Doris “Dorie” Miller was born October 12, 1919, in Waco, Texas. His parents, Conery and Henrietta Miller, were both farmers. They worked just outside of the city. Young Doris was a good student and an even better athlete. He grew to be six feet three inches and 200 pounds. He played football at the A. J. Moore Academy in Waco.
By the age of 17, Miller decided to drop out of school. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939. He was 20 years old at the time. Since there were very few positions in the U.S. Military open to Black people during that time, he served as a mess attendant. He was assigned to the USS West Virginia. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i.
December 7, 1941
On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces opened fire on Pearl Harbor. An alarm went off, alerting all the soldiers in Pearl Harbor to suit up for battle. By the time Miller reached the deck, he noticed that the harbor was engulfed in flames. While under enemy fire, he carried a captain and several crewmates to safety.
After getting his shipmates to safety, Miller returned to the bridge. He stationed himself at a 50-caliber anti-aircraft gun and began shooting Japanese fighter planes out of the sky. Despite having no training on how to use the weapon, he managed to shoot down two to six warplanes. He only abandoned ship once he ran out of ammunition.
Miller’s courage against the Japanese warplanes was initially overlooked by the Navy. However, once the Black press was made aware of the story, they gave him the praise he deserved. The Black press also put pressure on the Navy, demanding that they too give Miller the recognition he deserved.
On May 27, 1942, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross. The Navy Cross is the third highest medal in the Navy. He was the first Black man to receive this honor. He was then promoted to Cook, third class. Instead of working in the laundry room, he worked in the galley.
In the Spring of 1943, Miller was assigned to Liscome Bay. Despite his heroism at Pearl Harbor, he was still serving as a mess attendant on the warship. On November 24 of that same year, the carrier was attacked and it sank. Doris “Dorie” Miller died on that carrier. He was only 24 years old.
Miller was a decorated soldier. He received the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal – Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal. In 1973, the Knox-class frigate USS Miller was named after him. In 2001, actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed Miller in the film, Pearl Harbor. Miller went from a mess attendant to a national icon.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**]]>