Black history is often interchangeable with American history and it is quite the sobering truth once you realized just how much black people have contributed to this country whilst navigating a discriminatory system that didn’t see them as fully American. The time is long overdue to give more of these historical figures their just due… publicly.
Chief Steward Andy Mills is a 102-year-old World War II Navy veteran has received the rare honor of barracks in his name, per The Daily Astorian. The Navy recognized Mills in a ceremony on Thursday at the Coronado, California navy base.
Mills was one of the maritime branch’s first black chiefs and routinely faced discrimination in the then-segregated Navy. In one particular life-risking 1942 incident, Mills volunteered to board the USS Yorktown after a Japanese attack during the Battle of Midway to retrieve important documents and bills. Per Mills, the attack killed 66 sailors, and one of the officers pointed to two African-American sailors (out of 75), saying "I need one of those black boys over there.”
"Click, click, turned it," recalled Mills, in reference to opening a safe that the paymaster couldn’t open. Mills narrowly escaped the Yorktown right before the Japanese attacked again, destroying it.
After meeting Mills two years ago, Capt. Stephen Barnett wanted to make sure Mills’ story was honored to inspire other young sailors. "He wasn't treated like the other shipmates but it never stopped him," Barnett directed to the young sailors during the ceremony.
Along with the young sailors, Mills’ family was affected in a pivotal way as well. "[The ceremony] brought tears to our eyes," said family friend Deborah Thompson.
Congrats to Mr. Mills! Well deserved!