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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Pearl Harbor Monday, the U.S. Navy is expected to announce that a new 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.
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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.
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“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.
Two of Miller’s nieces are expected to be at Pearl Harbor for the announcement, including Flosetta Miller.
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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...
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