New aircraft carrier to be named after first Black American that received Navy’s Cross for valor

On Martin Luther King Day, the Navy will name its new $12.5 billion aircraft carrier after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller, the first Black American to receive the Navy Cross for valor, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

Miller, a native of Waco, Texas received the prestigious award in 1942 after he fired back on Japanese planes with a machine gun on Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. The Navy Cross for valor is the second-highest distinction awarded by the U.S. military for valor.

At the time of the attack, Black Americans weren’t allowed to man a gun in the Navy.

Doreen Ravenscroft, president of Cultural Arts of Waco and team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial told the paper: “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.”

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

Miller died in 1943 when the ship he was aboard was attacked by a Japanese submarine on during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.

The USS Miller is a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier – the new kind of carrier that the Navy is hauling out to replace Nimitz-class vessels.

According to the Navy, as of December, 14 ships had been named for African Americans, including destroyers and a ballistic missile submarine.