Doris Miller

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Doris Miller
Dorie Miller.jpg
Miller with his Navy Cross
Born(1919-10-12)October 12, 1919
Waco, Texas, U.S.
DiedNovember 24, 1943(1943-11-24) (aged 24)
USS Liscome Bay, off Makin Atoll, Gilbert Islands
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1939–1943
RankCook Third Class
Service number356-12-35
UnitUSS West Virginia
USS Liscome Bay
Battles/warsWorld War II

Doris "Dorie" Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was an American sailor in the United States Navy.[1] He manned anti-aircraft guns during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, for which he had no training, and tended to the wounded. He was recognized by the Navy for his actions and awarded the Navy Cross.

He was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the Navy at the time, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.[2] The Navy Cross now precedes the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.[3] Miller's acts were heavily publicized in the black press, making him an iconic emblem of the war for black Americans.[4] Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when his ship Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin.

On January 19, 2020, the Navy announced that CVN-81 would be named after him, a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier scheduled to be laid down in 2023 and launched in 2028.[5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Miller was born in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919, to Connery and Henrietta Miller. He was named Doris, as the midwife who assisted his mother was convinced that the baby would be a cute baby girl.[7] He was 3 of 4 sons and helped around the house, cooked meals and did laundry, as well as working on the family farm. He was a fullback on the football team at Waco's A.J. Moore High School.[8] He began attending the 8th grade again on January 25, 1937 at the age of 17 but was forced to repeat the grade the following year, so he decided to drop out of school.[9] He filled his time squirrel hunting with a .22 rifle and completed a correspondence course in taxidermy. He applied to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, but was not accepted. At that time, he was 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed more than 200 pounds (91 kg).[9]

Miller worked on his father's farm until shortly before his 20th birthday, then enlisted in the United States Navy on September 16, 1939. He did his training at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, then was promoted to Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the few ratings open at the time to black sailors.[10] After training school, he was assigned to the ammunition ship Pyro and then transferred on January 2, 1940 to the battleship West Virginia. It was on the West Virginia where he started competition boxing, becoming the ship's heavyweight champion. He was promoted to Mess Attendant Second Class on February 16, 1941. In July, he was on temporary duty aboard the Nevada at Secondary Battery Gunnery School. He returned to the West Virginia in August 1941.[3][10]

Miller's nickname "Dorie" may have originated from a typographical error. He was nominated for recognition for his actions on December 7, 1941, and the Pittsburgh Courier released a story on March 14, 1942 which gave his name as "Dorie Miller".[11] Since then, some writers have suggested that it was a "nickname to shipmates and friends."[9]


Attack on Pearl Harbor[edit]

Illustration of Miller defending the fleet at Pearl Harbor (Charles Alston, Office of War Information and Public Relations)

Miller was a crewman aboard the West Virginia and awoke at 6 a.m. on December 7, 1941. He served breakfast mess and was collecting laundry at 7:57 a.m. when Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata from the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi launched the first of nine torpedoes that hit West Virginia.[9] The "Battle Stations" alarm went off; Miller headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine amidships, only to discover that a torpedo had destroyed it.

He went then to "Times Square", a central spot aboard the ship where the fore-to-aft and port-to-starboard passageways crossed, reporting himself available for other duty.[9] Lieutenant Commander Doir C. Johnson, the ship's communications officer, spotted Miller and saw the potential of his powerful build, so he ordered him to accompany him to the bridge to assist in moving the captain, Mervyn Bennion, who had a gaping wound in his abdomen where he had apparently been hit by shrapnel. Miller and another sailor lifted the skipper but were unable to remove him from the bridge, so they carried him from his exposed position on the damaged bridge to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower.[12] The captain refused to leave his post, questioned his officers about the condition of the ship, and gave orders.

