Doris “Dorie” Miller: The Hero of Pearl Harbor



Doris "Dorie" Miller: The Hero of Pearl Harbor.

Doris “Dorie” Miller, an African American sailor, was one of the most unsung American heroes of World War II. His actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor helped save many lives and served as an inspiration to countless others.

Doris “Dorie” Miller was an unsung hero of World War II. His bravery during Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor helped to save countless lives.

Miller was born on October 12, 1919, in Waco, Texas. He worked on the family farm with his three brothers until September 16, 1939, when Miller enlisted in the Navy to earn extra money for his family. Miller completed training at the Naval Training Station in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was promoted to Mess Attendant Third Class. This was one of the only positions available to African-Americans at the time, due to Navy segregation.

Following his promotion, Miller was assigned to the USS Pyro, where he served as a mess attendant before being transferred in 1940 to the USS West Virginia. It was there that Miller became the ship’s heavy-weight boxing champion, earning the respect of his compatriots.

On December 7, 1941, Miller woke up early to begin his workday. As he began collecting the ship’s laundry, an alarm from General Quarters sounded. Miller raced for his battle station, the anti-aircraft battery magazine amidships. But when he got to his position, he found it destroyed by torpedo. Miller returned to deck, and because of his physical prowess, was assigned to help carry his fellow wounded sailors to safety. He carried several men to safe quarters, then retrieved the ship’s injured captain, Mervyn Bennion.

Then, without rest, and before being ordered to abandon ship, Miller fired an unmanned .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until it ran out of ammunition. When asked how he managed to fire with such prowess, Miller said, “It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”

The USS West Virginia sank to the bottom of the harbor. Of the ship’s 1,541 men, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. For his actions, Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 1, 1942. On May 27, 1942, he was awarded the Navy Cross by the Pacific Fleet’s Commander in Chief, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

On November 24, 1943, a Japanese torpedo struck the USS Liscome Bay off the coast of Buritaritari Island. Two-thirds of the crew died or went missing—including Miller.

Doris Miller’s legacy paved the way for other African-American service members to serve in combat roles. And his likeness was used in Navy recruitment drives, including an iconic World War II enlistment poster featuring the words, “Above and beyond the call of duty.”

In addition to the Navy Cross, Doris Miller received the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal – Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. In 1973, the Knox-class frigate USS Miller was named in his honor.

We honor his service.

More about Miller’s service is at https://www.hilbert.edu/social-justice-activists/doris-(dorie)-miller.


Contributors:

Graphic designer: Dominique Ramirez

Fact checker: Seng Hla

Editor: Jason Davis

Author

Albinko Hasic

Albinko Hasic is an attorney, digital analyst, and history graduate student. He is originally from Connecticut.

Comments

  1. James Briggs    

    I am a Past Post Commander of Dorie Miller Memorial VFW Post 1406 in Dallas, TX. So grateful reading this article about Dorie Miller. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Dorie’s family members during the Waco VA Hospital naming ceremony. Our post was in awe and honored to meet and greet his relatives. Dorie Miller legacy of service above self lives on at Post 1406.

    James Briggs
    Past VFW Post Commander 2011-2019

  2. Don    

    My feelings are if you served in the military, weather war time or peace time.It makes no difference the color of your skin.We all had a job to do and we did it. The soldiers,the airmen,the navy and marines never lost a war. The politicians lost korea,viet nam and every war and conflict since. They are to blame for the way this country is today,and for the path it is headed. Thank a soldier, not a politician.

  3. Willard M Jones    

    The Navy Cross is indeed a “step in the right direction”…however, this deserves to be upgraded to the MEDAL OF HONOR,

    Enough already of another racially motivated award !

  4. David Alexander McCuistion    

    “The Hero” was originally awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. I remember honoring him in my early day of my Navy career (1962-1992). While visiting the Medal of Honor museum in Hixson,TN (near Chattanooga) in 2013 I asked why he was only honored with a Navy Cross, instead of the Medal of Honor. I was told “it was reversed to the Navy Cross.” No explanation was known. From all that I read about his heroism during the attach on West Virginia, he certainly deserved the MoH. I like to know the reasoning if some can inform me. Thank you.
    David McCuistion
    CWO4 U.S. Navy (Retired)

  5. richard savard    

    I don’t think anyone exceeded Miller’s duty that day; at least none who survived.

  6. richard savard    

    You just NOW heard of Dorrie Miller? That’s on you and nobody else.

  7. Rod Tatsuno    

    Dorie MIller represents the best of the best. Especially since he wasn’t trained for combat, due to prejudicial regulations of the period. He was the man that everyone would want covering their back.

  8. Mark Galovic    

    We NEED more stories like this! I am “white”, but hate that African Americans in all walks of life are only now getting named as “heroes”. I’m talking military service members, engineers(ie the stop light) and science/medical people.
    I salute Doris “Dorie” Miller, and ALL military service people for their service and sacrifices. I had many uncles who served in WWII, one losing his life in the South Pacific, and one who was at Pearl Harbor who survived, a Navy diver who later worked with the development of the Polaris Missile.

    Thank you, one and ALL

    1. Arthur Yogy Weinberger    

      Dorie was a great man. We should honor him and follow his example.

  9. thomas gorman    

    less the term was coined that was Honkey Dorie

  10. James Connolly    

    Excellent story of a true hero!

  11. Ronald Willis    

    Certainly Dorie” Miller went above and beyond his normal duties. Please don’t misunderstand, in no way do I wish to diminish his bravery. PO3 Miller demonstrated bravery and a willingness to engage the enemy. My only comment is that instead of naming him as “the” hero of Pearl Harbor, how about “a” hero of Pearl Harbor. There were plenty of heroes that day.

    R. Willis
    AO-2 (1965-1969)

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