This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Good – Doris “Dorie” Miller
Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in October 12, 1919 in Waco, Texas, the third of four sons. Miller worked on the family farm until 1939 when he decided to join the Navy. Since African Americans were not allowed combat positions, Miller became a Mess Attendant, Third Class. He was assigned to the ammunition ship Pyro, but was then transferred as the main cook on the West Virginia.
Miller woke up at 6 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941 and served mess. As he was dealing with laundry, the West Virginia came under attack by the Japanese. Miller ran to his battle station, only to find it had been destroyed. He reported for duty at Times Square, a central location on the ship. Noticing Miller’s physique at six feet, three inches tall, the ship’s communications officer had Miller help move the severely wounded captain to a safer location. Miller was then ordered to help load two unmanned machine guns. In the chaos, Miller, having never been trained on the guns, loaded the gun and began shooting. Once he was out of ammunition, Miller then was ordered to move the captain again to safety, but the captain still died. As the ship was still under attack, Miller moved injured soldiers through the oil and water “unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost.”
Originally newspapers reported on the heroic “Negro messman.” The African American newspaper, “The Pittsburgh Courier,” led the way to recognize Miller. On May 27, 1942, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, presented Miller with the Navy Cross. 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.
Miller later went on a war bond tour, encouraging people to buy the bonds. After his tour, he reported to the Liscome Bay for duty as a Petty Officer, Ship′s Cook Third Class. On Nov. 24, 1943, the ship was hit by a Japanese torpedo. Only 272 of the crew of 900 survived. Miller was not one of the survivors.
Doris Miller. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Miller
Dorie Miller (1919-1943), Hero of World War II. (n.d.). In America Comes Alive. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://americacomesalive.com/2012/02/20/dorie-miller-1919-1943-hero-of-world-war-ii/