Lieutenant Frederic H. White ordered Miller to help him and Ensign Victor Delano load the unmanned number 1 and number 2 Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns aft of the conning tower.[13] Miller was not familiar with the weapon, but White and Delano instructed him on how to operate it. Delano expected Miller to feed ammunition to one gun, but his attention was diverted and, when he looked again, Miller was firing one of the guns. White then loaded ammunition into both guns and assigned Miller the starboard gun.[9]

Miller fired the gun until he ran out of ammunition, when he was ordered by Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts to help carry the captain up to the navigation bridge out of the thick oily smoke generated by the many fires on and around the ship. Bennion was only semi-conscious at this point and died soon afterward. Japanese aircraft eventually dropped two armor-piercing bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18-inch (460 mm) aircraft torpedoes into her port side. When the attack finally lessened, Miller helped move injured sailors through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby "unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost."[14]

The ship was heavily damaged by bombs, torpedoes, and resulting explosions and fires, but the crew prevented her from capsizing by counter-flooding a number of compartments. Instead, West Virginia sank to the harbor bottom as her surviving crew abandoned ship, including Miller.[3]


Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller, at ceremony on board USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942.

On December 15, Miller was transferred to the heavy cruiser Indianapolis. On January 1, 1942, the Navy released a list of commendations for actions on December 7. Among them was a single commendation for an unnamed Negro. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to award the Distinguished Service Cross to the unknown Negro sailor. The Navy Board of Awards received a recommendation that the sailor be considered for recognition. On March 12, 1942, an Associated Press story named Miller as the sailor, citing the African-American newspaper Pittsburgh Courier;[15] additional news reports credited Lawrence D. Reddick with learning the name through correspondence with the Navy Department.[16] In the following days, Senator James M. Mead (D-NY) introduced a Senate bill [S.Res. 2392] to award Miller the Medal of Honor,[17] and Representative John D. Dingell, Sr. (D-MI) introduced a matching House bill [H.R. 6800].[18]

Miller was recognized as one of the "first US heroes of World War II". He was commended in a letter signed by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 1, and the next day, CBS Radio broadcast an episode of the series They Live Forever, which dramatized Miller's actions.[9]

Negro organizations began a campaign to honor Miller with additional recognition. On April 4, the Pittsburgh Courier urged readers to write to members of the congressional Naval Affairs Committee in support of awarding the Medal of Honor to Miller.[19] The All-Southern Negro Youth Conference launched a signature campaign on April 17–19. On May 10, the National Negro Congress denounced Knox's recommendation against awarding Miller the Medal of Honor. On May 11, President Roosevelt approved the Navy Cross for Miller.[20]

On May 27, 1942, Miller was personally recognized by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise in Pearl Harbor.[3][21] Nimitz presented Miller with the Navy Cross, at the time the third-highest Navy award for gallantry during combat, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. (On August 7, 1942, Congress revised the order of precedence, placing the Navy Cross above the Distinguished Service Medal in precedence.) The citation reads as follows:

For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.[22]

Nimitz said of Miller's commendation, "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 acts."[3][21]

World War II service[edit]

Miller speaking with sailors and a civilian at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, January 7, 1943

Miller was advanced to Mess Attendant First Class on June 1, 1942.[13] On June 27, the Pittsburgh Courier called for him to be allowed to return home for a war bond tour along with white war heroes.[23] On July 25, the Pittsburgh Courier ran a photo of Miller with the caption "He Fought... Keeps Mop" next to a photo of a white survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack receiving an officer's commission.[24] The photo caption stated that the Navy felt that Miller was "too important waiting tables in the Pacific" for him to return to the United States.

1943 U.S. Navy recruiting poster featuring Doris Miller (David Stone Martin)

On November 23, 1942, Miller returned to Pearl Harbor and was ordered on a war bond tour while still attached to Indianapolis.[9] In December and January 1943, he gave presentations in Oakland, California, in his hometown of Waco, in Dallas, and to the first graduating class of black sailors from Great Lakes Naval Training Station.[13]

He then reported to Puget Sound Navy Yard on May 15, 1943, and was advanced to Cook Third Class on June 1 when he reported to the escort carrier Liscome Bay.[1][3] He was featured on the 1943 Navy recruiting poster "Above and beyond the call of duty", designed by David Stone Martin.[25]


After training in Hawaii, Liscome Bay took part in the Battle of Makin beginning November 20, 1943.[26] On November 24, the ship was struck in the stern by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175.[27] The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, causing the ship to sink in 23 minutes. There were 272 survivors from the crew of over 900,[28] but Miller was among the two-thirds of the crew listed as "presumed dead".[29] His parents were informed that he was missing in action on December 7, 1943, two years after his heroic actions at Pearl Harbor.[9]

