American hero serves equally an inspiration to all our nation’s enlisted war machine men and women, who come from a diversity of backgrounds and origins to serve in our Armed Forces,” he said.
Parrish said if Miller had not died on Nov. 24, 1943, while serving equally ship’s Melt 3rd Grade on the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay, he would have continued to be agile in the Civil Rights Movement and the Double V Campaign. Nonetheless, Miller opened doors for future black Americans to serve in the military. At an all-black naval training station at Smashing Lakes, Illinois, the Navy started in 1942 to railroad train black men as gunner’s mates, quartermasters, radiomen, yeomen, radar operators, boatswain’south mates and other duties than messmen.
On March 17, 1944, Camp Robert Smalls, the training station for black men, deputed its first thirteen black officers, less than two months subsequently Miller’s death.
“He was a real catalyst,” Parrish said. “If Doris Miller had not done what he did, the procedure would have been more difficult, and it would accept worked out differently. He was an unlikely hero in that he didn’t accept an outgoing personality. When he did proceeds notoriety and distinction as a hero, he accepted the responsibility and the challenge of fulfilling the function of civil rights abet. He evolved, and that is remarkable, as well.”
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What Made Miller an Unlikely Hero