The Attack on Pearl Harbor
Ships and Aircraft
Doris (Dorie) Miller, American Hero
Biographies about African Americans
Famous for firing a 50 caliber
Browning anti-aircraft machine gun for 15 minutes during the attack until he ran
out of ammo. (Ordinarily this is not unusual - except that Dorie was the
Ships Cook!) He was awarded the Navy Cross
for his actions beyond the call of duty.
Highlights of his career
Dorie was the ship's heavyweight boxing champ
on board the USS West Virginia (BB-48).
Dorie was awarded the Navy Cross by Admiral
Chester W. Nimitz, on board USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor, 27 May
1942, for heroism on board USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Pearl
Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941.
He was killed on 24 November 1943 in the line
of duty while serving in action on board the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56)during
Operation Galvanic, (the seizure of Makin and Tarawa Atolls in the Gilbert
Islands). While cruising near Butaritari Island, a single torpedo from Japanese
submarine I-175 struck the escort carrier near the stern. The aircraft
bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes.
In 1973, the USS Miller (FF-1091), a Knox-class
frigate, was named in honor of Doris Miller.
The Full Story
Doris Miller, known as "Dorie" to
shipmates and friends, was born in Waco, Texas, on 12 October 1919, to Henrietta
and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during
World War II. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on
the football team and he worked on his father's farm.
On 16 September 1939, he enlisted in the U.S
Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class, at Dallas, Texas, so he could travel, and
earn money for his family. He later was commended by the Secretary of the Navy,
was advanced to Mess Attendant, Second Class and First Class, and subsequently
was promoted to Ship's Cook, Third Class.
Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Miller was
assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess
On 2 January 1940 was transferred to USS West
Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing champion.
In July 1940 he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada
(BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School.
On August 3 1940, he returned to West
Virginia, and was serving in that battleship when the Japanese attacked
Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
On 7 December 1941, Miller had arisen at 6
a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He
headed for his battle station, the antiaircraft battery magazine amidship, only
to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so he went on deck. Because of
his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry wounded fellow Sailors to places
of greater safety.
Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to
aid the mortally wounded Captain of the ship.
He subsequently manned a 50 caliber Browning
anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to
Miller described firing the machine gun during the battle, a weapon which he had
not been trained to operate: "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."
During the attack, Japanese aircraft dropped two armored piercing bombs through
the deck of the battleship and launched five 18-inch aircraft torpedoes into her
port side. Heavily damaged by the ensuing explosions, and suffering from severe
flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship while West Virginia slowly
settled to the harbor bottom. Of the 1,541 men on West Virginia during
the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Subsequently refloated, repaired,
and modernized, the battleship served in the Pacific theater through to the end
of the war in August 1945.
Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on 1 April 1942,
and on 27 May 1942 he received the Navy Cross, which Fleet Admiral (then
Admiral) Chester W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet personally
presented to Miller on board aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) for
his extraordinary courage in battle. Speaking of Miller, Nimitz remarked:
This marks the first time in this conflict
that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his
race and I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave
On 13 December 1941, Miller reported to USS Indianapolis
(CA-35), and subsequently returned to the west coast of the United States in
November 1942. Assigned to the newly constructed USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56)
in the spring of 1943, Miller was on board that escort carrier during Operation
Galvanic, the seizure of Makin and Tarawa Atolls in the Gilbert Islands. Liscome
Bay's aircraft supported operations ashore between 20-23 November 1943. At
5:10 a.m. on 24 November, while cruising near Butaritari Island, a single
torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort carrier near the
stern. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the
warship within minutes. Listed as missing following the loss of that escort
carrier, Miller was officially presumed dead 25 November 1944, a year and a day
after the loss of Liscome Bay. Only 272 Sailors survived the sinking of Liscome
Bay, while 646 died.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Miller was entitled to the Purple Heart Medal;
the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign
Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
Commissioned on 30 June 1973, USS Miller (FF-1091), a Knox-class
frigate, was named in honor of Doris Miller.
On 11 October 1991, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
dedicated a bronze commemorative plaque of Miller at the Miller Family Park
located on the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor.