One of the fascinations of being a history nerd is the personal stories you come across. For example, the mess attendant who was gathering laundry aboard the battleship West Virginia in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
When the ship was hit by Japanese torpedoes, this sailor helped his mortally wounded commanding officer, manned a .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine gun and fired at the Japanese planes until he ran out of ammunition, then helped other injured sailors evacuate the sinking ship.
For his valor, the mess attendant was awarded the Navy Cross, at that time the third-highest award (it’s now considered the second-highest).
That sailor was Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller. Not only was he untrained in machine guns, as an African-American he normally wouldn’t have been allowed to fire a machine gun. Yet he did everything he could on that fateful day.
Unfortunately, Miller’s story has a sad ending. Two years later, he died in combat when his ship, the U.S.S. Liscome Bay was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
The good news is that after some hesitation, his achievements are getting proper recognition. Miller was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross, and in 1973 a destroyer escort was named after him.
Now, on Martin Luther King day, the Navy announced an aircraft carrier will be named the U.S.S. Miller, another African-American first.
It’s an honor he richly deserves.
From “The U.S.S. Miller Will Be the Navy’s First Aircraft Carrier Named for an African-American” by Josiah Bates (https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-miller-navys-first-aircraft-193238326.html). The photo came from that article.