A memorial service was held on April 30, 1944, at the Second Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, sponsored by the Victory Club.[9] On May 28, a granite marker was dedicated at Moore High School in Waco to honor him.[9] Miller was officially declared dead by the Navy on November 25, 1944, a year and a day after the loss of Liscome Bay.[3]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Medals and ribbons[edit]

1st Row Navy Cross[3] Purple Heart[3]
2nd Row Combat Action Ribbon Good Conduct Medal American Defense Service Medal[3]
3rd Row American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal[3] World War II Victory Medal[3]


Commemorative plaque for Dorie Miller at the National Museum of the Pacific War
Dorie Miller memorial at the housing cooperative named for him in Corona, Queens
Doris Miller Auditorium in Austin, Texas
Community-related (e.g. streets & parks)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Transcript of Service". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  2. ^ Desk, Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content. "Navy to name aircraft carrier after black Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller on MLK Day". KIRO. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Miller, Doris". Naval History and Heritage Command. June 6, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  4. ^ Chester, Robert K. (March 2013). "'Negroes' Number One Hero': Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and Retroactive Multiculturalism in World War II". American Quarterly (65): 31–61.
  5. ^ a b LaGrone, Sam (January 18, 2020). "Next Ford-class Carrier to be Named After Pearl Harbor Hero Doris Miller". USNI News. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Affairs, This story was written by Acting Secretary of the Navy Public. "Navy Will Name A Future Ford Class Aircraft Carrier After WWII Hero Doris Miller". Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  7. ^ McDonald, Archie P. (April 11, 2005). "Doris Miller: Hero". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  8. ^ Danner, Megan. "Doris Miller". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Aiken, David. "Doris Miller and his Navy Cross: a brief biography". Pearl Harbor Message Board. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor: Ship's Cook Third Class Doris "Dorie" Miller". National Geographic. 2001. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  11. ^ "Mess Attendant Turned Machine Gun on Japanese". Pittsburgh Courier. March 14, 1942. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  12. ^ McRae, Jr, Bennie J. "Dorie Miller". Hampton University. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Chamberlain, Gaius (2012-01-25). "Doris Miller". Great Black Heroes. Adscape International, LLC. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  14. ^ "USS West Virginia's Action Report". Naval History and Heritage Command. 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  15. ^ "Negro Revealed as 'Messman Hero' at Pearl Harbor". Oakland Tribune. March 12, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via
  16. ^ "Identify Heroic Mess Attendant Who Manned Machine Gun Against Japs During Pearl Harbor Attack". New York Age. March 14, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via
  17. ^ "History of Bills and Resolutions" (PDF). p. 563. Retrieved February 8, 2018. (left column) S. 2392
  18. ^ "History of Bills and Resolutions" (PDF). p. 616. Retrieved February 8, 2018. (right column) H.R. 6800
  19. ^ "Write These Congressmen". Pittsburgh Courier. April 4, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via
  20. ^ "Navy Decorates Negro Hero". Salt Lake Telegram. INS. May 11, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via
  21. ^ a b "Negro Messboy Gets Navy Cross at Pearl Harbor". Chicago Tribune. May 28, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via
  22. ^ "Doris Miller's Navy Cross Citation". Naval History and Heritage Command. 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  23. ^ "Courier Campaigns for Return of Dorie". Pittsburgh Courier. June 27, 1942. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  24. ^ "He Fought... Keeps Mop". Pittsburgh Courier. July 25, 1942. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  25. ^ "Above and beyond the call of duty — Dorie Miller received the Navy Cross at Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942,". Library of Congress. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  26. ^ Aguirre, Elizabeth (7 December 2016). "A Pearl Harbor Hero, Still Waiting for the Proper Recognition". Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  27. ^ "The Sinking of USS Liscome Bay". National Naval Aviation Museum. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  28. ^ Copeland, Mike (19 October 2018). "Doris Miller Memorial takes shape as donation gap remains". BH Media Group, Inc. Archived from the original on 30 October 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  29. ^ Smith, J. B. (1 January 2018). "War hero, civil rights hero: New Doris Miller bio widens view of Waco". BH Media Group, Inc. Archived from the original on 11 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Doris Miller Memorial". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  31. ^ Messer, Olivia (October 12, 2015). "Groundbreaking held for riverside Doris Miller Memorial". