On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, at Pearl Harbor, the Navy is expected to announce that a $12.5 billion aircraft carrier will be named after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller, 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.
“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.
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. Miller’s 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 Friday.
“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.