He is part of America's greatest generation - the men and also women who defended this nation in World War II. On this day December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor this man became a hero.
His name is not a household name. But he was a hero during a time when his own country still regarded him as second class, and would even let enemies of the nation, German Prisoners of War have more privileges than he would be given. But in spite of this country's legalized system of exclusion of people who looked like him, this man would in a time of trouble still rise, still defend the nation where he was born, where his ancestors were born, lived, and died. But in December 1941, he, like so many others was attacked and he fought back. His name was Doris Miller, called most frequently "Dorie"
Like many men of color, because of his skin he was not given jobs that required the use of his skill nor intelligence. His color meant that he had to be a cook, and he was to be a servant to fellow white sailors, of the same age, same size, same background. It was believed that at best he could and should only be a servant, just as his ancestors were sentenced to a lifetime of unpaid servitude. That was simply the way America was in the 1940s--a mighty nation, yet far less than the best it could be. It was simply, the way it was.
When the call came to enlist in the military to serve his nation, Dorie, like thousands of Americans enlisted. He was a healthy strong young man, who had been a fullback on his high school football team in Waco Texas. He had wanted to be a marine, but at that time, the US Marines did not allow men of color to serve. So he enlisted in the US Navy. On the ship where he served, he would be the heavyweight champion.
As fate would have it, he was on the USS West Virginia in December of 1941. It was early morning, and when the bombs hit, turmoil was everywhere. He was below deck working and going into the laundry area when he realized that torpedoes had hit. He went on deck and wounded sailors were everywhere. He immediately began to pick up the wounded to carry them to safer parts of the ship while torpedoes still came down. The captain of the ship was wounded and Dorie stepped up again. He carried the ship's commander away from further fire. In spite of his build and size, Dorie had never been trained in firearms, as his color meant he was only to serve others in menial tasks. However---they were being attacked, and without hesitation after carrying his wounded commanding officer away from further fire he took hold of a machine gun and began firing at Japanese plans diving down for further attack.
For fifteen minutes he fired the machine gun like a marksman, and brought down some of the enemy planes. As he described in his own words what happened, It wasn't hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns."
Dorie Miller was later honored for his bravery shown that day. He received the Navy Cross for bravery and duty above and beyond the call of duty.
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In 1973, the USS Dorrie Miller was named in his honor.
USS Doris Miller
In 2010 the US Postal Service included an photo of Dorie Miller as part of the Distinguished Sailor's series.
I honor the memory of Dorie Miller today, December 7th. He is an American hero and his name stands among the names of all men and women of honor who served on this day.
A video honoring Dorie Miller