Gerald Bish prepares for the ceremonial first cut of steel for Doris Miller (CVN 81). Photo by Ashley Cowan

Doris Miller Milestone Set for Wednesday

Published August 25, 2021

Newport News Shipbuilding will hold a ceremonial first cut of steel for the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, Doris Miller (CVN 81), on Wednesday, Aug 25.

The steel cut is one of the first milestones for the carrier, the second U.S. Navy ship named in honor of World War II hero Doris Miller. CVN 81 will be the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American and the first to be named in honor of a sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.

At center stage during the ceremony will be Gerald Bish (X15), who will operate the CNC burning machine that will perform the first cut. The significance of the moment and of this carrier isn’t lost on Bish.

“This is huge,” he said. “I’ve read about Doris Miller, and it’s an honor to do this. I’m nervous and excited at the same time.”

Miller was collecting laundry on West Virginia (BB 48), when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began on Dec. 7, 1941. He was ordered to the ship’s bridge to aid the mortally wounded commanding officer and subsequently manned a .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Miller then helped move many other injured sailors as the ship was ordered abandoned due to her own fires and flaming oil floating down from the destroyed Arizona (BB 39). West Virginia lost 150 of its 1,500-person crew.

Miller’s actions earned him a commendation from then Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and the Navy Cross, which was presented to him on NNS-built Enterprise (CV 6) by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time. Miller died aboard Liscome Bay (CVE 56) in 1943 when the ship was hit by a torpedo and sank off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. He was 24.

While on-site attendance will be limited, the ceremony will be broadcast live at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, and available for replay on the following social media channels:

NNS President Jennifer Boykin’s Facebook page.
Huntington Ingalls Industries Facebook page.
Huntington Ingalls Industries YouTube page.