The U.S. Navy plans to name an aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, who served in World War II. The USS Doris Miller will be the first-ever supercarrier named after an enlisted sailor and a Black man.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modley announced its plans to honor Miller in January during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor
“In selecting this name, we honor the contributions of all our enlisted ranks, past and present, men and women, of every race, religion, and background,” Modly said.
For over 200 years, most supercarriers were named after U.S. presidents and all of them were named after white men.
Miller was a 22-year-old sailor from Waco, Texas, and the son of a Black sharecropper, who became a hero after during Pearl Harbor in 1941, jumping aboard the USS West Virginia to help his wounded captain and shoot at enemy planes, manned by the Japanese, from behind a machine gun.
Ironically, Black sailors weren’t allowed to fire their weapons during that time.
"One of the ways in which the Navy discriminated against African Americans was that they limited them to certain types of jobs, or what we call 'ratings' in the Navy," said Regina Akers, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command. "So, for African Americans, many were messmen or stewards. Dorie Miller was a messman, which meant that he basically took care of an officer, laid out his clothes, shined his shoes and served meals."
Miller received a Navy Cross, the Navy’s second-highest medal of honor, for his actions during Pearl Harbor.
According to Modly, the USS Doris Miller will be the most powerful warship, which will accommodate more than 100,000 officers and crew members.
The decision to name a warship preceded the current movement to remove the names of Confederate generals from several Army bases, in addition to removing other symbols of the Confederacy which include statues and flags.