An unsung Black WWII hero is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. According to NPR, the U.S. Navy recently announced that it would posthumously honor veteran Doris “Dorie” Miller by naming a new $13 billion aircraft after him.
Miller—a native of Waco, Texas—enlisted in the military in 1939. He decided to embark on the journey to provide support for his family. Miller served as a mess attendant on the USS West Virginia and like many other Black sailors was assigned to duties that consisted of cooking and cleaning decks and uniforms. During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Miller—who was on his way to sort laundry—immediately sprang into action to support his comrades. He fired a .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun at Japanese planes although African Americans were barred from jobs that entailed handling weapons at the time. The then 22-year-old also carried wounded veterans to safety. In 1942, he made history by becoming the first Black sailor to receive a Navy Cross medal for his heroic actions. While serving he also went on a two-month tour to talk about war bonds and had his likeness featured on a Navy recruitment poster.
Miller lost his life in 1943 when a torpedo submerged his ship, but his legacy has prevailed. He earned a Purple Heart and was the inspiration behind an officer training program for African American sailors.
The naming of the aircraft is historic as it marks the first time an air carrier has been named after an African American. “Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, in a statement. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today.” Other individuals who have had aircraft carriers named in their honor include U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.