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USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) Naming Ceremony

On Jan. 20, 2020 —the holiday marking the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.— the U.S. Navy officially named its newest aircraft carrier, the future USS Doris Miller (CVN 81).

“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation. His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today.” — Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, Jan. 20, 2020

Doris “Dorie” Miller saved the lives of his shipmates and then valiantly fought attacking Japanese forces during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, bravery for which he was awarded the Navy Cross—the first African American to receive this honor. Almost two years after his valor at Pearl Harbor, Miller gave his life for his country when his ship was sunk during battle.

USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) will be the first aircraft carrier named for an enlisted Sailor and the first named for an African American.

Join the Navy in celebrating the future USS Doris Miller and the life of this Navy hero. Below you will find:

“Naming CVN 81 for Dorie Miller casts long overdue recognition to a true American hero and icon. It also honors the contributions of African Americans and enlisted Sailors for the first time in the history of American aircraft carriers. The Sailors who will put the USS Doris Miller to sea will be the fortunate ones, as heirs to the mightiest of Navy legends who epitomized the kind of fighting Sailor we need today.” — Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith

The Life of Doris “Dorie” Miller

Doris Miller, known as “Dorie” to shipmates and friends, was a U.S. Navy Sailor recognized for his bravery during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first African American recipient of the Navy Cross.

Miller grew up on his family’s farm in Waco, Texas, and played football in high school before enlisting as a ship’s mess attendant in the U.S. Navy in 1939. In 1940, Miller was transferred to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and reported for duty onboard USS West Virginia (BB 48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion.

Miller was below decks December 7, 1941, when the first Japanese torpedo struck USS West Virginia (BB 48). His battle station in the magazine damaged, Miller was ordered to the bridge, where he helped carry the ship’s mortally wounded captain to safety. Miller then loaded and fired an anti-aircraft machine gun—a weapon that, as an African American in a segregated military, he had not been trained to operate. Miller stayed behind once the order to abandon ship was passed to help evacuate shipmates and save the lives of Sailors in the burning water.

For his extraordinary courage, Miller was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Newspapers around the country cited his example as an argument for civil rights and equality.

“This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race, and I’m sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.” — Admiral Chester Nimitz

Miller died in 1943 when a torpedo sank USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. On June 30, 1973, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Miller (FF 1091) in his honor.

Today, we are proud to continue honoring Miller’s heroic legacy by naming the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier Doris Miller (CVN 81). Read more about the life of Doris Miller here.

Photo Gallery

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PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly delivers remarks during the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris ÒDorieÓ Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller and the first aircraft carrier named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) The Honorable Eddie Bernice-Johnson, United States representative from the 30th district of Texas, left, speaks at the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly look on. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, shows honors during the parading of the colors during the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris ÒDorieÓ Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, right, bows his head during an invocation following the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris ÒDorieÓ Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Family of late Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Doris Miller unveil a plaque commemorating the future Navy ship, Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81), at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, right, poses for a group photo with the Miller family after the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Molly Crawford/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly departs the stage following the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris “Dorie” Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 20, 2020) Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, depart the stage following the unveiling of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris ÒDorieÓ Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)
HONOLULU (Jan. 19, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly tours the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater with Brenda Haven, grand niece of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Martin Luther King Day. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 19, 2020) Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly speaks with family members of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller during a boat tour of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Martin Luther King Day. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 19, 2020) Family members of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller stand at the end of the USS Arizona Memorial while on a boat tour of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Martin Luther King Day. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (Jan. 19, 2020) Family members of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller throw flowers during a floral tribute at the USS Arizona Memorial, while on a boat tour of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Martin Luther King Day. This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and an enlisted Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/Released)
WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2020) In this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Adm. Chester Nimitz awards the Navy Cross medal to Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The award was presented to Miller aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
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An infographic of Miller’s life and CNV 81

Historical Perspective

Learn more about Doris Miller from historian Dr. Virginia Akers of Naval History and Heritage Command, in the following interviews.

Actions During Attack of Dec. 7, 1941:

Social Context, Award of Navy Cross:

Initial Reception by African American Community:

Symbol of Hope, Legacy for All:

News Articles

Navy Names Future Aircraft Carrier Doris Miller During MLK, Jr. Day Ceremony (Jan. 20, 2020)

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly named a future aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremony honoring African Americans of the Greatest Generation in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jan. 20. Read More  

Navy Will Name Future Ford Class Aircraft Carrier After WWII Hero Doris Miller (Jan. 19, 2020)

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of World War II hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jan. 20.  Read More

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