Dorie Miller: A Damn Fine Name for a Ship
The fourth Ford-class Aircraft Carrier will be named for Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris “Dorie” Miller, the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack.
In 1941 an African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy, and as far as rank was concerned, “he could not really get above a messman level,” Ravenscroft said. Miller’s actions started to turn the tide, she added.
“Without him really knowing, he actually was a part of the civil rights movement because he changed the thinking in the Navy,” Ravenscroft said Friday.
“In the end, the fact that he didn’t think about what could be repercussions — that wasn’t a thought when, at the time and in war, he did what was needed in his way to defend the United States of America,” she said.
He will be the first African American to have an aircraft carrier named after him, according to Navy records. The big ship is not expected to be home-ported in Hawaii.
Two of Miller’s nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement, including 66-year-old Flosetta Miller.
Ravenscroft said “Dorie” was a nickname that the Navy gave Miller, while “his family is extremely particular that he be called Doris Miller.” USS Miller, a destroyer escort, previously had been named in honor of the Pearl Harbor veteran.
Miller’s Navy Cross citation reads, “For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.”
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, personally presented the Navy Cross to Miller on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.
According to the Navy, Miller, then 22, had arisen at 6 a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm sounded.
“He headed for his battle station, the antiaircraft battery magazine amidship, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so he went on deck,” the Navy account states. “Because of his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry wounded fellow sailors to places of greater safety. Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded captain of the ship. He subsequently manned a .50- caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.”
In high school Miller was a fullback, and on the West Virginia he was the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. Miller had not been trained to operate the machine gun.
“It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes,” he said later, believing he “got” one of the Japanese planes.
Miller was born in Waco on Oct. 12, 1919. He enlisted in the Navy in September 1939 as a mess attendant.
Miller served aboard the USS Indianapolis from December 1941 to May 1943, the Navy said. He was then assigned to the escort carrier Liscome Bay. Miller died on the ship when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on Nov. 24, 1943, during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, according to the Navy.