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Work begins on Navy carrier named after Black World War II hero

Doris Miller was the first African American to earn a Navy Cross. He will be the first Black person to have an aircraft carrier named in his honor.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The ceremonial first cut of steel at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding marked the beginning of the decade-long construction of what will eventually be the Navy aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller.

"A lot of work goes into it, tens of millions of hours of manpower, lots of effort from us and the Navy," said Brian Fields, Newport News Shipbuilding Vice President for CVN-80 and CVN-81.

Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin said this milestone is very meaningful to the more than 25,000 employees who work at the shipyard.

"And I like the shipbuilders to really feel the pride that, 'hey, I did this, I built this I'm part of this,'" she said.

The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy said the ship's namesake is an important figure in Naval history.

"The Doris Miller name truly inspires confidence and courage, the ability to step forward to do something you're not trained to do because that's what needs to be done is the essence of what it means to be a United States sailor," said Master Chief Russell Smith.

Doris Miller was an enlisted Navy cook aboard the battleship West Virginia, which was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Miller helped the mortally wounded captain and several sailors who were injured. And he manned a 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun for which he had no training -- until it ran out of ammunition.

Miller was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration for valor in combat.

And he now will be the first African American to have an aircraft carrier named in his honor.

His descendants are very proud.

"With our family, it means that his name is still going to be able to be alive and keep pushing for the Congressional Medal of Honor," said Thomas Bledsoe, Miller's great-nephew.

The Doris Miller will be the fourth in the USS Gerald R. Ford Class of aircraft carriers, all built at Newport News.

The vessel is scheduled to be commissioned in 2032.

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