Navy paying a long-deserved tribute to a World War II hero
Many Americans became heroes on Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of them, a Navy mess attendant, had been told he wasn’t even supposed to fire guns — because he was black.
He was Doris “Dorie” Miller, a young Texan serving aboard the battleship USS West Virginia.
Now, the Navy has announced it plans to name a new aircraft carrier after him. That is among the highest honors our government can bestow.
It is deserved.
Miller enlisted in the Navy at a time when racist discrimination was still permitted in the armed forces. African-Americans were relegated to roles such as his, serving food to primarily-white crew members.
At least some of his white shipmates knew Miller could be counted upon, however. When Japanese planes swarmed down upon the West Virginia, a white officer told Miller to help feed ammunition into a .50-caliber machine gun. Instead, Miller began firing it, effectively enough that the officer fed ammunition for him.
Miller’s ship went down. He was credited with saving the lives of a number of other men.
His action resulted in Miller receiving the Navy Cross. No other black sailor had ever received it.
About two years later, while serving aboard another Navy ship in combat, Miller was killed.
There can be little doubt that his heroism helped shift public opinion to the point that, eventually, the armed forces were desegregated. Miller’s deeds were recognized in later years — but one honor, the very highest we Americans can confer on those in military service, was denied. It is the Medal of Honor.
In time for commissioning of the aircraft carrier bearing his name, Doris Miller should be granted the Medal of Honor, posthumously. Doing that would be a matter of simple justice to a young American who became a hero despite being a victim of a great injustice.