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  32. ^ Smith, J. B. (December 7, 2017). "Pearl Harbor Hero". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  33. ^ Douglas, Karen (October 29, 1991). "Remembering a fallen hero". Lansing State Journal. Lansing, Michigan. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  34. ^ Sergeant, Jacqueline (October 11, 1991). "WWII hero honored through local effort". Poughkeepsie Journal. Poughkeepsie, New York. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  35. ^ "Memorial Courtyard". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  36. ^ "Dorie Miller Intermediate". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  37. ^ "School History". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  38. ^ "About Our School". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  39. ^ "Doris Miller Elementary School". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  40. ^ "Doris Miller Middle School". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  41. ^ "Community Centers". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  42. ^ "Dorie Miller Community Center". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  43. ^ "Dorie Miller Dr". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  44. ^ "GHA Properties". Gary Housing Authority. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  45. ^ "Dorie Miller 113-15 34th Avenue". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  46. ^ MacKenzie, Peggy (July 21, 2017). "Phase I of Dorie Miller Park near completion". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  47. ^ "Doris Miller Recreation Center". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  48. ^ "Doris Miller Community Center". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  49. ^ "Doris Miller Family YMCA". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  50. ^ "Doris Miller Loop". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  51. ^ "Doris Miller Memorial Park". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  52. ^ "Dorie Miller Recreation Center San Antonio". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  53. ^ Pitt, Leon (July 4, 1973). "Navy Ship Is Named For Black War Hero". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  54. ^ a b "Waco War Hero Honored Tuesday". The Waco Citizen. Waco, Texas. December 9, 1971. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  55. ^ "Dorie Miller Galley". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  56. ^ Cutrer, Thomas W.; Parrish, T. Michael (2017). Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1623496020.
  57. ^ "Doris Miller Park". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  58. ^ "Dorie Miller #14". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  59. ^ Golub, Rob (May 24, 2001). "Local Legion post named for Pearl Harbor hero". The Journal Times. Racine, Wisconsin. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  60. ^ "Dorie Miller Post #915". Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  61. ^ "Dorie E. Miller Post 817". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  62. ^ "Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center". Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  63. ^ 113th United States Congress H.R. 4199 at
  64. ^ "Doris Miller Cir". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via Google Maps.
  65. ^ "A Page From Our American Story: December 7, 1941 Heroes". Smithsonian Institution. 2009. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  66. ^ "Columbia Presents Corwin". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  67. ^ "Air Program Honors Dorie". Pittsburgh Courier. April 29, 1944. Retrieved February 9, 2018 – via
  68. ^ "Orson Welles Wartime Broadcasts". Internet Archive. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  69. ^ "Treasure Island Medal of Honor Dedication: Orson Welles ABC KGO Broadcast Script and Photograph Lot". Snyder's Treasure Trove: Collectible Militaria. Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  70. ^ "Welles To Honor O'Hare on KXOK". St. Louis Star-Times. December 8, 1945. Retrieved February 9, 2018 – via
  71. ^ "Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via YouTube.
  72. ^ "Pearl Harbor (2001)". IMDb. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  73. ^ "Pearl Harbour - Cook takes A.A Gun". Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via YouTube.
  74. ^ "Zumwalt to receive Dorie Miller award". Pittsburgh Courier. September 22, 1972. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  75. ^ "Rev. Elmer L. Fowler, 83". Chicago Tribune. June 6, 2003. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  76. ^ Fountain, John W. (May 21, 1990). "Black Navy captain is honored". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  77. ^ Brooks, Gwendolyn (1945). "Negro Hero (To suggest Doris Miller)". Common Ground. pp. 44–45. Retrieved February 7, 2018 – via
  78. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  79. ^ Culp, Cindy V. (February 4, 2010). "Local WWII hero Doris Miller being honored with stamp". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  80. ^ 114th United States Congress H.R. 6371 at
  81. ^ 115th United States Congress H.R. 834 at
  82. ^ 115th United States Congress H.Con.Res. 19 at

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]