January 20, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, issued the following statement after the naming of a new aircraft carrier after Petty Officer Doris Miller, whose bravery and patriotism during the attack on Pearl Harbor saved American lives. Petty Officer Miller, then serving as a Mess Attendant, was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross after his valiant efforts to protect his fellow Americans, and also received the Purple Heart and the World War II Victory Medal, among other accolades. Petty Officer Miller will be the first enlisted Sailor to have an aircraft carrier named in his honor.
“As the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Petty Officer Doris Miller answered duty’s call. After assisting and moving other wounded Navy personnel on the ship to safety, without regard for his own well-being, he returned and manned an anti-aircraft machine gun,” Senator Hirono said.
“But Petty Officer Miller overcame more obstacles than enemy attacks. Segregation meant that Petty Officer Miller and other African Americans could not serve in combat positions—or even hold weapons. His tenacity, heroism, and courage under fire spurred a deeper examination and eventual change of a racist policy.
“The naming of this vessel in honor of Petty Officer Miller on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day reflects the bravery and contributions of African American service members even in the most trying of circumstances. It also reflects the progress our nation has made toward equality. It offers a moment of reflection for all of us to understand that there is more work to be done as we continue to grapple with the legacy of racism in our country.
“I commend the Navy for naming its first aircraft carrier after both an African American and an enlisted Sailor for the first time. On behalf of the state of Hawaii and a grateful nation, I extend my appreciation to Petty Officer Miller and his family for their service to our country. May Petty Officer Miller’s heroism inspire us to fight for what is just and right.”
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