*Here’s some black history news we’re thrilled to share with you. This coming Monday, the MLK Jr. national holiday, the U.S. Navy is expected to announce that a new aircraft carrier will be named after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller.
If you by chance the name Doris Miller doesn’t ring a bell in your head, he was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor for his actions on Dec. 7, 1941, when he manned a machine gun on the USS West Virginia to fire back at attacking Japanese planes. On top of that, he was not a trained gunman, he was a cook!
“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,” said Doreen Ravenscroft, president of Cultural Arts of Waco (Texas), and team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial.
Keep in mind, that back 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. His 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.
“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.
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, had previously 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.”
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