Which award represented the highest decoration received by U.S. Navy cook Doris Miller in WWII?
Doris Miller (1919-1943) was a United States Navy cook, third class. He enlisted as a mess attendant since it was one of the few ratings open at the time to black sailors.
Killed in action in WWII, he was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the highest decoration for valor in combat after the Medal of Honor.
This distinction was for his actions that occurred during the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, located in the Pacific Ocean at the U.S. Naval station on December 7, 1941. He was aboard the battleship ‘USS West Virginia’.
During the attack he helped several sailors who were wounded and while manning an anti-aircraft machine gun for which he had no training, he shot down several Japanese planes. He survived the air assault and went on to serve his country.
Later in the war, Miller was killed while serving aboard the escort carrier ‘USS Liscome Bay’, when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin in the Gilbert Islands.
Two subsequent ships have been named after him in recognition of his legacy. The destroyer escort/‘Knox’-class frigate ‘USS Miller’ (reclassified as a frigate in June 1975), in service from 1973 to 1991; and then on January 20, 2020, the Navy announced that a ‘Gerald R. Ford’-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier CVN-8, would be named after Miller. The ship is scheduled to be laid down in 2023 and launched in 2028.