|12 Oct 1919
|24 Nov 1943
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseDoris "Dorie" Miller was born in Waco, Texas, United States to Henrietta and Connery Miller as the third of four children. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on the football team. On 16 Sep 1939, he enlisted in the United States Navy at Dallas, Texas. After training at the Naval Training Station at Norfolk, Virginia, United States, he was assigned to the ammunition ship Pyro where he served as a mess attendant. On 2 Jan 1940, he was transferred to the battleship West Virginia, where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing champion. In Jul 1940, he served aboard battleship Nevada at the Secondary Battery Gunnery School, returning to USS West Virginia on 3 Aug.
ww2dbaseOn 7 Dec 1941, Miller was aboard West Virginia in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States when the Japanese attacked; when the general quarters alarm sounded, he was gathering soiled laundry from officers. "I found myself an unwilling occupant of a front-row seat from which to witness the proceedings", he later said, recalling that he watched Japanese aircraft diving and releasing bombs against USS West Virginia. He dashed to his battle station, the anti-aircraft battery magazine amidships, only to discover that it had been damaged. With his battle station wrecked, he was instead assigned to move the wounded, given his physical strength. When commanding officer of the ship Captain Mervyn Bennion was mortally injured, he helped moving him to an aid station; en route, he felt a tremendous jolt, which he thought must had been an explosion aboard West Virginia, but he later found out what he felt was actually an explosion aboard the nearby battleship, Arizona. He eventually dragged his captain to the forecastle, and then the bridge. Back on the deck, he carried wounded men to the quarterdeck and threw ropes at the men thrown into the water, hauling them up.
ww2dbaseMiller was eventually re-assigned to load ammunition into two Browning 0.50 caliber anti-aircraft guns; that was when he, seeing no one had come forth to man them, took control of one of them and began firing at Japanese aircraft. Having no training in the weapon, his shooting was largely ineffective as he exhausted all the ammunition, although he claimed one kill. He recalled: "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." West Virginia eventually sank to the bottom of the harbor as the attack went on, and Miller was reassigned to cruiser Indianapolis on 13 Dec. Hearsay stories of Miller's actions on the day of the Pearl Harbor began circulating, some exaggerated version had him downing several Japanese aircraft. Without investigation, United States Senator James M. Mead introduced a Senate Bill to award Miller the Medal of Honor on 13 Mar 1942; the recommendation was founded as much on Miller's bravery as for race relations. On 9 Apr, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox issued an official commendation, but recommended against the Medal of Honor, noting that Miller's actions did not warrant the award, which infuriated African-American activists. To ease the tension, on 11 May, President Franklin Roosevelt approved the award of the Navy Cross, the highest award of the US Navy, for Miller. It was awarded to him by Admiral Chester Nimitz on 27 May 1942 aboard carrier Enterprise. "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 the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts", remarked Nimitz. On 1 Jun, his rank was raised to Mess Attendant First Class.
ww2dbaseOn 23 Nov 1942, Miller began a war bond tour in the United States, which included a stop in his home town Waco, Texas. On 15 May 1943, he reported in for duty at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington, United States. On 1 Jun, his rank was raised to Officerâ€™s Cook Third Class and was assigned to escort carrier Liscome Bay. On 20 Nov, Liscome Bay supported the Tarawa, Gilbert Islands landings. At 0510 on 24 Nov, Japanese submarine I-175 struck the carrier with a torpedo near Butaritari Island, detonating the aircraft bomb magazine, sinking the ship. Miller was listed as missing after the sinking as he was never seen again, and a letter to his parents dated 7 Dec 1943 also noted him as missing. On 25 Nov 1944, he was officially declared as "presumed dead."
ww2dbaseSources: Armchair Reader World War II, United States Navy Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Nov 2007
Doris Miller Interactive Map
Doris Miller Timeline
|12 Oct 1919
|Doris Miller was born.
|23 Nov 1942
|Doris Miller of Pearl Harbor fame began a war bond tour in the United States.
|24 Nov 1943
|Japanese submarine I-75 fired three Type 95 torpedoes at escort carrier USS Liscome Bay off Makin Atoll. One struck near the stern setting off the ship's bomb magazine and blowing off the stern section. The ship sank within 23 minutes killing 644 officers and men, including Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller.
|19 Jan 2020
|US Navy announced that it will name a second ship, nuclear aircraft carrier CVN-81, after Doris Miller. The first ship bearing his name had been the destroyer escort DE-1091/FF-1091.
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