America's aircraft carriers project power. And many carry the names of its most powerful men: Bush, Reagan, Ford, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Truman.
And now, Miller.
On Monday, the U.S. Navy officially announced that it will name its newest aircraft carrier after Dorie Miller, an enlisted sailor who projected a different kind of strength and power.
According to the U.S. Navy, Doris Miller — “Dorie” — grew up on his family’s farm in Waco, Texas, during the Jim Crow era.
He enlisted in 1939 and the following year transferred to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That's where he was on Dec. 7, 1941, on the battleship USS West Virginia, when the Japanese attacked.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Miller woke up early to begin his workday. As he began collecting the ship’s laundry, an alarm from General Quarters sounded. Miller raced for his battle station, the anti-aircraft battery magazine amidships. But when he got to his position, he found it destroyed by torpedo. Miller returned to deck, and because of his physical prowess, was assigned to help carry his fellow wounded sailors to safety. He carried several men to safe quarters, then retrieved the ship’s injured captain, Mervyn Bennion.
"Then, without rest and before being ordered to abandon ship, Miller fired an unmanned .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until it ran out of ammunition. When asked how he managed to fire with such prowess, Miller said, '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. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.'”
Miller became the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, and this announcement Monday was another first — the first carrier named for an African American as well as the first carrier named for an enlisted man.
(This is not the first ship to be named for him; in 1973, the frigate USS Miller was named in his honor. It was decommissioned in 1991.)
Less than two years after Pearl Harbor, on Nov. 24, 1943, a Japanese torpedo struck the USS Liscome Bay off the coast of Buritaritari Island, killing two-thirds of the crew, Miller among them.
Veterans Affairs said, "Doris Miller’s legacy paved the way for other African American service members to serve in combat roles. And his likeness was used in Navy recruitment drives, including an iconic World War II enlistment poster featuring the words, 'Above and beyond the call of duty.'”
Naming a carrier after Miller is an appropriate tribute.