Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Doris "Dorie" Miller - - - A Personal Hero of Pearl Harbor

A few weeks after moving to Austin in 1969 to attend the U of Texas, I copped some tickets for a Junior Walker and the Allstars concert.  Not surprisingly, it was to be held in the Doris Miller Auditorium in the African-American section of town.  While waiting in line to get in the show, I was amazed to learn that Doris Miller was a man, not a woman, and a war hero at that.  The next day, I hit the library and learned all I could about the man who understandably went by "Dorie."  December 7 is still a somber day here in Hawaii, and I think it appropriate to remember this brave man today.

Mr. Miller was born to poor farmers near Waco, Texas in 1919.  To make money for his family, Dorie joined the Navy in 1939 as a Mess Attendant, one of the few jobs available to Black sailors.  Assigned to the U.S.S. West Virginia, he was collecting officers' laundry when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  After his assigned battle station was taken out by a torpedo, he went to an unmanned machine gun and started firing at the attacking planes.  Despite having no training on such a weapon, Dorie Miller stayed at the gun until the West Virginia sank, shooting down several Japanese planes in the meantime.  When the order to abandon ship was given, he personally carried several wounded sailors to safety, saving their lives.

Dorie Miller was awarded the Navy Cross by the Secretary of the Navy who had heard of his heroism.  The medal was presented by a fellow Texan, Admiral Chester Nimitz.  When asked how he did it with no training, he replied,  "I'd seen them worked before, and once I learned how to point it, it was easy."  If Dorie had been white he probably would have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

After winning the Navy Cross, they sent Dorie Miller on a bond selling and recruitment tour.  
Above are a photo him speaking to a recruit class at the Great Lakes Naval Station 
in Chicago and a poster made from the first photo in today's series.

Dorie Miller asked to be returned to active duty and went back to the Pacific as a cook on the escort carrier U.S.S. Liscome Bay.  On November 24, 1943 Dorie's ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, and he was lost along with two thirds of the 900 man crew.  Memorials of various types have been set up over the years, but the best is probably this statue in a park in Waco, Texas.
The photo is from the unveiling on December 7, 2017.

This is the U.S.S. Miller, a frigate launched in 1976 to honor Dorie Miller, but an even bigger memorial is in the Navy shipbuilding pipeline:  

The keel will be laid next year for the U.S.S. Doris Miller, a Gerald Ford class major 
fleet aircraft carrier.  Rest in Peace and Aloha , Dorie, and know that people still 
remember your heroism, your example, and your sacrifice.



  1. A nice tribute, Jerry, on this day that is still remembered here in Hawaii. -Larry

  2. Thanks for this bit of history, Jerry. I have a stamp in my collection, but it doesn't mention that he was a Texan.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful series, Jerry. But I must admit something shameful. I have a huge interest in WWII. I love both fiction and nonfiction about the war and even things that only reference it - sometimes in passing. But I ALWAYS forget what anniversary December 7th is. What the hell?! If we have past lives, I bet I was Nazi in one of mine.

    1. It's impossible to forget it here in Hawaii. It was always in my mind even before I moved here because of my family. My father and his two brothers were washing their jointly owned car when the news came over the radio. My eldest uncle was already in the Texas National Guard, and all he said was, "Well, here we go." Within three weeks he was off to war and the other two followed the next year.

    2. In my case, I can not forget because I was born the following day, the day U.S. Congress declared war on Japan.

  4. Interesting and fitting tribute to a brave man. Thank you, Jerry.